Mari Noble won the State Open, Class LL and FCIAC girls cross country titles in 2019, yet this season, she will most likely aim to register her top times at dual meets, instead of championship venues.
It is yet be determined if championship meets will be held this fall, due to COVID-19 safety precautions, so Noble and the Cardinals’ girls and boys teams will approach each of their five dual meets differently.
“We’re treating every meet like it is a championship sort of vibe and we’re going out looking to win every meet,” Cardinals girls cross country coach Evan Dubin said. “We don’t have the invitational meets that we usually have this year. We don’t have the league championship and state championship meets at the moment, so we have five cracks of going out there and with each dual meet we have, we’re going give it our best effort at every one.”
Cross country is more conducive to social distancing — a significant factor in today’s times.
“We are blessed to have a sport that allows us to adapt to the changes placed on us by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Noble a senior and three-year standout on the squad. “Running is something you can do on your own, you can spread out. We are lucky to have five dual meets this October, which is super exciting, because with some other sports being canceled, we were unsure if we would be able to race.”
Greenwich’s boys and girls squads open their season Thursday with a dual meet against Wright Technical School, one of its five FCIAC West Region opponents this season.
For Noble, the opportunity to compete has been a longtime coming.
“I haven’t been able to race in six months, so after a while you really miss it and you don’t know what to expect,” Noble said. “It’s good to have that competition again. We feel super lucky to have the season that we’re going to have.”
Both the girls and boys teams produced solid seasons in 2019, with the girls squad placing sixth, eighth and 10th respectively in the team standings at the FCIAC, Class LL and State Open championships and the boys squad placing sixth at the FCIAC meet.
“Safety and fun — those are some of our goals this season,” GHS boys coach Sean Astle said. “We’re trying to have a nice, safe environment here and have a good time returning to the sport. That’s what every day is about. We have some protocols in place, it’s no different than anything you see in professional sports.”
Instead of competing with four or five teams, Greenwich will face just one opponent at each one of its dual meets against the foes in its region.
“There is no postseason on the table, so that’s the biggest change,” Astle said. “We haven’t heard anything about the postseason. There are just five dual meets and we are hosting three of them fortunately, so we’re just taking it week-by-week and having fun. We’ve all been inside for too long and are all excited to get going. We just can’t wait to have some meets.”
On the girls side, Noble is one of the Cards’ four captains. The 2019 GameTimeCT Cross Country athlete of the year, Noble (All-FCIAC, All-State Team) posted a second-place finish at the last year’s New England championships, breaking the 18-minute barrier at Wickham Park in the process.
She won the State Open race (18:13), finished first in the Class LL competition (18:30) and was the FCIAC champion (14:02, 4K race) last fall.
“Mari had tremendous training over the summer,” Dubin said. “She came into the season fit and strong and she’s ready to pick up right where she left off last season.”
Noble stressed the significance of the team maintaining its optimum fitness during the modified season.
“It’s important for us to continue to train and work hard and get ourselves ready to perform to the best of our ability,” she said. “That’s a good life lesson as well — we want to do the best we can do right now.
“I hope to continue to be competitive with some of the top girls in the state, without having the opportunity to have a state championship.”
Senior Eadaoin Clarke, also one of the captains, will be relied upon to help the Cards’ lineup of runners. Clarke and her teammates have adjusted well to the safety guidelines put in place.
“In cross country, we’re very lucky because we are fortunate enough to wear masks during warm-ups and during our drills and then it’s very individualized when we are racing and it’s very low contact,” said Clarke, who was one of the team’s main runners at the 2019 championship meets. “We have been cohorting, so the ability for us to spread out and run with teammates who match our abilities is very helpful, because we are getting the most optimal training, but also having the social aspect to it as well.”
Delaney Roth is intent on making the most of her senior season as one of the captains.
“It’s super exciting to be a leader of such a talented, driven group,” Roth said. “We have so much young talent this year, it is exciting both for this season and the future.”
Roth is also a key contributor on Greenwich’s ice hockey and lacrosse teams.
“Cross country is very helpful conditioning-wise and to stay in shape and just to have that team spirit and team camaraderie,” Roth said. “There’s a lot of girls out here who I play with all three seasons, so it’s awesome to have this extra time together. To be a leader that a younger player can go to is special.”
Sophia Eberwein, a senior captain, should also emerge as one of the Cardinals’ most reliable runners.
“Despite all of the COVID setbacks, I’m really looking forward to seeing how our team does,” Eberwein said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone progresses throughout the season. Even though we only have five meets, we have so much opportunity for improvement and this team has a lot of talent to display.”
On the boys’ side, junior Zach Jelinek is coming off a stellar sophomore season.
“Zach was our No. 2 guy last year, right behind Alexander Bien (2020 graduate), so he is sliding in at the top for us,” Astle said. “He’s in phenomenal shape and is looking really good.”
Ryan Djurkovic, David Levine, Danny Fales and Zach Santoro, all of whom are senior captains, should solidify the Cardinals’ lineup, along with junior Charlie Noble.
“We’re just trying to complete our season,” Astle said. “I don’t think we talked about having fun as much as we are now. We are just taking it week-by-week and looking to our next opponent.”
A impressive total of 50 athletes comprise the boys team.
“We’re keeping everyone happy and healthy,” Astle said. “With 50 guys on the team, those are good numbers, so we have a lot of depth.”
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