DANBURY -- Two young New Canaan cross country teams took to the tough terrain of Tarrywile Park in Danbury on Tuesday afternoon. Not only was the course unforgiving, so was the field of fellow runners, as the steep hills and glaring sun coupled with the likes of Danbury and Darien sharing the same grueling course spelled third-place finishes for each respective Rams program.

In boys action, a tough last few days that included a few sicknesses mired the squad's chances from the outset, as Danbury topped Darien in securing the top overall finish, leaving the Rams in third place overall.

Nonetheless, there is no time for excuses in the unforgiving FCIAC.

"We had a few good performances today, but I think we definitely could have fared better overall," New Canaan boys coach Evan Remley said. "We were facing two of the top teams in Danbury and Darien, and the course is a tough one, but I would have liked to have seen us perform at a higher level. Some guys have been sick this past week, so it's tough to gauge our overall performance today."

Leading the way for the Rams boys cross country team was Patrick Daly, who placed 11th overall, a mere second outside of the top 10 final individual standings by way of his 14:18 result.

Normally used to running on the relatively smooth Waveny Park home course, the conditions of Tarrywile Park presented a few unique challenges from start to finish.

"Those hills are brutal, and then when you get past that, you are suddenly going down hill on a pretty steep slope," Daly said. "Then you find yourself going downhill, and that puts a lot of pressure on your knees, but it felt good to finish strong today."

Alex Spinu finished with a time of 14:20 to tie for 12th place overall, while teammate Brant Hoffman landed just outside the top 15 on the afternoon, placing 16th with a time of 14:43.

In addition, the trio of Taylor Parsons (18th place, 15:04), Dylan Kavookjian (19th place, 15:06) and promising sophomore Kalan Lysenko (20th place, 15:11) all fought through the tough terrain to place within the top 20 in a field comprised of standout Danbury and Darien runners.

For Kavookjian, the challenge of going toe-to-toe with some of the FCIAC's finest runners was integral to the team's long-term improvement.

"It's always a big challenge to go against Danbury and Darien in the same meet, but that's why we come out here and compete as hard as we can. You come here for the challenge. It's a good, tough way to start the season."

According to Remley, things will heat up in the next few weeks for the Rams.

"There is no time to plateau in cross country," Remley added. "We've got a heavy part of the schedule approaching with teams like Wilton waiting. We've got to continue to work hard and improve every single week."

Meanwhile, in girls action, a very young Rams squad showed signs of promise, with several girls improving upon last week's opening efforts to help secure third place on the afternoon behind Darien (first place) and Danbury (second place).

Strongest team times were supplied by the senior duo of Portia Schultz (19:14, 20th overall) and Erin Markey (19:44, 22nd overall).

"Those first 1,000 meters are very tough, and heading up that steep hill right away is a real challenge," Schultz said. "I started out pretty good pace-wise, and several of us achieved negative splits as the race wore on, which is always a good thing.

"It's a challenging course, and a lot different than what we are used to running on at Waveny Park, so I think our overall effort today will help our team in the long run."

According to head coach Art Helms, there were several noteworthy efforts produced by his young bur promising Rams squad.

Helms praised the progress exhibited by Katie DiFazio, Cara Schults and Liz Kilbride, who each delivered marked improvements over last week's season-opening competition.

Liz Perry, who possesses plenty of potential in just her freshman year for the Rams, showed great effort and improvement as well according to her head coach.

"We're a very young team so racing against some of the league's best runners can only help us in the long run," Helms said. "I just told the girls to improve upon their efforts from last week, to help push one other, and to compete hard in order to pass competitors."

At this point, it's a tempo game, and the girls are keeping it in perspective and not trying to put themselves on the same plane as the Darien and Danbury squads.

"Overall, we improved on most of our times from last week," Helms added. "We still have a long way to go, but we are young, and we definitely made some positive strides out there today."