Amity’s Criscuolo rallies to win SCC cross country title

NEW HAVEN >> Some runners thrived while others stumbled in the first ever Southern Connecticut Conference cross country championship meet held at East Shore Park.

The girls race, which began under sunny skies and blustery winds along the New Haven Harbor, provided intrigue for those spectators gathered around the center-point of the course where the runners passed through three times along the route.

Prior to the two-mile point Mercy senior Bridgid Selfors — a favorite to win the race — held what looked like a comfortable lead over Amity’s Emily Criscuolo and Cheshire’s Lauren Daddi. At the two and a half mile split, Selfors was at 9:27, six seconds ahead of Daddi and nine in front of Criscuolo.

But when the leaders made the final turn down the chute, it was Criscuolo way out ahead of everyone as she crossed the line with a time of 19:10, 13 seconds ahead of Selfors.

“I was looking for people to scream at me,” Criscuolo said. “Finally I heard someone do it. I picked it up at like two and a half miles and tried not to think.”

Criscuolo was able to make the move past Selfors in the last mile and put her in the rear view mirror over the last 100 meters or so.

“I looked back at the beginning (of the home stretch) and was like, ‘Oh, there she is,’” Criscuolo said. “So I tried to pick it up and look at the clock and go for it.”

The Amity senior redeemed herself after a 13th place finish last year at Hammonasset State Park in Madison.

Selfors just didn’t have it in the end when Criscuolo made her move.

“This was a different course than I’m used to running on,” Selfors said. “I’m used to Hammonasset and I think it was just some soft footing and it kind of got to me and my legs got pretty tired at the end. It just tired me out trying to hold a lead that long.”

“I’m excited for Emily,” Selfors said. “I’m glad she got the win.”

In third place was Daddi with a time of 14:49, but for her it was the Cheshire team championship that really matters.

“It was definitely one of our goals coming in here,” said Daddi on winning the Rams first team title since 2009.

Cheshire place runners in third, seventh, 14th, 16th and 20th for 60 points beating Guilford who had 90 and Mercy at 109.

“We were very wary of a strong Mercy team,” Cheshire coach Rob Schaefer said. “We had just beaten Amity and we were hoping we could beat them again. The team we didn’t know anything about was Guilford and true to form they were a strong competitor. Guilford has dominated this league over the years and you can never count them out. We are really happy that we could beat Guilford today.”

The Rams No. 5 runner, Camille Lewis, ended up in 29th place, but it was Emi Schwab who is No. 6 on the team who stepped up and came in with a 20th place finish.

“It’s so great for us to have a team instead of a group of individuals,” Schaefer said.

On the boys side, Fairfield Prep’s Andrew Thompson repeated as SCC champion outlasting Cheshire’s Brendan Murray by 3 seconds at the line 15:37 to 15:40.

That is the same 1-2 finish that the conference meet saw last year when both runners were sophomores.

Murray really wanted this race, but as in previous years, his body didn’t hold up long enough to make a final move past Thompson.

“For some reason I just don’t feel well when I run SCC’s in cross country,” Murray said. “Once I finished, my legs were just shot and I actually threw up a little bit. I was happy to finish the race and hopefully I can bounce back for states.”

Thompson was able to pull away over the final stretch after battling Murray the entire race.

“Every once in a while with the tight corners we tripped over each other,” Thompson said. “It was a tight race until the last 400 meters. As we came around the last trees is where I broke apart between Murray and myself.”

In third place was Kyle Beaudette of Amity at 15:54 and in just under 16 minutes was Xavier freshman Robbie Cozean who paced the Falcons to their first SCC title since 2012.

“He’s smart,” Xavier coach Chris Stonier said. He runs his race understanding that if he’s where he wants to be when it matters he has a chance to win and that’s been contagious.”

Xavier’s top five runners all finished in the top 14 as it scored 44 points. Amity finished second with 53 and Cheshire third with 100.

And like in the girls race, Xavier saw a runner step up and contribute in the team win.

Trevor Christie — who had been running ninth for the Falcons all year — finished fifth on Thursday which secured Xavier’s title.

“It’s great to see someone step up,” Cozean said. “It’s the great thing about this sport, you never know who’s going to show up today.”