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West Hartford Athletes Run Great at State Meets

The Hall High School boys cross country team won the Class LL state championship on Oct. 29. Courtesy photo

The Hall boys cross country team won their second consecutive state divisional title, while the Hall girls, and Conard boys and girls teams also had good outings.

By Howie Lam

On a chilly Saturday morning at Wickham Park in Manchester, 28 West Hartford athletes toed the line at the cross country state class meets, where schools compete in one of six classes, against other schools of similar size. The headline performance was by the Hall boys team who were attempting to defend their Class LL state title.

Having four members returning from the championship team last year, these athletes knew that they had to work hard together if they were to hold off FCIAC champion Danbury. With many parents and teammates cheering them on, Isaac Mahler, Colin Goldschmidt, Nathaniel Aronson, Ethan Striff-Cave, Ben Lewis, Vince Sullivan, and Lucas Pyrro were lined up and ready. 

At 1000 meters into the race, junior Isaac Mahler was leading the pack of 153 runners. He carried the field through in a 5:07 first mile, with Goldschmidt, Striff-Cave, and Lewis just a few seconds behind. Aronson, Pyrro, and Sullivan came through as a second pack in about 5:20. 

Up the challenging Green Monster hill, Mahler maintained his lead and flew past the two-mile in about 10:30, with Ridgefield’s Steven Hergenrother, Staples’ Ben Lorenz, and Trumbull’s David Carillo beginning to close in on him. 

Over the last mile, those three would catch him, with Mahler kicking up the final hill to place fourth overall in the race in a Hall junior record of 16:08 for the challenging 5K course. In the all-important team scoring, Mahler was two places ahead of Danbury’s top runner.

Goldschmidt followed 18 seconds later in eighth place (one place ahead of Danbury’s No. 2), Striff-Cave was 13th (two places ahead of Danbury’s No. 3), and then Aronson and Lewis came charging up together in 16th and 18th, with three Danbury runners right on their heels in 19th, 20th and 21st places. Pyrro was just a few seconds back from them in 25th and Sullivan followed him in 35th.

In cross country scoring you add up the first five finishers’ places, and the team with the lowest total wins. Hall’s 59 points were just ahead of Danbury’s 69 and Staples 95, securing the team their second consecutive – and second all-time – state championship.

The team celebrated with joy and excitement. “I’m really proud of these boys,” said head coach Jeff Billing. “They’ve worked so hard for the last year to be in the position to defend their title, and to pull it off and beat a very strong Danbury team was thrilling to watch. All seven boys ran their best or equal to their best on this course. To win a state title you need to have the entire team performing at a high level, and all seven guys did that today. I also want to send a shout-out to all the XC and track teammates who came to cheer us on today. It means the world to have your support.”

The Hall High School boys cross country team won the Class LL state championship for the second consecutive year on Oct. 29. Courtesy photo

Not only did Hall’s boys team have an outstanding performance Saturday, but so did the Hall’s girls team, which placed sixth overall in the team standings, earning their ticket to the State Open this coming Friday. Julia Zydanowicz followed in the footsteps of her older sister, Jenna, by placing first for the Hall team and 17th overall. Sophomore Madeline Peterson placed just a few spots back, second for the team in 20th place. Abigail Sanderson and Rylan Priest worked together through the race and came through the finish line in 50th and 52nd places. Zella Jackson, Madeline Makarewicz, and Alexa Fronczek rounded out the scoring to hold off any other contending teams for a spot to the Open. 

Running in the Class L boys race, Conard had a great day under first-year coach Josh Brown. A former coach at Newington High Rocky Hill, Brown has experience with coaching some top-tier athletes such as George Washington University commit Michael Bohlke, who placed fourth at the State Open and fifth at the 2022 New England Championships.

“He’s honestly been really great for the team, since he’s created a vibrant team culture where everyone feels welcomed,” said Conard senior Grant Walters. “The camaraderie that this team exhibits is primarily due to the program that coach Brown has implemented, and it’s been a blast.”

Throughout the race, Conard teammates raced aggressively with the people around them to stay close together and attempt to reserve a spot for themselves at the Open. Noah Burgio finished in 17:41 and a 21st place finish, followed by Grant Walters in 17:54, Grant Bigger in 18:04, Evan Piccioli in 18:13, Sean Morely in 18:17, Isaiah Cyr in 18:58, and Neev Kanwar in 19:13. In a team championship, many athletes attempt to race together to run a short-spread in finishing time, and the top five athletes on Conard managed to spread only 36 seconds across its top five. Unfortunately, they missed qualifying for the state open by a few places, but their fourth place finish in class L was one better than last year’s fifth place finish, despite graduating star runners Gavin and Callum Sherry. 

Finally, Conard’s girl’s team fought a tough battle against powerhouses Glastonbury, Ridgefield, and Trumbull, to place 17th overall in the Class LL girls race. Senior Marlena Pegolo came in first for the team, sophomore Callie Cosgrove in second, junior Keira Jennings in third, senior Amy Cangro in fourth, sophomore Lucia Rittlinger in fifth, senior Sharandeep Kaur in sixth, and up-and-coming freshman Jessica Plummer-Coles in seventh.

Below are the final times and places for all 28 talented athletes who represented West Hartford on Saturday.

On Friday Nov. 4, the top teams from all the class meets will be back in action at the State Open, competing again at Wickham Park in one race to determine the overall state champion. The girls meet begins at 2 p.m., and the boys run at 2:45 p.m.

Hall Boys – Class LL Champions

Isaac Mahler (4th) – 16:08

Colin Goldschmidt (8th) – 16:26

Ethan Striff-Cave (13th) – 16:34

Nathaniel Aronson (16th) – 16:46

Ben Lewis (18th) – 16:47

Lucas Pyrro (25th) – 17:10

Vince Sullivan (35th) – 17:22

Hall Girls – Class LL

Julia Zydanowicz (17th) – 20:42

Madeline Peterson (22th) – 20:54

Abigail Sanderson (50th) – 22:02

Rylan Priest (52nd) – 22:07

Zella Jackson (83) – 23:34

Madeline Makarewicz (87th) – 23:41

Alexa Fronczek (109th) – 24:45

Conard Boys – Class L

Noah Burgio (21st) – 17:41

Grant Walters (28th) – 17:54

Grant Bigger (35th) – 18:04

Evan Piccioli (41st) – 18:13

Sean Morely (42nd) – 18:17

Isaiah Cyr (63rd) – 18:58

Neev Kanwar (75th) – 19:13

Conard Girls – Class LL

Marlena Pegolo (80th) – 23:01

Callie Cosgrove (86th) – 23:37

Keira Jennings (99th) – 24:14

Amy Cangro (105th) – 24:34

Lucia Rittlinger (108th) – 24:41

Sharandeep Kaur (129th) – 26:39

Jessica Plummer-Coles (132nd) – 27:05

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