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11/01/2022 12:07 PM

Guilford Girls’ Cross Country Claims Second-Straight State Title

The Guilford girls’ cross country team defended its state title by recording a first-place performance at the Class MM State Championship meet hosted at Wickham Park on Oct. 29. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

For the second year in a row and the 12th time overall, the Guilford’ girls cross country team has won a state title following its first-place finish in the Class MM State Championship at Wickham Park on Oct. 29. After dealing with injuries to many runners throughout the season, the Grizzlies defeated the odds and came out on top at the state meet.

Guilford recorded a team score of 89 points on its way to claiming the Class MM crown, placing ahead of runner-up Pomperaug (107) for the top spot in the standings. Jon Rivera, who is head coach of the boys’ cross country team and also coaches several of the athletes on the girls’ team with the Guilford track program, felt proud to see the Grizzlies step up when they competed at states last week. Guilford has now won the Class MM title 10 times to go with a pair of State Open championships.

“The girls had a lot of injuries this year that they had to overcome,” Coach Rivera said. “They were an underdog, and people didn’t consider them to be a threat, but they rose to the occasion.”

Coach Rivera said that the runners on the Guilford girls’ cross country team are the most dedicated kids you’ll ever see, because they work tirelessly year-round, and this group of girls is no exception. Senior captain Olivia Kaisin led the Grizzlies by finishing the race in eighth place while setting a personal-record time of 21:18 at the Class MM State Championship, earning All-State honors. Kaisin said that it was a rewarding experience to help her team capture its second-consecutive state title.

“In all my four years of running, I’ve never cried tears of joy after a race until the State Championship,” said Kaisin. “This win feels like a completely different win from last year. We had major injuries in our top seven. However, I have seen each and every teammate grow so much in only the course of two months. It’s hard to go out there and push the limits of pain your body can tolerate. With so many setbacks, I am beyond proud of the team, and I am excited to see how they do next year.”

Kaisin added that she’s personally improved as a runner throughout the course of the 2022 season.

“The way I went into this season was a physical, but also a mental progression,” Kaisin said. “It is my senior year, and I wanted to savor every single race, whether it was a good or bad race. Ultimately, I believe the outgoing mindset helped me improve my performance marginally.”

Guilford had several other runners deliver standout performances on its way to winning the state title. Freshman Ciara Davenport finished in 13th place by recording a time of 21:35 for the Grizzlies. Junior Clara Gahm finished in 19th place with a time of 21:55.

Sophomore Ana Sadlon came in 25th place by running a time of 22:07 at the state meet. Freshman Summer Mangan was right behind her in 26th place, finishing with a time of 22:09.

Sophomore Daniella Selig took 46th place with a time of 23:12 for Guilford. Senior Clara Laughlin posted a time of 23:26 to finish in 50th place on behalf of Head Coach Jim Ford’s squad.

On the other side, the Guilford boys’ cross country team came up shy of its goal at states, but still had a good season overall. The Grizzlies finished in third place at the Class MM State Championship after totaling a team score of 115 points. East Lyme took the title with a score of 78 points.

“We had a really strong season and keep getting better as the season goes on,” said Rivera. “We were healthy overall this year compared to most years.”

Coach Rivera felt that his team ran particularly well in its second-place finish at the Southern Connecticut Conference Championship, as well as the various invitational meets that the Grizzlies competed in this year. He felt that SCCs marked the team’s best collective performance.

The 35 runners on the team are close, and Rivera said that the seniors and juniors worked well together to lead the squad. Senior Michael Masotti served as the sole captain for the team this year, and Coach Rivera felt that the senior was very professional.

“Michael was consistent, stayed serious, and kept the team serious,” Rivera said. “He kept the guys in order and on task.”

The Grizzlies turned in some standout performances on their way to placing third in states. Masotti finished in sixth place overall by running a personal-record time of 16:46, garnering All-State accolades. Junior Alex Hansen finished in 12th place by recording a personal-record mark of 16:59. Coach Rivera said that Hansen, who also made All-State, came up big for the Grizzlies at the meet.

Freshman Jack Faitsch finished in 28th place with a time of 17:57, while junior Coleman Love took 29th place behind a time of 18:00 for Guilford. Senior Bretton Garrick ran a time of 18:23 to finish in 40th place.

Junior Cooper Woods crossed the finish line in 57th place after running a time of 18:47. Senior Ryan Franchi came in 61st place with a time of 18:52.

Coach Rivera said that one of the disappointments from the state meet was missing out on runner-up honors due to a tiebreaker. After Guilford and E.O. Smith both finished with the same amount of points, the tiebreaker determined that E.O. Smith finished in second place and the Grizzlies placed third. The tiebreaker ultimately came down to which team’s sixth-place runner recorded the faster time.

“A couple of guys had off days at the wrong time,” said Rivera. “It’s a tough spot. The boys put a lot of pressure on themselves.”

Guilford’s girls’ and boys’ teams are now preparing for the State Open Championship that takes place at Wickham Park on Friday, Nov. 4. Coach Rivera feels confident that his team can bounce back at the State Open, especially since he has such a hard-working group of kids.

“We can’t sit here and dwell on it. We just have to...look ahead,” Rivera said. “We need to make sure we’re staying focused, setting new goals, and continuing to build up our confidence level.”