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BEST OF THE BUNCH: Girls cross country has got the times, so we pony up the dimes

BEST OF THE BUNCH: Girls cross country has got the times, so we pony up the dimes

reporter photo

MERIDEN — The question arose at the photo shoot for the All-Record-Journal cross country teams back in November.

It was posed by one of the dads.

“Are you picking a runner of the year for the girls?”

Fair question. And we already had an answer. After the 2019 season, there was no doubt we would have a Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Finally, right?

Up until now, when it came to cross country at the “Best of the Bunch” awards brunch, we honored just one runner of the year, and it was always a boy.

Now, before we stand accused of being on the wrong side of the Title IX tracks, bear in mind that, up until last year, we had just one Tennis Player of the Year, and each one one was a girl. (In fact, the same girl: Justine Hoover of Sheehan.)

Sometimes, we just need time. And with the sort of times area girls cross country runners put up in the fall of 2019, it was clear the hour had come for that sport to take its rightful seat the R-J awards table.

Not that our three inaugural finalists seem inclined to sit still. They are young ladies of motion, covering long distances at fair rates of speed.

They are runners first, foremost and on the second and third loops around. Cross country is not some off-season conditioning gig to get in shape for some other sport. It is their thing.

All three will likely be right back here a year from now. All three are underclassmen.

Underclassmen, but not rookies. Finalist No. 1, Sheehan’s Elisabeth “Lizzie” Brown, has been Wallingford’s top female distance runner since her freshman year.

Now a junior, Brown won her third straight Sheehan-Lyman Hall meet last October to defend her town title.

It was part of a spotless regular season. Brown won every race she was in. Along with the Wallingford rivalry meet, there were three SCC quads, the Neubauer Invitational and the Connecticut River Invitational in Cromwell.

At Cheshire Park, running against Branford, East Haven and host Cheshire, Brown set the new course record at 20:39.

In the postseason, Brown was runner-up in the SCC Championships at New Haven’s East Shore Park with a time of 20:23, a performance that put her on the All-SCC First Team.

Brown's best time of the year, relative to course difficulty, was the 20:17 she ran in the Class M race at Wickham Park.

That 20:17 was good for ninth place and qualified Brown for her second State Open, where she ran a 20:33.

Also running that day in the State Open were Southington teammates Jackie Izzo and Grace Michaud.

A 1-2 punch for the Blue Knights throughout the season, Izzo and Michaud had finished in the top 10 in the Class LL championship race to lead the entire Southington girls squad to a team spot in the Open. Izzo, a sophomore, had been fourth in Class LL at 19:22. Michaud 10th in 19:45.

They kept it going at the State Open. Though their times were slower, they finished in the Top 25 — Izzo 22nd in 19:49, Michaud 25th in 19:59 — which qualified both for the New England Championship.

Along with Cheshire’s Brendan Mellitt, Izzo and Michaud were the only area runners to make it that far.

Izzo mustered her best performance for the New England race, which was run at Wickham Park. Already the Southington record-holder for the fastest girls time at Wickham and the fastest girls' 5K time overall, Izzo combined both marks into one neat package with a time of 19:03.

By then, our attention had been thoroughly commanded. And our minds made up.

The Record-Journal Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year will be announced on Thursday, June 18 during the airing of the “Best of the Bunch” awards video on Facebook at 6:30 p.m. The video will also be available on after that initial airing. Finalists in the various awards categories will be unveiled now through June 18. Up next: Boys Soccer.