High school cross country

Camden Hills girls enjoy strong races at New Englands

Wyman, Iltis run to top-90 finishes in talent-laden meet
By Ken Waltz | Nov 11, 2019
Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly Camden Hills' Grace Iltis, left, and Claire Wyman on Nov. 8 in the New England high school cross-country championships at Wickham Park in Manchester, Conn.

Manchester, Conn. — For the past few years, the Camden Hills girls cross-country team has literally and figuratively been in the running for most of Maine's most prestigious high school honors.

The incredibly talented, deep Windjammers have, in that time, brought home state, regional and league championships in Maine's largest Class A ranks.

This year's Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Class A North champions — as well as fourth-place finisher in the state meet (second among teams in all classes at the states after the meet was rescored) — qualified for and competed in the prestigious New England championships on Saturday, Nov. 9 at Wickham Park.

It was the third straight year Camden Hills had qualified for the New Englands.

When the 85th edition of the talent-laden New England meet had finished, a Maine student-athlete had won the overall title — namely, Falmouth's Sofie Matson, a junior, who crossed the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) course in 17:52.

The boys winner was Gavin Sherry, a sophomore, from Conard, Conn. in 15:30.

There were 263 runners in the girls race and 260 competitors in the boys event.

For Camden Hills, Claire Wyman and Grace Iltis finished among the top 90 in the rugged meet against the fastest and best teenage distance runners in New England.

The Windjammer girls individual results were: 88, Claire Wyman, CH, 20:19; 89, Grace Iltis, CH, 20:19; 131, Elsie Hildreth, CH, 20:45; 182, Miranda Dunton, CH, 21:31; 237, Phoebe Root, CH, 22:42; 242, Zoe O’Brien, CH, 23:05; and 244, Rose O’Brien, CH, 23:13. The O'Briens are sisters.

Iltis and Dunton are seniors, Wyman, Root and Rose O'Brien, juniors, Hildreth a sophomore and Zoe O'Brien a freshman.

Veteran Windjammer coach Helen Bonzi said the team pulled together for one final race of the season.

"The week before New Englands the girls seemed ready to be finished with the season," Bonzi said. "Our week was a mixed bag of bad weather, conflicts with school obligations, meetings for the winter sports season and parent-teacher conferences. We didn’t have everyone at practice any day of that final week in preparation for the meet. It felt fractured, but the girls had a great bonding time on the ride down to Manchester and came together as a team prior to the race."

Bonzi said the student-athletes "ran a good race" at Wickham Park. "The course has many rolling hills and is challenging, but no more so than many courses we run in Maine. The rains over the week left some very muddy places that didn’t hold up well during the race. The weather was chilly, but perfect for racing. The girls were ready to run and have a good time."

And the Windjammers had fun — but still ran hard.

"Since we weren’t the favorite, or even expecting to place in the top half of the competing teams, our strategy was first to have fun and second to try to run the first mile a little slower than usual in an attempt to run negative splits," Bonzi said. "Our starting box was one of a few that had a slight uphill rise in front of it at the start, so that wasn’t in our favor. The girls got out a bit more slowly because of this slight uphill and got boxed in at the start. They all managed to move up many places during the first mile-and-a-half.

"Miranda and Claire both twisted their ankles. Miranda twisted her’s three times during the race. Grace got bogged down in the mud at the finish line and couldn’t get any forward momentum going in the last few feet of the race. Claire, who had a bit better traction, passed her right before the finish line. Miranda had a great race overall, in spite of her twisted ankles and was only a few seconds short of a season-best performance.

"As a freshman, Zoe is figuring out how to run well in large races. She was badly boxed out at the start, but kept at it and managed to end up running a very good race. Phoebe and Rose were both a little off their regular race paces, but they both finished strongly, picking off several people in the finish chute. Elsie and Miranda probably had the best races of the day for our team. They both ran well, close to their season-bests, they finished strong, picking off several people in the last few hundred meters of the race."

Bonzi said, overall, the Windjammers "did very well and had a fun race day that they can close out the season on."

Among the Maine teams, Bonny Eagle of Standish, the state Class A champion, finished first and Camden Hills second, followed by Gorham, Falmouth, Greely of Cumberland and Orono.

"We are proud of maintaining our position in regards to the other Maine teams," Bonzi said. "We are looking forward to next year and making a bid at a fourth year of qualifying for the New England meet."

The girls team scores were: Champlain Valley, Vt. 142, Hall, Conn. 173, Concord, N.H. 219, East Greenwich, R.I. 237, Trumbull, Conn. 245, Simsbury, Conn. 273, Bishop Guertin, N.H. 279, Barrington, R.I. 292, Souhegan, N.H. 293, Bonny Eagle 336, Danbury, Conn. 343, Coe-Brown, N.H. 355, South Kingstown, R.I. 371, Glastonbury, Conn. 405, Keene, N.H. 428, New Canaan, Conn. 436, Exeter, N.H. 438, Harwood, Vt. 453, La Salle Academy, R.I. 474, Essex, Vt. 485, Camden Hills 488, Gorham 528, U-32, Vt. 529, Cumberland, R.I. 557, Burlington, Vt. 580, Orono 636, North Kingstown, R.I. 647 and St. Johnsbury, Vt. 667.

The boys team scores were: La Salle Academy, R.I. 89, Bishop Hendricken, R.I., 138, Tolland, Conn. 139, Coe-Brown, N.H. 167, Conard, Conn. 221, Staples, Conn. 231, Keene, N.H. 295, Ridgefield, Conn. 315, Pinkerton, N.H. 320, Londonderry, N.H. 326, Xavier, Conn. 343, Cumberland, R.I. 356, Danbury, Conn. 386, Exxex, Vt. 403, Brunswick 431, Concord, N.H. 437, U-32, Vt. 482, Mount Ararat 483, Champlain Valley, Vt. 494, Oyster River, N.H. 513, St. Raphael Academy, R.I. 515, Bangor 518, Greely 532, Burlington, Vt. 542, Scarborough 542, Chariho, R.I. 590, St. Johnsbury, Vt. 612, South Burlington, Vt. 770 and Maine Coast Waldorf 790.

Click to watch the girls event.

Click to see photos from the girls meet.

Camden Hills' Zoe O'Brien. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Rose O'Brien. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Phoebe Root. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Grace Iltis, left. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Claire Wyman, front. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Rose O'Brien, right. (Source: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Phoebe Root, left. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Zoe O'Brien, left, and Rose O'Brien, right. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Zoe O'Brien, left, and Rose O'Brien, right. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Miranda Dunton, second from left. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Elsie Hildreth, left. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Miranda Dunton, right. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Miranda Dunton, right. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Miranda Dunton, right. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Grace Iltis, middle, and Claire Wyman, right. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Grace Iltis, middle, and Claire Wyman, right. (Photo by: https://sub5pictures.shutterfly.com/67791)
Camden Hills' Rose O"Brien, middle. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
Camden Hills' Elsie Hildreth, middle. (Courtesy of: Sub5 track club/shutterfly)
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