First-year run­ners lead the way for Bucs

Rook­ies cat­a­lysts be­hind Kent Is­land boys fin­ish­ing sec­ond, girls third at Tide­wa­ter Clas­sic

Record Observer - - Sports - By WIL­LIAM HAUFE bhaufe@stardem.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Bil­l_Haufe. Email me at bhaufe@stardem.com

— Call it con­sis­tency, or maybe even tra­di­tion.

It just seems when­ever Kent Is­land High’s cross coun­try team loses a key run­ner to grad­u­a­tion or in­jury, some­one emerges to keep the Buc­ca­neers near the front of the pack.

That was ev­i­dent un­der Wed­nes­day’s over­cast skies at Win­ter Place Park, as a pair of first-year cross coun­try run­ners — Erick Sanchez and Molly Con­nelly — helped Kent Is­land take sec­ond in the boys’ com­pe­ti­tion af­ter a third-place fin­ish from the girls at the 44th an­nual Tide­wa­ter Clas­sic.

“They’re run­ning hard and they’ve got a goal in mind,” Kent Is­land head coach Rick Unger said of his boys, who in three weeks will bid for an un­prece­dented sev­enth con­sec­u­tive Bay­side Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship.

The Bucs fig­ured to be among the con­fer­ence fa­vorites again on the boys’ side this sea­son, de­spite the grad­u­a­tion of last year’s Bay­side cham­pion, Jose Crosby. Sanchez, who had run track prior to this year, moved into a lead role dur­ing the first half of the sea­son, es­pe­cially with ju­nior Bran­don Ni­chols work­ing his way back from in­jury.

“It’s been quite a sur­prise, him com­ing out of nowhere and re­ally push­ing him­self,” Ni­chols said of Sanchez. “But it’s been a re­ally nice ad­di­tion and it’s made us re­gional con­tenders again.”

Though North­west of Mont­gomery County won the boys’ race by a 38-point mar­gin, the com­bi­na­tion of Ni­chols and Sanchez led Kent Is­land’s run­ner-up fin­ish by nine points over Delaware’s Sus­sex Tech.

“To­day was an all right day,” Sanchez said. “Usu­ally I go out fast, and get like a sub-5 (minute) first mile. But the front pack to­day, they lit­er­ally bunched up and wouldn’t let me pass them.

“Sec­ond mile I dropped off,” Sanchez said of the pace. “Third mile I fi­nally picked it up and was feel­ing good. Even­tu­ally he (Ni­chols) caught up and I was happy for him.”

Ni­chols, who had only beaten Sanchez once this sea­son, closed strong on the 3.1mile course, clock­ing a fourth-place time of 16 min­utes, 42.96 sec­onds — 10 sec­onds faster than his pre­vi­ous best this sea­son. Sanchez was sixth in 16:50.25 and Cade Stan­field was 13th in 17:18.57. Cade Don­nelly (21st) and Shane Peters (28th) rounded out Kent Is­land’s top five.

“This was def­i­nitely my best race so far,” Ni­chols said.

Though Cam­bridge-South Dorch­ester fin­ished well be­hind Kent Is­land in fourth, head coach Sean Reincke was en­cour­aged by a num­ber of per­sonal records logged by both his teams.

“We needed a day where across the board times were improving, in­stead of a just few happy spots,” said Reincke, who had 13 of his 14 girls post per­sonal-records. “On the guys’ side, I don’t think we had quite as many, but we had some kids that ran a PR to­day for 3.1 com­pared to what they have run for three. Forty-five sec­ond PR. Minute-and-a-half PR. And to add to that, we’ve his­tor­i­cally not as a team put it all to­gether here. So it was nice to see that hap­pen to­day.”

The Vik­ings’ top five fea­tured sopho­more Con­nor McCroy fin­ish­ing 15th in 17:23.33, fol­lowed by Trevor Good­win (25th), Gus Thomas (26th), Matt Ko­let­sky (39th) and Ben Corn­well (42nd).

Though Kent Is­land’s girls have been buoyed by se­nior Mandy Fine’s strong per­for­mances while Emma Tvelia re­cov­ers from an in­jured foot, Con­nelly has helped pro­vide the Bucs a nice one-two punch up top.

“Dur­ing in­door and out­door track I al­ways looked up to Mandy,” Con­nelly said. “But now we’re start­ing to run to­gether. And then some­times I get in front of her. Some­times she gets in front of me.”

Tenth at last Saturday’s Spike Shoe In­vi­ta­tional at Steven­son Univer­sity, Con­nelly fin­ished in front yes­ter­day, plac­ing fourth in 19:51.73, while Fine, who has shown steady progress from a year ago, fin­ished fifth in 20:03.34.

“I’m re­ally sat­is­fied with where I am be­cause last year at this time I could not run at any of these times. I just wasn’t strong enough,” said Fine, who placed 14th at the Spiked Shoe.

Com­plet­ing Kent Is­land’s top five were Claire Mack (30th, per­sonal-record 22:13.83), Carly Turner (59th) and Han­nah Claggett (61st).

Eas­ton’s An­nie Ray was 11th (21:03.21) and team­mate Claire Dowd fin­ished 14th in 21:18.14. Queen Anne’s Made­line Wil­son was 15th (21:22.20) and North Caro­line’s Sierra Reynolds was 16th in 21:23.60.

Notes: North­west won the girls’ race with 47 points fol­lowed by run­ner-up Mil­ford (62) and Kent Is­land (135). … Cam­bridgeSD, Queen Anne’s and North Caro­line fin­ished fourth, fifth and sixth, re­spec­tively on the girls’ side. … The girls’ race had 193 run­ners. … North Caro­line was eighth in the boys’ event, with Queen Anne’s fin­ish­ing 10th and Eas­ton 12th . ... The boys’ race had 246 fin­ish­ers.

PHOTOS BY WIL­LIAM HAUFE

Cam­bridge-SD’s Con­nor McCroy (86) and Kent Is­land’s Erick Sanchez (181) lead the boys’ pack off the start­ing line dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s 44th an­nual Tide­wa­ter Clas­sic.

PHOTO BY WIL­LIAM HAUFE

Kent Is­land’s Molly Con­nelly ap­proaches the fin­ish line dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s Tide­wa­ter Clas­sic. Con­nelly fin­ished fourth in 19:51.73.

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