Boys Cross Country
Good showing at States
Ethan Aspiras was pretty happy following the Class MM state cross-country championship race on Friday at Wickham Park.
"I feel tired," the sophomore said with a laugh. "I feel really good because I had a personal best and this is a really hard course to do that on. It was nice."
Aspiras finished in 17 minutes, 57 seconds, good for 30th place in the race.
"It's good to end my sophomore cross-country season this way," Aspiras said.
He also felt good during the race.
After fighting his way through the first mile, he got a surge of energy at the start of the second.
"I was looking for him and I was thinking he went out too fast, but I never saw him again," senior Kenneth Birlin said. "I think he's going to be really good over the next couple of years. Even last year in track, he was already a leader on the team and I think he's going to lead this team over the next couple of years."
That surge of energy continued through the final portion of the race.
He looked strong going up the final hill, better known as the "Green Monster."
"I definitely gained some confidence here because it's hard to get under 18 (minutes) especially where I'm at now, not even 16 (years-old) yet. If I can do this now, I can imagine what I can do my senior year and how much progress I can make," Aspiras said.
That means offseason work.
Aspiras plans to continue his progression by taking part in both the indoor and outdoor track seasons.
"I see some confidence and some planning," coach Peter Lusa said of Aspiras. "He's already saying 'Next year, I need to be...' There is that forethought and our season is so short, you have to front load that sort of stuff and maturity is bringing that kind of thought."
Birlin followed behind in 62nd place, finishing in 18:42.
It was Birlin's last cross-country race in a Woodstock Academy uniform.
"I love this team so much. "I'm going to miss it next year," Birlin said.
But he felt he could have performed better on Friday.
"I didn't do what I wanted to. I feel like I ran a hard race but I'm not pleased and it was kind of disappointing because it was my last meet," Birlin said.
Lusa had reason to be happy.
"The guys were tight (at the finish), I stopped cheering really early this time. Our seventh place guy was in 106th," Lusa said.
Freshman Hamilton Barnes was 75th in 19:01 followed by Matt Roethlein (19:17) in 85th; Christian Mink (19:23) in 87th; Evan Gianfriddo (19:45) in 99th and Spencer Collins (19:53) in 106th.
As a whole, the team finished in 12th place.
"We're starting something," Lusa said. "We're losing Kenneth, Spencer and Noah (Pepper) who were our only seniors here (Friday), so everybody else is hopefully coming back. We have some young kids who are really enthusiastic. The young kids are seeing Ethan and they're starting to plan and that will go a long way."
Boys finish 6th in ECC championship
The Centaurs had a healthy showing at the Eastern Connecticut Conference cross-country championship on Thursday at the Norwich Golf Course.
The Centaurs finished sixth out of the 19 teams in the conference.
"I am pleased with the sixth-place result. We only lost to teams that had previously beat us during the season," coach Peter Lusa said.
Only their three Division I opponents, East Lyme, Norwich Free Academy and Fitch, and two other schools, Bacon Academy and Waterford did better than the Centaurs who finished with a 191-point total.
Ethan Aspiras led the Centaurs with a 21st place in 18 minutes, 35 seconds.
He was followed across the line by Kenneth Birlin in 27th (19:12); Matthew Roethlein 48th (19:38); Hamilton Barnes 49th (19:39) and Christian Mink 54th (19:55).
"Nearly all the boys ran personal best times for the season on a difficult course. Our runners are peaking at the right time. I'm looking forward to the state competition," Lusa said.
The Centaurs will compete in the last boys state championship race of the day at 3:10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26 at Wickham Park in Manchester.
Centaurs get ready for ECC's with 2 wins
The Centaurs boys team finished above .500 for the regular season.
That was not easy considering it moved up to Division I in the Eastern Connecticut Conference this season where it finished 0-3.
The Centaurs finished up the season with a 23-32 win over Stonington and a 15-50 victory over Windham although they lost to Norwich Free Academy, 16-47.
“The kids ran well on their home course which is another feather in their cap. A great effort on their part,” coach Peter Lusa said.
It was, also, almost a new experience.
