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Meets 3 & 4: Centaurs run past NFA, Fitch

Woodstock Academy girls cross-country coach Joe Banas remembered a time about a dozen years ago when he was at the Pomfret Recreation Complex umpiring a senior men’s wooden bat baseball league game.

“I don’t know what it was but I remember thinking, ‘This would be a nice place to run,’ but I just put it on the backburner,” Banas said.

But with the Woodstock Academy boys and girls cross-country teams in need of a home course, something they didn’t have a year ago, Banas brought up the idea to boys cross-country coach Peter Lusa.

“Peter spearheaded it, went over to the (Pomfret) Town Hall and got the paperwork going and he and I met over the summer with my wheel and wheeled it out. It’s a true 5K, spectator-friendly course. I like it because it has a lot of rolling grass, true cross-country, and I think we could even host an invitational on it,” Banas said.

The Centaurs hosted their first-ever meet on the course on Tuesday.

“It went well,” Lusa said. “We knew that it had some sticky corners and some tight turns which we would like to fix over time but because we had only nine runners and NFA had only 18, it worked. It would be a trickier course with bigger teams on it.”

The Centaurs girls certainly seemed to like it.

They downed Norwich Free Academy, 18-43 on Tuesday.

Woodstock Academy then finished off the regular season with a 7-1 overall record and 2-1 mark in Division I of the Eastern Connecticut Conference with a pair of wins over Fitch, 15-45, and Windham, 15-50, at Haley Farm in Groton on Friday.

Centaurs senior Lauren Brule came across the finish line first against NFA on Tuesday in 21 minutes, 46 seconds.

Because it was the first official meet on the course, Brule also established the course record.

“We’ve run on it in practice and I had mixed feelings about it. I think it’s definitely one of the more difficult courses that I’ve run because there are a lot of hills and very few flat areas but it’s nice for parents to be able to see you as you run,” Brule said.

About a mile into the race, Banas knew things were going his team’s way as Brule surged ahead of NFA’s Eliana Duclos.

Shortly thereafter, Julia Coyle did the same and finished second in 22:02 before Duclos crossed the line.

Olivia Tracy, Kira Greene and Leila Khairetdinova finished fourth, fifth and sixth for the Centaurs.

“I was really happy about finishing first. It’s difficult this season because we don’t have one key person who is getting first all the time so it’s kind of nice to have healthy competition among all of our top runners,” Brule said.

She became the first repeat first-place finisher for the team this season and she did it on Senior Day.

“It was a nice day and all of the juniors and underclassmen did a really nice job to put together a celebration for everyone,” Brule said.

Brule was honored following the meet alongside senior teammates Tessa Brown, Sydney Lord, Anna Mason and Elizabeth Morgis which comprises the majority of the team.

“On paper, I only have three girls coming back next year. We need to recruit,” Banas said.

Brule picked up another first-place finish against the Falcons.

She led an entire pack of Centaurs across the finish line in 23 minutes, 5 seconds.

“Lauren looks like she is starting to round into shape, just in time for the postseason,” Banas said.

Greene finished seven-tenths of a second behind her teammate. Coyle, Tracy, Brown and Lord comprised the remainder of the top six finishers in Groton.

Now that the regular season is over, the entire Eastern Connecticut Conference will get together for the championship meet on the Norwich Golf Course next Thursday.

“I said early on that it was going to be a three-team race and, if something drastic happens to East Lyme, then either us or Ledyard, will have a chance to make some noise. There is a huge gap between third and fourth overall,” Banas said.

Brule finished 10th in the league meet last season.

“I think we’re ready for it and have definitely been looking forward to it. We’ve had all of our meets rescheduled because of the weather but (the championship) is the one that we’ve been really focusing on and thinking about. We’re really excited about it and most of us have run there before and know the golf course.

Coyle and Lord finished 14th and 15th last season.

Banas is hopeful that his pack of four will all finish inside the top 15 on Thursday.