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ECC Championship meet: Centaurs place 3rd

It seemed like every Woodstock Academy runner had the same feeling.

The Centaurs love the Wickham Park course in Manchester, site of the State Class and State Open championships beginning next weekend.

The Norwich Golf Course where the Eastern Connecticut Conference girls cross-country championship was held on Thursday?

Not so much.

“This is probably the hardest course I have ever run,” senior Lauren Brule said. “Compared to every single other one, this is very, very difficult.”

Brule led Woodstock Academy to a third-place finish as a team as she placed 12th in 22 minutes, 11 seconds.

The Centaurs finished with 93 points, just behind East Lyme (50) and Ledyard (72).

It kept coach Joe Banas’ streak going.

“However you figure it out, since I’ve been head coach, we have been in the top three of every ECC championship race,” Banas said with a smile. “We kept it going but next year, I’m going to need a few warm bodies or else, we won’t even score.”

The team did come in a little short-handed.

Junior Leila Khairetdinova was out with tendinitis and will likely also miss the state championship meet next Saturday.

“That was really tough to lose one of our top runners. It kind of is what it is and we’re making due with what we have. We’re still pushing strong and we’re excited for States now,” Brule said.

Brule said she went into Thursday’s race with the mindset that it was going to be difficult.

“There is a lot of uphill and not much downhill like Coach Banas said it’s a 'mountain goat' course. I kind of went into it knowing that I would not get a personal best time but I think I did pretty well for what the course is,” Brule said.

The senior took her coach’s advice and went out a bit slower, trying to avoid the “fire drill” mentality that most runners have in the championship race where they bolt from the starting line.

She was a bit behind teammate Julia Coyle but caught up to the junior in the last stretches of the race to finish as the first runner across the line for the Centaurs.

Coyle finished 16th, just one spot out from receiving a medal and T-shirt for her efforts.

“Having a race like this is hard because this course is especially hard for the team overall. There are so many hills. There’s no real downhill or a way to keep your pace but I started out on a good pace, was in first for a little bit (for the team) before Lauren took over. I think I’m still trying to figure out where I should kick or not,” Coyle said.

Coyle finished in 22:32, just three seconds ahead of freshman teammate Olivia Tracy in 17th.

The good thing about that is both Coyle and Tracy along with Kira Greene, who finished 25th, will all return next year.

“We are coming back. Next year, I think we have the possibility of more girls joining in and with Olivia and I running so close and Kira, who will come up with us, we are going to have a tight (pack),” Coyle said.

Senior Sydney Lord was 29th to round the top five for the Centaurs.

It is on to Wickham Park next Saturday for the Class MM state championship which will be the next-to-last race at 3:10 p.m.

“I think a few of our girls who have been ill will have another week or so to come up to full strength. I don’t use excuses. We run and that’s what we do. If we don’t have a good day, that’s OK,” Banas said.