Tolland cross-country girls collect state open championship

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Tolland - posted Mon., Nov. 4, 2013
Tolland's Courtney Akerley nears the finish line, helping her team win the championship at the State Open on Nov. 3 at Wickham Park in Manchester. Photos by Steve Smith.
Tolland's Courtney Akerley nears the finish line, helping her team win the championship at the State Open on Nov. 3 at Wickham Park in Manchester. Photos by Steve Smith.

The Tolland High School girls' cross-country team completed their post-season trifecta by winning the State Open Championship on Nov. 1 at Wickham Park in Manchester.

Tolland had already won the Class M and Central Connecticut Conference titles and were essentially a shoe-in to take states.

"It's the dream season," said coach Judi Lafontaine. "I couldn't have asked for more. These girls worked so hard this summer. That's the key to a good program – the girls being willing to sacrifice their summer for their training."

LaFontaine said the team's best runner, junior Courtney Akerley had a great race, with a time of 19:17, finishing ninth overall. "That was the same time she ran last Saturday [at the Class M race]," LaFontaine said. "She was in the top 10, and that's exactly where she should be."

The team of Akerley, Caitlin Swanson, Megan Steinhilber, Katherine Deloreto, Hayley Collins, Molly Kozlowski and Melissa Caron combined for 77 points, nearly halving the placings of second-place Glastonbury, which had a score of 136. The coach called her team, "scrappy little fighters."

"They don't know how to lose, and they will do whatever it takes to get themselves in," she said. "They're all high achievers. That's the way cross-country runners are built, typically, and I just happen to have seven of them who work very hard."

LaFontaine said she was not at all nervous at the championship. "This team is so good, there was nothing to be nervous about," she said, adding that in past years she was nervous at the class meets. "I knew before the race."

Graduating only two seniors out of her starting seven, LaFontaine said a return to the state championship has a decent likelihood. "We're around for a while," she said, adding that her eighth and ninth best runners have also been posting superb times that will surely replace anything the team loses to graduation.

"We'll be fully-stocked next year," she said.

For full race results, visit www.nestiming.com.


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