Ridgefield girls claim FCIAC cross country three-peat, led by Buonocore's title,

NEW CANAAN — Steve Mucchetti found an appropriate comparison when asked how his first-year as the coach of the Ridgefield girls cross country program was going.

“Normally when you take a new job, it’s a rebuilding program,” Mucchetti said. “This was like someone handing me the keys to a Ferrari.”

The Tigers are definitely the FCIAC’s luxury sports car.

Highlighted by Elizabeth Buonocore’s individual title in her first year running cross country, the Tigers edged New Canaan to capture their third consecutive FCIAC championship Wednesday at Waveny Park in New Canaan.

Ridgefield has now won five of the last seven, eight of the last 12, and 13 of the last conference crowns dating back to the year 2000.

Even with one of its top runners, Deirdre Flangan, sidelined, Ridgefield managed to place three in the top 15 and all five of its scorers in the top 26 to beat New Canaan by a mere three points, 63-60

“We were down one of our top runners, so credit to them to still be able to come through and step up like that is incredible,” Mucchetti said. “They ran a tough, intelligent race.”

Buonocore, a member of Ridgefield’s outdoor track and field team, had not run cross country before this season, but decided to come out for the team for her senior season.

“I wish I had done it more years of high school,” Buonocore said. “Just being outside and in the woods is nice compared to track and the longer distance I find really rewarding.”

Buonocore finished the 4K race in 14:36. Two juniors, Trumbull’s Kathryn Marchand (14:43) and Greenwich’s Esme Daplyn (14:44) finished a second apart in second and third, respectively.

Ridgefield senior Georgia Keller (14:48) was fourth and Darien junior Cam Meyer (14:54) was fifth.

Second-place New Canaan had three consecutive runners in the top 10 with sophomore Radea Raleva (15:01), freshman Eliana Savelli (15:12), and sophomore Charlotte Moor (15:15) taking sixth through eighth. Greenwich junior Kate Friedman (15:25) and Trumbull senior Abigail Poplowski (15:38) rounded out the top 10.

The Tigers’ scoring also included senior Grace Hooker (15:40) in 12th, sophomore Vivienne Namiot (15:53) in 17th, and junior Madeleine Loomis (16:13) in 26th.

Following Ridgefield and New Canaan were a group of three teams separated by just four points: Wilton (101) in third, Greenwich (102) in fourth, and Trumbull (106) in fifth.

Buonocore was back in the pack for part of the race and was running about third or fourth before the final hill, but  pushed past the front-runners to win.

“She just runs with a lot of poise, doesn’t panic, and she finishes really well,” the coach said. “She’s really a tough runner. She paced that really well and lined it up perfectly to outkick those other girls and those are all good runners who ran great races too.”

“I was just trying to stay relaxed throughout and then the last 600 I knew I had to push it,” Buonocore said. “That was definitely tough but I knew the finish line was right there.”

Crossing the finish line, she said “I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t really expect it. There’s a lot of really good competitors here.”

A Ridgefield graduate, Mucchetti had made the jump from the boys program, where he was an assistant for nine years, to the girls when John Goetz retired after 11 years following last season.

“I had a lot of help from the coaches who came before me, and this was a great group and a great culture to step into,” Mucchetti said. “I feel really fortunate to be able to work with these girls. It means a lot to me to be able to do this at Ridgefield and I give all the credit to the kids.”

David.Stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports

FCIAC Girls Cross Country Championship (4K)

Team finishes

1 Ridgefield 60, 2 New Canaan 63, 3 Wilton 101, 4 Greenwich 102, 5 Trumbull 106, 6 Darien 194, 7 Staples 210, 8 Danbury 225, 9 Ludlowe 225, 10 St. Joseph 266, 11 Warde 273, 12 Stamford 311, 13 Brien McMahon 374, 14 Norwalk 423.

Individual finishes

1 Elizabeth Buonocore (Ridgefield) 14:36; 2 Kathryn Marchand (Trumbull) 14:43; 3 Esme Daplyn (Greenwich) 14:44; 4 Georgia Keller (Ridgefield) 14:48; 5 Cam Meyer (Darien) 14:54; 6 Radea Raleva (New Canaan) 15:01; 7 Eliana Savelli (New Canaan) 15:12; 8 Charlotte Moor (New Canaan) 15:15; 9 Kate Friedman (Greenwich) 15:25; 10 Abigail Poplawski (Trumbull) 15:38; 11 Ruby Grosshart (Ludlowe) 15:39; 12 Grace Hooker (Ridgefield) 15:40; 13 Eleanor Fox (Stamford) 15:42; 14 Grace Guglielmo (Wilton) 15:43; 15 Mya Salvino (Wilton) 15:44.