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4 Wilton Running Club Members Qualify For Nationals

Wilton Running Club coach Mary Zengo talks with young runners during a meet last year.
Wilton Running Club coach Mary Zengo talks with young runners during a meet last year. Photo Credit: The Daily Voice/File photo

WILTON, Conn. – Four runners from the Wilton Running Club qualified for the Junior Olympic cross country national championships in a race Sunday in New York.

Running in cold, windy conditions, Wilton’s Angela Saidman, Tess Pisanelli, Flynn Crowther and Ben Ruffing qualified to advance from the Region 1 championships at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls. The runners will compete on Dec. 14 in San Antonio, Texas.

Saidman finished third in 11-12-year-old girls race. She covered the 2,000 meter distance in 11:14, 15 seconds behind winner Sarah Flynn. Pissanelli was 26th in the same race in 12:00.

Crowther took 22nd in the boys 11-12 race, running 11:27 for 3,000 meters. Ruffing was 19th in the 13-14 boys race. He covered four kilometers in 14:21.

“I’m happy for the ones that made it to nationals,’’ coach Mary Zengo said. “At the same time, I’m sad because I thought we might get more to move on. Four other girls could’ve made it. The wind just grabbed them. It was sad to watch to see them struggle with the conditions.”

Wilton’s misfortune on the day was best symbolized by Julie Hergenrother, who raced in the 13-14 girls race.  She waited until just before the start to remove her warm-up jacket. The zipper jammed, and she could not remove the coat. Her father cut off the garment, but Hergenrother started 37 seconds after the other runners. She finished in 18:00.

“Every one of our runners ran slower than they did a week ago (in the state race),” Zengo said. “I think because it was the first really cold day of the year they all had trouble adjusting to it.”

The good news for the runners who advanced is that they may be able to surprise some people at the nationals, Zengo said. “I know they can all take it up a notch,’’ she said.

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