Cross country previews: Challenges for RHS teams

Last season featured some more fairly typical domination from the Ridgefield High girls cross country team. The Tigers went undefeated in dual meets before winning FCIAC, Class LL and State Open titles.

But weakened by graduations and injuries, Ridgefield looks to be hard-pressed to reach traditional levels this fall.

Three of the Tigers’ top runners from 2016 — Ava Kelley, Rachel Maue, Haley Greene — have graduated. Sophomore Tess Pisanelli, who had top-10 overall finishes at the conference and Class LL meets last season, is sidelined with shin splints and likely to miss at least the regular season. And junior Kasey McGerald (stress fractures), another All-FCIAC runner last year, is skipping cross country in order to return for indoor and outdoor track.

“We’re just trying to get it all back together this year,” said Ridgefield head coach John Goetz. “I don’t see us competing for post-season titles.”

Ridgefield’s top runner should be Gabrielle Viggiano, who was 10th overall at FCIACs before being sidelined for the Class LL and State Open meets.

One positive is the return of senior Julia Hergenrother, an All-FCIAC and All-State runner as a sophomore who missed last season while recovering from Lyme disease.

Sophomore Elizabeth Jasminski won the FCIAC junior varsity race last fall and then finished 32nd for the varsity at the Class LL meet. Also back is senior Maddie Guter, who was 19th overall at the conference championship and 36th in Class LL.

Goetz said that senior Maia Clarkin, sophomores Stephanie D’Orso and Isabel Trinkaus, and freshman Rory McGrath could also be among Ridgefield’s top-seven runners. Trinkaus won the freshman race at last year’s FCIAC championships.

RHS boys rebuilding

The Ridgefield boys team finished sixth at the FCIAC championship and 14th in Class LL last fall. The Tigers, who did not qualify for the State Open, graduated their top-four runners, including Brad DeMassa, who was eighth overall at the conference meet and 13th in Class LL.

“In general, the team made some improvements with their willingness to work hard over the summer, but I don't think that it was enough to be competitive with the best teams in the FCIAC or the state,” said head coach Bryan Kovalsky.

Ridgefield’s senior captains are Sebastian Guccione and Kevin Arnold. Arnold is the team’s top returning runner, placing 55th in the FCIAC championship and 98th at the Class LL meet last fall.

“They're great leaders, and they've helped set the tone so far this season,” said Kovalsky about his captains. “We have very small senior and junior groups and abnormally large and talented sophomore and freshman groups. We're very young, and Kevin and Sebastian know that the guys need to break some bad habits and increase the training intensity.

“Aside from the two captains, our sophomores hope to grow into a leadership role with Colin Tarpey, Todd Benson, Charlie MacArthur, Trevor DeMarco, Ethan MacKenzie, and Leo Rector at the front of our pack,” added Kovalsky. “Other possible scoring contributors to our team include junior Omkar Ratnaparkhi and freshmen Ryan Crist and Chaz DellaCorte.

“It will be another fun season to see which athletes choose to commit themselves, prioritize the sport, and then see the rewards.”