NEW CANAAN -- It is a meet that marks the end of the FCIAC cross country season. For the Danbury High School Hatters, however, the league championships actually signal the start of the real season.
"The FCIAC regular season is great developmentally for the younger kids," Danbury High boys coach Rob Murray said. "But for us it's all about preparing for the championship season."
The championship season has arrived in much the same fashion it usually does: with the Danbury boys hoisting a trophy. The Hatters won their eighth consecutive FCIAC championship -- and 13th in 14 years -- Thursday by edging Staples and Darien. The Hatters had three runners among the top 10 and seven in the top 30 to hold off the runner-up Wreckers by 15 points and the third-place Blue Wave by 24.
"There's a different vibe for the team now," Murray said. "It's like March Madness has arrived. I guess for us it's more like Fall Madness. This was our first championship meet and I'm pleased with how it went."
The Hatters, who also have class and open state title aspirations, began the real season the usual way. Even though Staples senior Henry Wynne won the 5K race in record-breaking time (15:23), the Hatters picked up enough points to continue their FCIAC-title streak. Since 1999, only Staples in 2004 was able to interrupt the incredible Danbury championship run.
And the Wreckers almost did it again Thursday, thanks to Wynne and three others who cracked the top 15.
"We were aware of the potential of the other top teams," Murray said. Darien finished ahead of the Hatters during the regular season with Warde and Staples also in the mix. "Staples and Darien are both ranked in the top 10 in the state, plus Ridgefield is right up there, too. Our conference can stand up to any in the state."
Danbury had Nicholas Carlsen in fourth place at 16:13, behind third-place finisher Spencer Brown of Wilton (15:58). Then, after fifth-place finisher KristianSogaard of Ridgefield (16:17), Mickey Kozak of Danbury was sixth (16:21) and Patrick Healey was 10th (16:29). Darien's Marshal Hoffman was seventh (16:23), Staples' Patrick Nolan eighth (16:25) and another Darien runner,Colten Appleby (16:25), was ninth.
"What I really like is that we only had a 28-second spread between our top five runners," Murray said. "And our eighth runner was 33rd. I'm so happy with the results."
No one was happier with the results Thursday than Staples' Wynne. Perhaps one of the FCIAC's top two or three long-distance runners in the last 30 years, the University of Virginia-bound senior was at his best, shattering the course record while finishing 21 seconds ahead of Hopper.
"I was looking for the course record after being two or three seconds off last year, and I got it," said the defending champion Wynne, who has run a 4:11 mile. (Staples coach) Laddie (Lawrence) told me to be smart, don't get boxed in. I ran the first mile in 4:58 and then just kept it up."
Wynne was expecting either Brown or Carlsen to provide the biggest challenge but there was Hopper, virtually even with him halfway through the race.
"(Hopper) caught me in the middle of the race," Wynne said. "But I always like when I'm challenged in the middle of a race."
"When I caught him I think it surprised everyone," added Hopper, who was 23rd in last fall's FCIAC race. "I thought I had a shot at second place, I know my coach thought I could finish second. But it was a surprise to me to beat out all those great runners."
Rounding out the top 15 (All-FCIAC First Team) were Alex Ostberg of Darien (11th, 16:31), Aidan Fiol of Warde (12th, 16:32), Nick Gans of Warde (13th, 16:33) and Oliver Hickson (14th, 16:33) and Samuel Cohen (15th, 16:36), both of Staples.
Norwalk (185 points) placed sixth in the team standings ahead of Wilton (202), Trumbull (204), Greenwich (211) and New Canaan 273).
Cross Country Championships
TEAM SCORES: 1. Danbury 53, 2. Staples 68, 3. Darien 77, 4. Ridgefield 81, 5. Fairfield Warde 150, 6. Norwalk 185, 7. Wilton 202, 8. Trumbull 204, 9. Greenwich 211, 10. New Canaan 273, 11. St. Joseph 321, 12. Fairfield Ludlowe 330, 13. Westhill 406, 14. Bassick 468, 15. Stamford 471, 16. Trinity Catholic 524, 17. Central 527
INDIVIDUALS: 1. Henry Wynne (Staples) 15:23, 2. Trevor Hopper (Ridgefield) 15:44, 3. Spencer Brown (Wilton) 15:58, 4. Nicholas Carlsen (Danbury) 16:13, 5. Kristian Sogaard (Ridgefield) 16:17, 6. Mickey Kozak (Danbury) 16:21, 7. Marshall Huffman (Darien) 16:23, 8. Patrick Nolan (Staples) 16:25, 9. Colten Appleby (Darien) 16:25, 10. Patrick Healey (Danbury) 16:29, 11. Alex Ostberg (Darien) 16:31, 12. Aidan Fiol (Warde) 16:32, 13. Nick Gans (Warde) 16:33, 14. Oliver Hickson (Staples) 16:33, 15. Samuel Cohen (Staples) 16:36