With no wind and low humidity on Tuesday afternoon, Cheshire High School cross country teams felt that they had optimal conditions for their home openers at Cheshire Park. In front of friends and family, the squads proceeded to kick off their dual-meet seasons on a high note.
Cheshire girls went 3-0 on the day, while CHS boys posted a 2-1 mark. The girls’ team put five runners in the top seven en route to beating Mercy (18-44), Lyman Hall (19-41), and West Haven (15-50).
“I know that we graduated our captains, Amanda (Addesso), Emmy (Longmore), and Rosie (Marquez), but this meet shows that we have had a lot of girls step up this year,” said senior Kristina Benga, a tri-captain with classmates Audrey Kiesling and Juliana Petronio.
Sophomores Meghan Georgescu and Olivia Ferraro claimed the top-two spots in 22:19 and 22:52, respectively.
“They push each other and love to run together,” said girls’ head coach Rob Schaefer. “Having someone to run with makes you better.”
Georgescu earned her first victory on Tuesday.
“I wasn’t expecting to take first place,” said Georgescu. “It was fun to win on our home course.”
Last fall, Georgescu and Ferraro earned All-Southern Connecticut Conference Second Team honors. With the graduation of four-year varsity runners in Addesso and Longmore, the girls have moved up in the lineup.
“It is tough without Emmy and Amanda because they led the team last year with Rosie (Marquez),” said Ferraro. “Coming back this year, we have a chance to shine.”
After Georgescu and Ferraro led the field on Tuesday, Benga (23:46), freshman Alex Palladino (23:51), and junior Liz Addesso (24:10) placed fifth through seventh in scoring positions. Benga’s finish was the best of her career.
“It feels good. It is my senior year and I want to do well,” explained Benga. “I’ve been on this team for four years and dreamed of being a leader and helping the younger girls.”
“She worked very hard in the off-season,” said Schaefer, of Benga. “As our only senior on varsity today, she stepped up and led our team.”
Cheshire boys also beat Lyman Hall (15-47) and West Haven (18-45) on Tuesday, but fell 22-39 to two-time defending State Open Champion Xavier.
“I always tell my runners that good competition makes you a better athlete. It isn’t something that you should shy away from,” explained boys’ head coach Pam Gunneson.
Senior Brendan Mellitt rose to the challenge at Cheshire Park, winning the boys' race by a minute and one second over Xavier sophomore Eamon Burke and senior Robbie Cozean. For the second straight year, Mellitt set the course record (16:32).
“I was surprised by my time,” reflected Murray, a tri-captain with seniors Parker Arai and Charlie Pettit. “It can be hard to run by yourself out front, but I was proud of how I pushed myself today.”
“He had an excellent race,” said Gunneson. “He has worked hard to get in great shape this year.”
Junior newcomer Ryan Farrell placed fifth (17:33) for CHS.
“I hadn’t run the course before, but still thought I had an advantage over the other teams,” said Farrell.
This fall, Farrell chose to give up soccer to run cross country.
“I want to build up my endurance for indoor and outdoor track,” said Farrell. “I love the atmosphere on the team and the running community.”
Seniors Francis Simpatico (11th, 17:49), Owen Fiore (14th, 18:12), and Pettit (15th, 18:18) rounded out Cheshire’s top five on Tuesday.
“We want the guys to run in packs and push each other this year,” stated Gunneson.
Last Saturday, the Rams kicked off the year in the Haddad-Windham Invite. In the varsity 1 boys’ race, Mellitt took fifth (16:08) to lead CHS boys to seventh place (206).
“I got to run against some top 50 guys in the country, so it was good to have competition,” said Mellitt. “I wasn’t happy with how I finished the race, but I’ll see those guys later in the year.”
Simpatico (43rd, 17:45) and Farrell (46th, 17:51) followed Mellitt. Pettit (59th, 18:11), sophomore Robert DiNatale (61st, 18:17), Fiore (63rd, 18:20), and freshman Colin Grevelding (78th, 18:50) also made the CHS top-seven group.
In the varsity 1 girls’ race, Georgescu (27th, 21:58) and Ferraro (34th, 22:36) made the top 35. Benga (48th, 23:30), junior Cate Bedard (60th, 24:12), Kiesling (79th, 24:49), junior Brooke Daddio (88th, 25:06), sophomore Maria Fiore (112th, 25:59), and senior Brie Collins (116th, 26:13) also represented the Rams who placed ninth (245) as a team.
Cheshire teams race next on Sept. 17, visiting Madison’s Surf Club to face host Daniel Hand at 4 p.m.