Green Wave boys reign in state 'L'

The Green Wave has moved once again to the head of its class in boys' cross country.

Coach Chris Bacich's New Miford High School harriers used their balance and depth to outleg Darien 70-87 in what was basically a two-horse race among 24 teams to win the state Class L title Saturday, Oct. 25, at Wickham Park in Manchester.

State titles are nothing new to the Green Wave.

The NMHS runners were twice state champions in the late 1950s and again in 1984 under the guidance of legendary coach Russ Devin.

Since the turn of the century, coach Chris Bacich has guided the Green Wave to six state class titles, as well as two State Open and two New England championships.

Still, Saturday proved a memorable day for coach Bacich and Co.

Stosh Davis rallied late to secure a fourth-place individual finish amidst a 168-runner field and set the pace for NMHS.

His 16:26 clocking around Wickham's beautiful albeit soggy five-kilometer course was soon followed by Greg Hansell (11th, 17:06), Luke Simmonds (15th, 17:17), Brady Clarke (19th, 17:35) and Richard Grudzwick (21st, 17:44).

Eric Vazquez (46th, 18:29) and Zach Pitcher (68th, 18:56) rounded out the Green Wave's performance.

Darien placed its first two runners in first and third, but was unable to match NMHS' superior depth of talent.

Those two teams clearly overmatched their fellow Class L rivals. Third-place Pomperaug scored 150 points.

The Green Wave girls' also competed Saturday in state Class LL.

The highlight was the performance of NMHS sophomore Mia Nahom, who kicked home second in the 146-girl field for the best individual finish by an area runner.

Mia posted a 19:30 time to trail only defending state open champion Hannah DeBalsi of Staples.

Her effort qualified Mia for the girls' State Open race, set for Friday, Oct. 31, at 1:45 p.m. at Wickham.

Forty-five minutes later, the Green Wave boys will toe the line in the boys' State Open race.

Coach Giles Vaughan's NMHS girls placed 15th in the 21-team Class LL field.

Joining Mia Nahom were Nicole McCarthy (38th, 21:37), Jenny DePalma (10th, 23:34), Emily Shiffman (108th, 24:00), Bethany Balstad (113th, 24:09), Julia Malumphy (119th, 24:19) and Amy Carmellini (127th, 24:50).

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Norm Cummings

Photography by Norm Cummings

For two years, the South-West Conference's boys' cross country title plaque had resided elsewhere from New Milford.

That fact hadn't sat well with the perennially strong New Miford High School harriers.

Primed and ready, coach Chris Bacich's hungry Green Wave swept over, around and past its 13 rival schools Friday, Oct. 17 at Bethel High School to reclaim the SWC championship.

NMHS had won 10 straight championships before being dethroned in 2012.

With junior Stosh Davis leading the way with his individual title run, coach Bacich's pack is back on top.

New Milford placed six runners in the top 25 to win the team title in dominating fashion with 44 points. Pomperaug took second with 84 points.

"We were extremely motivated to get it back," said NMHS coach Chris Bacich, whose teams had claimed runner-up honors each of the last two seasons. "We had a series of championships there for a while and we started to feel that it was our right to have it."

"The fact is, you really have to earn it," he added. "It's a tough conference. There are good teams out there and we knew it would be a battle today."

Davis won with a time of 16 minutes, 38.5 seconds on Bethel High's five-kilometer course. He led from start to finish, knowing that it would take a gutsy effort to reclaim the title.

"I wanted to take it from the beginning," Davis said. "I wanted to make a statement."

Rounding out the top five for New Milford, Greg Hansell placed fourth (17:06.06), Richard Grudzwick finished ninth (17:27.97), Brady Clarke took 12th (17:35.57) and Zachary Pitcher came in 18th (17:58.38).

Eric Vazquez was 24th and Luke Simmonds, battling physical ailments, rounded out the NMHS pack.

The Wave was undefeated at 13-0 during the regular season.

"We've been working since June to get this back. This has been our goal," Davis said. "We just wanted it so badly. Nothing has ever felt better."

The Green Wave girls earned fourth place among 14 distaff teams with 134 points, well in arrears of the top teams -- New Fairfield (60), Pomperaug (60) and Newtown (75).

NMHS sophomore Mia Nahom established herself as one of the area's premier runners with a strong runnerup performance.

The lanky Green Wave athlete clocked 18:58 to trail only now two-time champ Gabrielle Richichi (18:48) of New Fairfield.

Senior Nicole McCarthy capped her SWC cross country career in style with a 12th-place finish, good to join Nahom in capturing all-SWC individual honors.

The Green Wave boys and girls will be in action Saturday, Oct. 25 at Wickham Park in Manchester in state class races.

The NMHS boys will kick off at noon as one of the favorites in the class `L' race, while the Green Wave girls will face a tall order battling the top teams of class `LL' at 1 p.m.

Neighboring Shepaug Valley High, which was set to compete last Friday in its Berkshire League championship race, will run at 2:05 and 2:40, respectively, in class `S' girls' and boys' competition.

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Norm Cummings and Richard Gregory

Photography by Norm Cummings

BETHEL -- New Fairfield High's Gabrielle Richichi won the South-West Conference girls cross country championship for the second straight year -- and this time, she has a team title to along with it.

Led by Richichi -- who navigated Bethel High's five-kilometer course in 18 minutes, 48.91 seconds -- the Rebel girls won their first SWC championship on Friday at Bethel High, edging Pomperaug by the slimmest of margins. Both New Fairfield and Pomperaug finished with 60 points when their first five runners were tallied up, meaning the championship would go to the team with the faster sixth runner.

