Cross country: McCormick, Wilton girls look for strong showing at State Open

After a strong performance at last Saturday’s Class L state championships, the Wilton High girls cross country team and star runner Morgan McCormick are hoping for one more big effort at today's State Open at Wickham Park in Manchester.

McCormick is coming off wins at the FCIAC and Class L championships, and is one of the favorites to win the State Open.

Last week, she completed the 5K course at Wickham Park in a time of 18:50, lowering her time from last year’s class meet (when she placed 13th) by 1:41.

McCormick is Wilton’s first state champ since Kerri Lyons won the Class MM crown in 2005, and only the third state champ ever. Wendy Smith won the Class L state champion in 1982.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had one. We’ve had a lot of seconds and thirds and some really high finishes at the Open,” said head coach Jeff Gee. “Morgan is clearly running at a high level. The goal is to keep it going for a few more meets.”

McCormick was one of only three runners at last week’s six class meets to run under 19 minutes.

The fastest time of the day was run by Tolland’s Katherine Deloreto, last year’s State Open runner-up, with an 18:49 in the Class M race. McCormick was next with her time of 18:50, and Tolland’s Hayley Collins had the day’s third best time with an 18:52.

The next fastest time on Saturday was 19:22 by Class LL champ Katelynn Romanchick of Trumbull.

The Wilton girls finished second in Class L with 103 points, edging out third-place Cheshire by nine points. Pomperaug was the team champ with 62 points.

The Warriors have a decent shot at making the New England championships as a team, for the first time since 2012, with another strong effort.

The top six teams at the Open qualify for New Englands, along with the top 25 individual finishers.

Gee said defending champ Tolland, Ridgefield, Pomperaug, Glastonbury and Immaculate are the frontrunners for the top five spots, with Wilton among a group of teams vying for a top-six finish that also includes Cheshire and Greenwich.

Gee said with the seven runners who competed last Saturday, along with the return of senior Nina Mellin, who has been sidelined, the Warriors have the potential to achieve their goal.

“It’s a pretty solid top eight. We’ve just got to put it together Friday to make it to the next level,” he said, adding that whatever happens, the Warriors have developed into a formidable team over the course of the season.

“All along our goal was to make progress,” he noted. “We saw early on that we were way behind Ridgefield, Pomperaug and Greenwich. We closed the gap each successive meet. We accomplished a lot of goals.”

Gee is hoping for a return to form by number-two runner Erika Bonnist, who was slowed by some nagging injuries at the Class L meet. She was the team’s fifth runner, and 42nd overall, in a time of 21:47.

Sophomore Emily Welch ran the best race of her rookie season to finish 10th in Class L in a time of 20:25. Welch was expected to emerge as a top runner this fall, and last weekend’s meet may have been her big breakout, Gee said.

“Emily Welch really came to the forefront. I hope Saturday was the leap up to the next level, which I think she’s clearly capable of,” he said.

Also finishing in the top 30 on at the Class L meet were senior Elizabeth Healy (24th, 21:19) and junior Elizabeth Lynch (26th, 21:23). Bonnist rounded out the team’s top five, followed by senior Meaghan Downey (47th, 22:03) and sophomore Carly Sullivan (52nd, 22:09).

Notes: Saturday’s second-place finish marked the 19th time in the past 27 years that the Wilton girls have finished either first or second at the state class meet.

The team’s previous record for the 5K course at Wickham Park was 19:11 by Mary Lynch in 2014.