GHS cross-country squad small, but packs a punch

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Mon., Oct. 3, 2011
Members of the Wolverine cross-country team warm up with a run around the track at the start of practice. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Members of the Wolverine cross-country team warm up with a run around the track at the start of practice. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Small teams can pack a big punch. Just ask Griswold High School cross-country coach Mike Flynn. He’s leading a squad of about 15 runners this year; six girls and nine boys. It’s a number that he says is typical.

“Ideally, I’d like to have 10 of each,” Flynn said. But competing interests – freshman soccer, junior varsity volleyball, not to mention football – tempt many potential distance runners away from cross-country. As a result, none of this year’s four seniors are four-season cross-country runners. That hasn’t cramped the Wolverines’ style in the past, though. Flynn’s girls have won three state titles in the past five years and 10 straight small-division championships. “We’ve never lost since we joined the ECC [Eastern Connecticut Conference],” he said.

Besides senior Courtney Magario, this year’s female standouts include freshman Melina LaBossiere, who Flynn said has a strong work ethic. “She’s adapted very well and very quickly became our fifth runner. She’s shown some great progress. She gets things pretty quick.”

Two sophomores to watch are Alyssa Moore, who started running track last year and “has started to find her confidence,” and Alyssa Brehler, part of last year’s winning distance relay team in outdoor track.

Flynn said that Brehler has a shot at an individual ECC title this year, as does senior Mark Mackin. Mackin has made the boys’ podium his personal goal, Flynn said. “If he can finish in the top three or four, that would be really good,” he said.

Both of the Wolverine squads will face a tough challenge for the ECC crown from long-standing powerhouse Norwich Free Academy.

The team’s record stood at 5-0 in its dual meets as of Oct. 3, Flynn said. The Wolverines will run in the Wickham Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 8, “a big tune-up for the championship season,” he said.

Flynn is assisted this year by Kevin Gallagher, the high school’s student supervisor, a former high school cross-country standout who kept appearing on the track for his own run and was finally invited to help coach. “The kids really, really like him. He’s a tremendous help with the younger kids,” Flynn said.

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