New Fairfield sophomore Courtney Yaroscat finished 32nd (22:56.04), edging Pomperaug sophomore Kim Theleen (22:59.61) by just two places and less than four seconds to capture the title.

"I'm so happy to have won as a team," said Richichi, who took the lead around the second mile mark. "That was definitely our goal all season. It was very special to win individually and as a team."

The win caps an impressive SWC run for the Rebels, who went undefeated against their conference rivals during the regular season.

Also for New Fairfield, Sabrina Rautter placed third (19:52.53), Bridget Zima finished 11th (21:27.65), Melissa Evans took 14th and was the fastest freshman (21:42.69) and Kristen Richichi finished 31st (22:53.22).

"It's a big monkey off of my back," New Fairfield coach John Warington said with a laugh. "This SWC championship has been very elusive for us. For these young ladies -- and there are only 10 of them -- it was a total team win."

For Pomperaug, Sara Tarascio -- last year's runner-up -- placed fourth (20:12.50), Michaela Meyer finished ninth (21:01.28), Allison Meyer took 10th (21:18.95), Ashley Wargo placed 15th (21:53.93) and Sydney Malaspina finished 22nd (21:19.95).

New Milford High sophomore Mia Nahom -- who as a freshman last year was a key contributor on the Green Wave's varsity soccer team -- took runner-up honors, finishing in 18:58.03. No other runner was in sight when Nahom followed Richichi across the finish line.

"Gabby is such an amazing runner, and running against her is so mentally challenging," Nahom said. "It's fun to race against her."

Also finishing in the top 10 were Newtown's Erin Tressler in fifth (20:16.31) and Sarah Mawdsley in sixth (20:17.30), Immaculate's Diana Kirkman in seventh (20:40.50) and Barlow's Gabrielle Lemma in eighth (20:48.06).


Friday, Bethel High, 5k

Team scores: 1. New Fairfield 60*; 2. Pomperaug 60; 3. Newtown 75; 4. New Milford 134; 5. Barlow 136*; 6. Immaculate 136; 7. Bethel 139; 8. Weston 231; 9. Brookfield 236; 10. Bunnell 252; 11. Masuk 315. (* won sixth-runner tie-breaker).

Top 25: 1. Gabrielle Richichi, New Fairfield, 18:48.91; 2. Mia Nahom, New Milford, 18:58.03; 3. Sabrina Rautter, New Fairfield, 19:52.53; 4. Sara Tarascio, Pomperaug, 20:12.50; 5. Erin Tressler, Newtown, 20:16.31; 6. Sarah Mawdsley, Newtown, 20:17.30; 7. Diana Kirkman, Immaculate, 20:40.50; 8. Gabrielle Lemma, Barlow, 20:48.06; 9. Michaela Meyer, Pomperaug, 21:01.28; 10. Allison Meyer, Pomperaug, 21:18.95; 11. Bridget Zima, New Fairfield, 21:27.65; 12. Nicole McCarthy, New Milford, 21:31.43; 13. Danielle Marcone, Immaculate, 21:41.85; 14. Melissa Evans, New Fairfield, 21:42.69; 15. Ashley Wargo, Pomperaug, 21:53.93; 16. Savanah Pipkin, Bethel, 21:55.77; 17. Julia Fragomeli, Bethel, 21:55.77; 18. Emma Bayuk, Newtown, 22:03.86; 19. Rachel Buddenhagen, Weston, 22:05.22; 20. Gwen Gallagher, Bethel, 22:11.34; 21. Madison Findley, Newtown, 22:13.45; 22. Sydney Malaspina, Pomperaug, 22:19.95; 23. Isabella Puzzo, Bunnell, 22:23.36; 24. Shannon Ducey, Immaculate, 22:31.19; 25. Hannah Schwartz, Newtown, 22:34.51.

Team scores: 1. New Milford 44; 2. Pomperaug 84; 3. Newtown 101; 4. Brookfield 112; 5. Weston 148; 6. New Fairfield 166; 7. Barlow 176; 8. Bunnell 183; 9. Bethel 277; 10. Immaculate 282; 11. Masuk 292; 12. Notre Dame-Fairfield 335; 13. Stratford 336.

Top 25: 1. Stosh Davis, New Milford, 16:38.50; 2. Alexander Abraham, Pomperaug, 16:50.45; 3. Tommy Consalvo, Brookfield, 16:54.37; 4. Greg Hansell, New Milford, 17:06.06; 5. Benjamin Ruffing, Barlow, 17:09.86; 6. Chris Rivas, Brookfield, 17:18.20; 7. Michael Rautter, New Fairfield, 17:23.87; 8. Cole Clark, Weston, 17:26.47; 9. Richard Grudzwick, New Milford, 17:27.97; 10. Frank Sinapi, Pomperaug, 17:29.17; 11. Michael Petilo, Stratford, 17:32.75; 12. Brady Clarke, New Milford, 17:35.57; 13. Alex Ghajar, Bunnell, 17:39.41; 14. Michael Bortolot, Barlow, 17:44.29; 15. Kevin Michalka, Bethel, 17:45.09; 16. Scott Gaffney, Pomperaug, 17:45.50; 17. Kyle Mangold, Newtown, 17:53.27; 18. Zachary Pitcher, New Milford, 17:58.38; 19. Christopher Gamble, Newtown, 18:00.72; 20. Joel Duval, Newtown, 18:01.30; 21. Michael Schenk, Pomperaug, 18:02.80; 22. Dave Csordas, Newtown, 18:03.71; 23. Brendan Reeds, Newtown, 18:05.06; 24. Eric Vazquez, New Milford, 18:07.01; 25. A'hsantay Manning, Bunnell, 18:14.24.