Wickham Park hosts statewide cross-country race competition

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
Region - posted Tue., Oct. 11, 2011
Boys' varsity teams race at the Wickham Cross-Country Invitational race Oct. 8. Photos by Frances Taylor.
Boys' varsity teams race at the Wickham Cross-Country Invitational race Oct. 8. Photos by Frances Taylor.

High school cross-country teams from all over Connecticut came to the Wickham Park Invitational in Manchester on Oct. 8 to race against the best in the state.  With temperatures close to 80 degrees, the challenging 5K course with steep hills was daunting for even some of the best-prepared athletes.

Varsity boys’ and girls’ teams raced in seeded and unseeded championship races during the afternoon, preceded by freshman and junior varsity team races. Suffield High School took first place in the boys’ varsity seeded championship race, Cheshire High School was second and E.O. Smith of Storrs came in third.

Patrick Dibble of Manchester High School was first in the boys’ varsity seeded race, Kyle Hamel of Southington High School was second, and Sam Burke of Cathedral High in Massachusetts placed third.

In the girls’ varsity seed race, Alyssa Brehler of Griswold High was first, Kellie Davis of Hillhouse High was second and Courtney Ackerly of Tolland High School placed third. Tolland High girls also placed first as a team in the seeded championship race. Medinah Nabbaduka, of Windsor High School, placed fifth in the girls’ varsity unseeded race.

Before the race, Judy Lafontaine, coach of the Tolland girls’ team, said the team was already 6-0 this season, and was hoping for a strong performance at Wickham Park. “We're undefeated so far, and we're going to be looking to see how we stack up against Hillhouse and Ellington, who are our rivals in Class A,” LaFontaine said.

Patrick Dibble of Manchester High had a strong finish in the championship race, crossing the finish line well ahead of the rest of the field. The finish comes at the top of an incline that tired runners must scale at the end. “It was hard. By the third [last] hill, it was getting really tough, but I just said, ‘Do it for God,’ and I made it,” Dibble said.

Mick Fitzgerald, coach of the E.O. Smith boys’ varsity team, who said the team had a 5-2 record overall this year, also said Wickham Park was the team’s biggest race so far this year. “It’s one of the most challenging in the state, so we will have that under our belt as we move into our conference,” Fitzgerald said.

A handful of schools - Avon, Enfield and West Hartford - declined to participate in the invitational this year because of its conflict with Yom Kippur.

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