Cross country: McCormick fourth at New England's, sets new Wilton bests

While she lost for the first time this season, Morgan McCormick still added a few more milestones to an already historic season at last Saturday’s New England cross country championships in Belfast, Maine.

The Wilton High senior finished fourth in the race, the highest finish ever by a Wilton runner.

Her time of 17:50.8 set a new Wilton High record for a 5K race. She was just three second off the course record at Troy Howard Middle School going into the meet.

“I don’t think we’ve had anyone below 18 minutes. To run 17:50, I’m pretty positive that’s by far the fastest time (ever by a Wilton runner),” said longtime Wilton head coach Jeff Gee. “It was the first time she’s been beaten this year and still it was a pretty impressive performance. Morgan ran really well.”

The race was won by Julia Robitaille from Manchester, N.H., in a time of 17:31.65, with Eleanor Lawler from South Kingstown, R.I., taking second in 17:40.55. Nikki Merrill of Portsmouth, R.I., used a strong final 200 meters to surge to third place, beating McCormick by just .12 of a second.

Because the course narrowed significantly after the first 300 meters, McCormick went out fast and ran with the lead pack of five or six runners through the first two miles. It was a fast pace, with the group clocking in at 5:35 after one mile and 11:30 at the two-mile mark.

Robitaille then separated from the pack except for Lawler. McCormick was in third until the final meters.

With her time, McCormick is one of only 14 runners since 2004 to go under 18 minutes at the New England meet, and her time was the third fastest by a Connecticut runner at New England’s during that span.

She lowered her best time, set at the Class L championships on Oct. 28, by 29 seconds.

The best time by a Wilton runner at New Englands going into Saturday’s meet was 18:40 by Sarah Lynch in 2013.

The previous highest finish by a Wilton runner at New England’s was a seventh place in 1994 by Jamie Sutherland.

Next up for McCormick is the Foot Locker Cross Country Northeast Regional on Nov. 25 at Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx.

The meet will feature top runners from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

The top 10 finishers in each of the seeded races qualify for the Foot Locker National Finals in San Diego, Calif., on Dec. 9.