Sussex Academy girls win Henlopen cross country title

November 10, 2023

Coach Jay Diaz and his Sussex Academy girls’ cross country team squeezed out a two-point win over Caesar Rodney in the Henlopen Conference Championships held Nov. 4 at Killens Pond State Park.

The Seahawks had won the Henlopen South title, and the Riders took the Henlopen North during the regular season, which painted the scene for a close team race. Add in Cape and Milford, and the front-running Brynn Crandell of Indian River and Arina Varrato of Sussex Tech, and the girls’ meet was living up to the hype.

Crandell and Sussex Academy eighth-grader Paige Ballinger shot through the opening half-mile in a quick 2:40 and separated from the field heading into the woods. Crandell pulled away and recorded her fastest performance at Killens Pond to win the race for the fourth straight year in 17:32.3. Ballinger finished second in 18:44.6 and led her team to the title as the first of two Sussex Academy runners in the top 10. All five Seahawks scorers finished in the top 18.

Katya Geyer, Sussex Academy’s No. 1 last year, ran a great race to finish eighth overall in 21:04, while Lily Bowe was 14th in 21:20, Riley Moriarty took 15th in 21:27 and Makenna Blades captured 18th in 21:43.

“Katya was shut down from mid-June til late September from running,” said Diaz. “We have been slowly working her back, and while she still is not 100%, she has progressed well. Each of our top five was critical in the meet. If any of them loses a position, especially to a CR runner, we lose in a tiebreaker. Additionally, for us, the two through five gap was around 34 seconds, which was our best all season and critical in the big meets.”

Diaz added that a few runners of his battled through strep over the past couple of weeks, and they really toughed it out on race day.

Varrato closed out her final conference race at third in 19:24.6, while Milford’s Faith Mitchell was fourth in 20:01. Bree Talley of CR was fifth in 20:22 to lead five Riders in the top 17, but it was not enough to catch the Sussex Academy girls, as they scored 48 points to the Riders’ 50.

Hailey Hassell led Cape in seventh place in 20:56.

On the boys’ side, CR ran away with the title with 20 points, placing all seven varsity runners in the top 11. Cape was second back at 54 points with two in the top 10. Conference champion Patrick Craig of CR ran 16:20.1 for the win. Ian Cain was third in 16:33.3, while Maddox Downs and Griffin Spana of the Riders grabbed fourth and fifth in 16:37.1 and 16:37.3, respectively, to put the trophy on the bus back to Camden. Jason Baker led the Vikings with a second-place finish in 16:26.2. Teammate Brayden Redd finished ninth in 17:08.6. Nate Waydelis of Milford ran 16:38 for sixth place.

The Delaware State Championships will be Saturday, Nov. 11, at challenging Brandywine Creek State Park in Wilmington.

Beacon-Mariner XC

The final dual meet of the season for the Beacon and Mariner cross country teams took place Nov. 6 under beautiful skies above Legends Stadium. The Beacon girls topped Mariner 25-32, while the Beacon boys swept Mariner 15-44. Mariner was without No. 1 runner Asher Woods, who sat out due to a minor injury. Quick-legged Nick Petito of Beacon pulled away from teammate Ethan Thompson late in the 3,000-meter race to cross the line in a new course record of 10:51.0. Thompson was second in a time of 10:58.5, while third went to Jude Peacock in 11:26.3. Devin Silva grabbed the fourth position in 11:32.9, while rounding out the top five was Brandt Kuklish in a time of 11:38.9.

On the girls’ side, the Beacon pack has been dominating all year, with a top-five gap averaging 30 seconds all season, but it was the 1-2 Mariner punch of Bree Terhune and Allison Ortiz-Rivera that grabbed the top two positions in the race. Terhune entered the track with a 10-yard lead on her teammate, but it was Ortiz-Rivera who pulled away for the win in the final 200 meters, crossing the line in 12:10.6 Terhune finished second in 12:16.9. Terhune and Ortiz-Rivera have made one of the state’s best 1-2 combinations all season. Following the Mariner duo was the Beacon pack led by Shiloh O’Grady finishing third in 12:22.0. Claudia Stazzone was fourth in 12:29.9, while Erin Noonan rounded out the top five in 12:34.2.

A great season and a load of talent coming up through the Cape pipeline from Beacon and Mariner cross country.

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