Cougars Enjoy a Banner Day at Shorelines
The Haddam-Killingworth boys’ cross country squad edged out Hale-Ray to claim the Shoreline Conference title for the eighth-consecutive campaign at East Hampton High School on Oct. 23. (Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Source)
The H-K girls’ cross country team captured first place at last week’s Shoreline Conference Championship meet, giving the Cougars their fifth title in the last seven seasons. (Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Source)
The Haddam-Killingworth cross country program put together a masterclass performance at the Shoreline Conference Championships at East Hampton High School on Oct. 23. The H-K boys’ team claimed its eighth-straight conference title and its 11th in the past 12 years, while the girls’ team also earned a first-place finish to capture the crown for the fifth time in seven seasons.
Matt Diglio coaches H-K’s boys’ and girls’ squads. Diglio felt extremely proud about how the unified Cougars motivated each other to perform at their peak in the Shoreline meet.
“I love being able to work with both teams. While it’s not typical that one coach handles both teams, I like being able to do everything as an integrated squad,” Coach Diglio said. “We’ve always had one team, one program here. We travel together and train together, and it makes us better overall. The teams push each other and encourage each other, and it showed this season with conference titles for both teams.”
The H-K boys scored 43 points to finish at the top of the pack in the 10-team meet. The Cougars barely edged out runner-up Hale-Ray, which finished with 46 points scored.
“The boys have a lot of room for improvement. Hale-Ray was really competitive with us in this meet, but we ultimately came away with a great win,” said Diglio. “A lot of credit goes to our two freshmen, Jack Cozean and Colton Merola, who finished 9th and 13th. Those two have been consistent for us all season and really helped us secure the title with their runs.”
Senior captain Caleb Freeman put forth the best performance for the boys’ team by finishing in second place with a time of 17:36. Junior Alex Lara also had a solid showing by coming in eighth place at 18:26. Cozean finished with a time of 18:29 on his way to placing ninth. Senior Andrew Hedges took 11th place with a time of 18:46. Merola posted a time of 18.50 to finish in 13th place for H-K.
“Alex is a runner who has grown exponentially since he first started competing with us as a freshman. To see him finish top 10 made me very proud, and he did a tremendous job in this race,” said Diglio. “Overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better day weather-wise, and I think all the kids are looking forward to the upcoming State Tournament.”
On the girls’ side, H-K competed against five other schools and came away with a decisive first-place finish. The Cougars recorded a team score of 28 to finish well-ahead of second-place Portland (53) and third-place East Hampton (67).
“East Hampton was without their best runner in this race, and that definitely made a difference in this one,” Coach Diglio said. “I thought the girls did a great job nonetheless, but we know that East Hampton is going to be very tough at the state competition once they get their No. 1 runner back.”
Junior Isabel Berardino turned in a first-place performance for H-K in the girls’ race. Berardino crossed the finish line with a time of 21:35 to place ahead of runner-up Shawn Laverty of Portland (22:02).
Senior captain Brianna Minervino was right behind in third place with her time of 22:07. Fellow senior captain Ava DiMatteo took fifth place (22:22) at the meet. Sophomore Sydney Adelberg finished in 10th place (22:52), and junior Chloe Lacoss took 14th place (23:26) for the Cougars.
“Izzy had a really strong race for us and finished in first place. Then our two captains, Brianna and Ava, came in third and fifth, and that really set the tone for us,” said Diglio. “Having three of the top five finishers in the race made a huge difference in us coming out victorious. A huge credit also goes to Sydney and Chloe. It was an all-around team effort.”
On top of the varsity teams’ achievements, H-K’s JV boys’ squad finished in first place for its race, and the girls’ team came in second place for the JV competition. Senior Dan Haas earned top honors in the boys’ race with a time of 19:27. Sophomore Kira O’Brien won the girls’ race by running a time of 24:57.
“I’m just really proud of our program as a whole,” Coach Diglio said. “Not only did the varsity teams win, but we have our younger athletes showing what the future holds for this team.”
H-K’s boys’ and girls’ teams will each compete at the Class SS State Championship at Wickham Park in Manchester on Saturday, Oct. 30. Coach Diglio is looking for both clubs to come home with state gold.
“I want to see us win state titles, but we know we’ve got a lot of work to do still,” said Diglio. “Our main objective is to do well enough at states so that we can qualify for the State Open, as well.”