With 13 athletes on its roster, not a particularly big number, the Greenwich Academy cross country team needs optimum effort from each of its runners and must avoid the old injury bug to continue its run of successful seasons.
“Of course it would be great to have another winning season, but we have a lot of work to do to get there,” Greenwich Academy coach Jane Finch said. “We have to keep everyone healthy. If some go down, that depletes what you have.”
The Gators, who have won 15 FAA titles, the last of which came in 2014, placed fourth at last fall’s FAA Championships at Waveny Park in New Canaan. Sacred Heart won the FAA championship with a team score of 44 points, followed by Hopkins School (63), Holy Child (69) and Greenwich Academy (72).
“Our expectations this season are to strive to win the FAA championship,” Finch said. “It’s going to be hard with all the talent that’s out there now. But I’m optimistic. We have strong upperclassmen and some underclassmen who are showing great progress.”
The squad is hoping to fill the void left by last year’s senior standouts Sarah Callahan, Lilly Schaeffer and Megan DeMott. Callahan finished fifth overall in the 3.1-mile FAA race with a time of 20 minutes, 40.7 seconds.
“It will be a growing year, because we have some big shoes to fill with the captains that left last year,” Finch said. “Replacing those seniors will be difficult.”
Senior captains Julia Howe and Anji Van Biesen are a duo the squad is looking to for leadership and motivation. Both registered solid cross country seasons in 2017. Following a strong regular season, Howe placed 12th at the FAA Championships, posting a time of 21:50.7. Van Biesen, meanwhile, finished in 16th place.
Finch also expects sophomore Elena Tan to rise to the occasion after she found her niche on the squad as a freshman in 2017. Tan had a 15th place finish in the FAA meet.
“Elena Tan is a top runner, she is looking great,” Finch said. “She went to cross country camps this summer and is running very well.”
Along with Howe, Van Biesen and Tan, senior Kate Anderson, Mary Duffy (freshman), Sydney Pittignano (senior), Clea Ramos (sophomore) and Alana Pawlowski (senior) are some of the other GA runners to watch out for.
“We have to stay healthy and be ready to compete one race at a time,” Finch said.
Greenwich Academy opens its season at the Choate Invitational on Sept. 15.