Offseason commitment pays off for Foran harriers

The Morningside section of Milford is a pretty place to be on a summers’ morning. There’s nothing like some salty air and picturesque scenery to keep you going.

That’s where the current members of both the boys and girls cross country teams at Foran High spent many an early hour in July and August. All that work has definitely paid huge dividends for both squads.

The boys team, guided by coach Dick Jeynes, captured its first-ever Southern Connecticut Hammonasset Division title with a three-way meet win over Guilford High and Daniel Hand from Madison. The boys finished the regular season with a 17-1 record.

Meanwhile, the girls team, which has only 13 runners in total and not a senior competing on the varsity level, produced a 12-5 mark behind coach Shannon Ramsey.

“Ever since the SCC was formed (in 1994) nobody but either Guilford or Hand has won our division,” Jeynes said. “This is a major accomplishment for a group of kids who really dedicated themselves to getting better and doing this.”

Jeynes saw how good his team was very early on. His top five runners were all in the 17-minute range in last September’s Williamantic Invitational.

The contingent is led by senior Kevin Mastriano, along with classmates Tyler Porcello and Kevin Aiken. Sophomore Jack Audrey and Matt Downing are also integral members of the team.

Mastriano ran a 16:53 against Hand and Guilford. Porcello was close behind, at 16:58.

“Tyler is one of those quiet and determined-type of kids,” Jeynes said. “He has worked his way through injuries and missed parts of his sophomore and junior years. He simply never gave up.”

Mastriano led the summer brigade at Morningside.

“We worked very hard in the off-season to get ready for this year,” he said. “We would do eight-mile runs and follow that up with sprint work.

“Our overall dedication and taking a team effort approach is what got us to where we are.”

Ramsey has been surprised by her team’s performance because the squad is young and only has a limited numbers of runners.

“We have good motivators,” she said. “A perfect example of that are sophomores Hannah Pouliot and Lilly Stiffler. We keep cuttings our times. Last year, Hannah broke her personal best on eight occasions. Lilly only ran in a few meets, but each time she did, she usually bettered almost everyone else’s times.”

“Our goal was to do much better than last year,” Stiffler said. “We’re a close group and one that can motivate each other. Some days, some of the girls don’t always like to run, but once we get started, we keep going.”

Pouliot said, “I think, as a group, we began putting pressure on ourselves when we kept lowering our personal times. We all became very competitive.”

Erin Dillman, Madison Ganter and Sarah Barrett are among the top contributors.

Stiffler’s best time for three miles has been 20:52 while Pouliot has finished in 22:03.