On the heels of their championship in the Class LL meet last weekend, West Hartford’s Hall High School boys cross country team won the State Open on Friday.
By Howie Lam
Once every year, the best teams from the six class divisions gather at Wickham park to compete for the State Open title. At Class LL’s last Saturday, the Hall’s boy’s cross country team came through with a 59-point total, defeating runner-up Danbury (69 points) and also coming in ahead of opponents Ridgefield (95 points) and Staples (140 points) to claim the second state class title in school history.
Going into the State Open race day on Friday, the Titans’ top seven runners were excited but anticipated it to be a tough fight.
Junior Isaac Mahler, Hall’s top runner, was favored to place high for the team’s shot at the State Open title. Mahler’s season has ranked him among one of the top runners in state, with a first-place finish in the CCC Cross Country Championships and a fourth-place finish at the Class LL race. “I think we all knew we’d have to work harder at this race than class because of the solid competition altogether,” he said. “The game plan was to have our one beat [our opponent’s] one, our two beat [our opponent’s] two, etc., etc., and I think we did that really well, just as with our class meet.”
As the race unfolded through the first mile, Mahler followed slightly behind the lead pack in 5:10. Seniors Colin Goldschmidt, Ethan Striff-Cave, and sophomore Ben Lewis raced together and were behind Mahler with a 5:23 first mile, while seniors Avery Allen, Nathaniel Aronson, and Lucas Pyrro were also in a good place ahead of their opponents. “Going down the big downhill in the clearing it was cool to see the entire race in front of me. I saw Danbury, Xavier, and our team and was happy to see our pack had gone out controlled,” Allen recalled.
A huge negative split past the 2-mile put the boys in a promising place. Most of the boys began to race aggressively, hammered up the grueling Green Monster hill, and rolled past runners with about one kilometer to go. Mahler began to make a move after sitting comfortably on the lead pack to score high for the team.
At the finish line, Mahler came in third place, with a time of 15:53 – his first time under 16 minutes on the course. Goldschmidt finished sixth in 16:17, outleaning Xavier’s top boy. Striff-Cave crossed the line in 16:39, earning him 21st place. Allen followed in 31st place in a time of 16:53. Lewis was passed by two Danbury runners before the finish but managed 46th place in a time of 17:14. Pyrro finished right behind in 50th place with 17:18. Aronson closed off the top seven in 109th place at 18:01. The battle was close. Too close to call.
The other boys who traveled to cheer on their teammates who raced gathered around the top seven a little past the finish line to congratulate them. Anxiousness and tension rose to calculate which team was ahead. Just a few minutes later, it was confirmed – state open champions.
The team burst with excitement, yelling, and cheering. For the first time in the school’s 98 years, they could call themselves the State Open champions. Not only were the athletes thrilled, but the coaches celebrated as well. “Hall cross country has been a successful program for decades, dating back to when Tom Butterfield was the head coach,” Jeff Billing, the team’s head coach, said. “This group of boys have done something that no Hall team had ever done – they won the first ever State Open title. To be the best cross country team in school history, and the best team in the state this year, means an awful lot and is a testament to this group’s talent, work ethic and togetherness. I am so proud of them. They each ran their hearts out and it’s a day that I will never forget.”
Not only did Hall’s team win a State Open title, but they also punched a ticket to the New England Championship race on Saturday, Nov. 12 at Ponaganset High School in Glocester, RI. Follow along as the the boy’s race goes off at 11:30 a.m., followed by the girls race at 12:15 p.m. at https://ri.milesplit.com/results.
Hall XC State Open Boys Results:
Isaac Mahler (3rd) – 15:53
Colin Goldschmidt (6th) – 16:17
Ethan Striff-Cave (21st) – 16:39
Avery Allen (31st) – 16:53
Ben Lewis (46th) – 17:14
Lucas Pyrro (50th) – 17:18
Nathaniel Aronson (109th) – 18:01
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