The Bethel Wildcats boys and girls cross country teams hosted New Milford, Weston and Notre Dame-Fairfield in a quad meet on Tuesday afternoon at Bethel High School. Top performers for the Wildcat girls were Sarah Whalen, Savanah Pipkin, Halle Valenti and Cara McAteer. On the boys side, Brian Walters was the top Wildcat finisher in eighth place overall. Kevin Michalka, Travis Braisted, and Mike Vachi also performed well.
Boys Coach Gene Waring said it will take a little more time in training to knock time off of his team’s race results.
“I am pleased,” Waring said. “A lot of the boys were missing over the weekend. Everybody’s back now.” Waring was referring to the Bethel Invitational this past weekend, where his team was short handed due to ROTC and an illness that hit the team.
“As a whole, they are improving, working hard, so I can’t complain about that,” he said.
Brian Walters paced the Wildcats with a time of 18:22. Freshman Kevin Michalka, who ran the course in 19:38, was the second WIldcat finisher. Mike Vachi was Bethel’s third fastest runner on the day, completing the course in 19:48.
“Mike Vachi, coming back from being an exchange student, has done a nice job for us," Waring said. "The two of them, (Vachi and Kevin Michalka) coming to the team have really made us a stronger team.”
The SWC is one of the top cross country leagues in the state and Waring spoke about his chances of winning a league or state title this season.
“It can be easier to win a state title than a league title,” he said. “We can have a successful season finishing around .500 in our league. Then we can go on to states, and can finish in the top ten.”
The girls team had a strong showing at the meet, narrowly losing to undefeated New Milford, 31-26. Whalen was the top overall finisher in the meet with a time of 21:17.
“I think we gave New Milford a little more than they anticipated, losing 31-26, with only four runners,” said Coach Mark Goodwin.
The Wildcats only scored with four runners at the meet due to one of their top five runners being out sick for the meet.
“This gives us a great feeling to have an individual win in Sarah Whalen,” said Goodwin. “Sarah ran a PR in the course. She got over the hump of competing against someone at a good school, and she hung with it for the win.”
Whalen was running in third place as the runners came up the largest hill in the race. As the runners came back around to go down the hill, Whalen had opened a significant lead of roughly 15-20 seconds. She ended up winning the race by 26 seconds. Her time also was good for a school record.
“We won our first three meets against some weaker teams. We then lost by one point to New Fairfield, and two points to Oxford. That puts our record at 5-4,” Goodwin said. “I am looking forward to our team improving as the season goes on.”