DARIEN, Conn. – Darien High School’s boys cross country team has won state division championships for three straight years and four of the last five. Two other brass rings have been harder to secure for the Blue Wave, and Friday’s State Open gives them a chance to finally grab one of them.
Darien enters the race at Wickham Park in Manchester with the best team in the 10-year tenure of coach Tyson Kaczmarek. Junior Alex Ostberg’s first-place finish led the way for Darien as it won the Class L title last Saturday at Wickham. The Blue Wave finished with 40 points, easily outdistancing runner-up Hall, which had 56.
Friday’s assignment will be more challenging. Darien will face Class LL champion Ridgefield, which defeated Darien in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference meet. While the Tigers ran away in the league championships – the Tigers’ 27 points were one of the lowest totals in meet history – Darien seemed to close ground last week. While the teams ran in different races, the time margin between the top five runners for each school was just 19 seconds.
“They’re good,’’ said Kaczmarek, who was honored in May by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association as the cross country Coach of the Year for 2012. “I’ve been telling everyone that asks that they’re a great team. I vote them No. 1 every week in the state poll. We’re not the favorite. But I definitely feel we’re still on the way up. I think we have at least one more good race left in the tank.”
Darien was 10th last year in the State Open, sixth in 2011. The Blue Wave have also come up agonizingly close in the league championship, where they have finished second for two straight years.
“That’s the one that gets me,’’ said Kaczmarek, who also coaches indoor and outdoor track. “My teams have won nine state division titles, but never an FCIAC title. That’s a thorn in my side. We’ve been close every year.”
A victory in the State Open would help ease the sting of that thorn. Two reasons give Kaczmarek optimism. For one, Ostberg is healthy for the State Open for the first time. And Ridgefield, after two terrific races, might come back to the pack just a little bit.
“You don’t get many shots at the State Open,’’ Kaczmarek said. “I said two years ago I thought we might’ve been the No. 2 team in the state. It’s just nice to be in the mix. We want to make New Englands and run as well as we’re capable of running.”
The Blue Wave have a bona fide ace in Ostberg, who finished second behind Ridgefield’s Trevor Hopper at the league championships. At the divisional championships, Ostberg posted the fastest time in the six divisions. Hopper, Ostberg and Fairfield Prep’s Christian Alvarado figure to be among the top contenders for individual honors in Saturday’s race.
“We have a game plan,’’ Kaczmarek said. “He has to go execute it and see what happens.”
Darien’s top seven includes Marshall Huffman, Armstrong Noonan, Colten Appleby, Ben Olsen, Peter Kreuch and Brian Davey. They would like nothing more than to give Kaczmarek his first State Open title.
“This is my best team,’’ Kaczmarek said. “They work well together and understand that five guys have to run well. They push each other hard every day and feed off of Alex. We just have to finish this season off strong.”