Griswold girls take ECC, state cross-country division titles

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Mon., Nov. 4, 2013
The Griswold girls take off from the starting line at the Eastern Connecticut Conference championship race Oct. 17.
The Griswold girls take off from the starting line at the Eastern Connecticut Conference championship race Oct. 17.

October capped another successful season for the Griswold High School girls’ cross-country teams, with a state Class SS championship and top honors in Class S at the Eastern Connecticut Conference championships in Norwich. It was a feat made more remarkable by being accomplished without the team’s star runner, senior Alyssa Brehler, who led the pack throughout the race before collapsing just yards short of the finish line. Her teammate Meagan Perez, a sophomore, crossed the line in second place with a time of 20:34, right behind ECC champion Plainfield’s Kerri Ruffo, Brehler’s longtime rival.

But the two top Wolverine girls triumphed together the following weekend, at the Oct. 26 CIAC championships. In that race, Brehler and Perez swept the top spots in the Class SS race, crossing the finish line within 12 seconds of each other (19:17 and 19:29) and leading the team to a state championship. They became the only two female ECC runners to earn a spot at the New England championships, slated for Nov. 9 in Manchester, N.H. Freshman Makayla Kimmel also finished strong in 14th place for the Griswold girls.

Girls’ coach Mike Flynn said that his team owed much of its success to “no drama. I’ve never had a team this close as friends,” he said. “They really care and love each other.” Besides the mutual support, he said the squad has worked on forming “a positive emotional attachment to the sport. I think that goes a long way, when you see them just grow as runners and grow as people.”

“We had so many inexperienced runners, who had only been running for a year,” said Flynn. “I knew it was going to take a little while to get where we wanted to be.” Among the newcomers this year were freshmen Maggie McGrath and Caitlyn Ellis, sophomore Ally Playdon, and sophomore Thara Saint-Surin.

After a mediocre race in late September, Flynn rallied his captains (Brehler, junior Melina LaBossiere and senior Claudia Marsh) and the trio in turn rallied their teammates with a challenge to improve. “That was a really big turning point,” said Flynn. “After that day, they flipped a switch. You could see it in their eyes.”

The Griswold girls have claimed first place in the state Class SS championship in three of the last four years (placing second in 2011) and five of the past eight years, Flynn said.

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