While it is their home course, they hadn’t practiced on it all that much during the season.
“It used to be, when we used this area (near the Woodstock Fair horse show rings) for football, we would be down here the first week of school and it became, our place. They love to train here,” Lusa said.
“We knew before the season started, unless someone else had a really bad year, that we would be struggling to catch up to them. We don’t have that running culture here,” Lusa said.
Lusa was pleased with the effort of sophomore Ethan Aspiras who finished sixth in the race on Tuesday in 19:01.
Kenneth Birlin finished 11th just 40 seconds behind Aspiras, Hamilton Barnes was 14th, Matt Rothlein 17th and Evan Gianfriddo 19th.
The goals for the boys team is much more conservative than the girls.
“Running their best, returners beating their time from last year, newcomers get a chance to see how they do. It’s a big meet. There are a lot of kids to run with some we have never seen before and it will be great to see how our kids will do. There is no overarching goal. Two years ago, we tied for first in the Medium Division (now Division II) and then we get thrown back in the Large (Division I) so it take us a few years to sort back out,” Lusa said.
Interior competition helps Centaurs
Woodstock Academy senior Kenneth Birlin had a goal this season.
He has wanted to catch his teammate, sophomore Ethan Aspiras.
Birlin finally accomplished that on Saturday.
With a burst of speed going up the final hill, Birlin finally accomplished his goal at the Wickham Park Cross-Country Invitational on Saturday in Manchester.
Birlin finished 87th in 18 minutes, 51 seconds, just two spots and two seconds ahead of Aspiras in the boys varsity seeded race.
“It pushes you,” Birlin said of the competition from within. “It makes it feel more like a team when you can banter with somebody. It pushes them to go harder too and they push you. It’s really good for the team.”
Centaurs coach Pete Lusa said he had instructed the team not to go “full out” in the meet because Woodstock Academy had its only home meet of the season on Tuesday against Norwich Free Academy, Stonington and Windham.
That meet, in Lusa’s mind, was going to be just as hard as the race at Wickham was due to the hills that both courses have and the fact that both are soft underfoot.
“Just as muddy,” Lusa said with a laugh.
But he also was happy to see Birlin and Aspiras wage a brief battle on the course in Manchester.
“It’s not an ego thing with these guys. It’s me against you at this moment, let’s see who can do it. It’s a good challenge. The senior beat the sophomore (Saturday). Ethan will have plenty more glory days ahead of him,” Lusa said.
Aspiras said he was happy to see his teammate take the advantage on the final hill.
“It’s not about yourself, this is a team, and I was happy for him. I was glad that he was up and competing with me because there aren’t many on the team who are competing with me,” Aspiras said.
The team finished 23rd overall with Spencer Collins (142nd), Evan Gianfriddo (147th) and Noah Pepper (156th) making up the top five.
“The goal for (Saturday) was just to try our best,” Birlin said. “We were just trying to reach our personal goals for the day and work with that.”
It was also a preview for the team of what is to come in just 21 days when the state championship meets are also held at Wickham.
“I’m hoping it won’t be as muddy. It was really bad (Saturday),” Birlin said. “I actually had a pretty good time with it, but there were a couple of places where you could not avoid it. It’s easier to just go through the mud than around it. You just had to be aware of your surroundings.”
Lusa said, even with the home meet looming, he knew it was important to run on Saturday just to get a feel for the course.
Unlike Woodstock Academy freshman girls runner Linsey Arends, who ran the varsity seeded race, Lusa opted to have his freshmen compete in the boys freshmen race.
“They didn’t see the varsity course, but Hamilton (Barnes) will likely run the state championship race. The course is similar enough that he should know things. We come here for the experience,” Lusa said.
Centaurs win 2
Ethan Aspiras finished second as the Centaurs (4-4, 0-2 ECC Division I) in North Stonington as they downed Tourtellotte, 15-50, and Wheeler, 16-47, but lost to Fitch, 19-41.
Christian Mink finished eighth, Hamilton Barnes ninth and Kenneth Birlin 10th in the quad-meet for the Centaurs.