Xavier came down to Class L and Eli Nahom conquered anyway.
The New Milford cross country start ran to his third straight Class L title on Friday at Wickham Park, earning the top spot in a time of 15 minutes 55 seconds, well ahead of the second place finisher, Robbie Cozean of Xavier (16:06).
Nahom set a school record at the course and began Friday’s championships with the quickest male time of the day.
“I’m happy with how it went,” said Nahom. “I feel like there might have been more pressure coming into this because it would have been my third win. I made a little move going up the green monster.”
Nahom pulled away to win the individual title but Xavier hung together to take the team title with runners finishing second, third, fourth and fifth. Xavier posted a score of 26, well ahead of second place Bristol Central. Newington, Pomperaug and New Canaan rounded out the top five.
“Overall, we’re a bit disappointed. We have high standards in this program, so there’s no sugarcoating the fact that it’s the first time in 17 years we haven’t qualified for the State Open as a team,” New Milford coach Chris Bacich said. “Even so, we had a terrific group of guys and they accomplished a lot this season. With six of our top 7 returning next year, I think we’ll have something to prove, so I’m sure we'll be back in Green Wave form.”
Nahom will be joined in the State Open by junior Garred Farrell, who finished 14th with a time of 16:53.
“We’re happy for Garred. As for Eli, he continues to get better. His class meet effort was typical,” Bacich said.
Nahom finished fifth at the State Open last season and is among the favorites to take the title this year.
“At the Open, he can expect to be pressed by a strong lead pack of five or six guys, but if he sticks to his usual racing approach he’ll be tough to beat,” Bacich said. “It should be a very exciting race.”
Robert Harkin (26th), Jason Golembeski (65th) and Jack Valentine (76th) were New Milford’s other scorers at the Class L meet.