Cross country: Wilton girls win East Division

The Wilton High girls cross country team has hopes to challenge for the FCIAC title next week, although the regular season didn’t end the way the Warriors would have liked.

Wilton suffered only its third dual meet loss of the season on Tuesday, falling to Greenwich, 25-32, at Tod’s Point in Greenwich.

The Warriors did score wins over Fairfield Ludlowe (20-41) and Stamford (18-35) to finish the regular season at 13-3. With the win over Ludlowe, Wilton clinched its first FCIAC East Division title since 2010.

Mary Lynch again led the way, taking first overall (out of a field of 78) with a time of 18:50 for the 2.9-mile course.

It was the fourth time in six races the senior has been victorious. The only runner to beat her is Hannah DeBalsi of Staples, the defending FCIAC and State Open champ.

Wilton also got another big performance from first-year sophomore Morgan McCormick, who was second overall with a time of 19:07.

However, Greenwich had five of the next six overall finishers, before Wilton’s third finisher, Lilla Seymour, who was 10th in 20:17.

“The rest of the team was subpar. I really don’t know why. They got behind early and it’s a tough course to come back on. There’s not much open ground,” said girls team Head Coach Jeff Gee.

Rounding out the Wilton top seven on Tuesday were Meaghan Downey (13th, 20:25), Elizabeth Lynch (14th, 20:26), Nina Mellin (15th, 20:27) and Erika Bonnist (16th, 20:33). Emma Synder (20th, 21:16) also placed top 20 overall.

Coach Gee said the Warriors are capable of much more, and is hoping to see a return to form for next week’s FCIAC championships, on Wednesday at Waveny Park in New Canaan.

Ridgefield, which was undefeated during the season, is the favorite, followed by Staples, which has lost only to Ridgefield. On a good day, Gee feels, Wilton should be in the mix as well, and should be able to beat Greenwich.

“I believe our team has a reasonable shot, but if we run like we did (Tuesday) we’ll be lucky to be fourth,” he said. “It’s hard to predict. We’ve been making progress every meet. I’d like to think we can challenge Ridgefield.

“I think the girls know this. Whether it will happen is another story,” he said. “We’ve got a week to see if we can elevate our game.”

The Wilton boys on Tuesday beat Stamford, 21-38, but suffered losses to Ludlowe (25-35) and Greenwich (27-30) to finish the regular season at 8-8.

Justin Hoelzl and Aaron Breene continued to provide the Warriors with a potent one-two punch, with Hoelzl finishing second overall in a time of 15:47 and Breene placing third in 16:01, out of a field of 91.

“Those two have been really solid,” said Gee.

Hoelzl has finished first at three of five regular-season races.

Eric van der Els of Brien McMahon is the favorite to win next week’s FCIAC race, with Staples the favorite to win the boys team title.

WHS boys team Head Coach Jim Gerwick thinks both Hoelzl and Breene have shots at finishing top 15 and earning first-team all-FCIAC.

“Justin really hasn’t lost to too many people,” he said. “I think he should be up there. I think he’s kind of motivated. He had a tough FCIAC race last year. He wants to go out on a high note.”

As had been the case all season, the Warriors dropped off considerably after the top two at Tuesday’s race, with the team’s number three and four runners being freshmen, Connor Drake (14th, 17:37) and Flynn Crowther (17th, 17:52). Rounding out the top seven were Patrick Moore (25th, 18:14), Erik Danvers (29th, 18:32) and Luke Maloney (30th, 18:34). Sean Cunningham was right behind, placing 31st in 18:35.

With so many runners new this season, and with little big-race experience, Gerwick said it was hard to predict how things would go at FCIACs.

“It’s kind of eye-opening for people that have never been there before,” he said. “It’s an extremely young team. It’s a question of how our three, four, five guys run. They have the potential. It would be nice to beat a couple of the teams that beat us by narrow margins.

It’s just who steps up on that day. It’s sort of a rotating cast of characters, five through eight.”