Girls cross country: McCormick looks to defend FCIAC, state titles

There are some question marks for the Wilton High cross country team as it opens the 2017 season today, but there is little doubt about the strength at the top of the Warriors’ lineup.

Morgan McCormick, a senior, is coming off the best season ever by a Wilton runner, becoming the first Warrior to ever win all three big post-season titles in the same year — FCIAC, Class L and State Open.

In the process, she set new team-record times for the FCIAC championship course and state championship course. She is Wilton’s first State Open champ, and only the third class state champ.

After McCormick, the team’s top returner is junior Emily Welch, who peaked at the end of the season last year to finish 10th at the Class L meet. She was the team’s second finisher at both the Class L and State Open meets.

The success of the team, however, will be determined by the next five runners.

“I expect they will give us a pretty strong one-two punch,” said head coach Jeff Gee of McCormick and Welch. “It’s just a question of our three to seven runners, how strong we are.”

The Warriors lost several important seniors from last year’s team, which was third at FCIACs and second in Class L, in Erika Bonnist, Elizabeth Healy, Nina Mellin and Meaghan Downey.

Two other top-seven runners — senior Elizabeth Lynch and junior Carly Sullivan — provide the team with a solid nucleus.

Lynch, who consistently finished among the team’s top four last year, is a tri-captain along with McCormick and Emma Westerholm.

“We had a pretty solid group of seniors last year. This year we’re going to be counting on some younger people,” said Gee.

One runner who has stepped up so far is returning sophomore Paul Perez, while returning  junior Hannah Bracken has run well in the preseason, too.

Seniors Westerholm, Erin Sweeney, Devin Moore and Jessica Highland, and juniors Ashleigh Hawthorne, Caroline Denneen, Margaret Fiesel and Eliza Snyder, are also runners who are looking to score points.

“All of these people have a reasonable chance to contribute,” said Gee.

Key newcomers are sophomore Patricia Dineen and freshmen Claire Kedzierski and Hailey Looney.

Coach Gee said he was “cautiously hopeful” about the team’s chances, although it will be tough for Wilton to catch league favorites Greenwich, Danbury and Ridgefield.

He said today's opening meet at Staples would give the team a better idea of where it stood, as the Wreckers expect to also be strong this season.