NORWICH — Wheeler High’s Kelsey Melinoski could start a very popular summer training routine for scholastic cross country runners: “Run less and shave 90 seconds off your 3.1-mile personal best.”
After logging 250 miles apiece during the summers before her freshman and sophomore seasons, the Lion junior ran identical times of 23:51 in ECC Championship meets, including a 50th-place finish as a sophomore last year.
This past summer, Melinoski concentrated on speed work and decreased her mileage. The strategy paid off as he improved to a 19th place finish Thursday in the ECC championship meet with her best time of 22:20 over the Norwich Golf Course 3.1-mile, hilly loop.
“I ran less and concentrated on mixing up my workouts, focusing on sprinting and maintaining speed for longer distances rather than pacing,” Melinoski said. “I needed to work on my quickness. I’m very happy that I improved by about 90 seconds.”
Melinoski highlighted Wheeler’s 13th-place finish overall out of 16 teams with 331 points. The Lions finished fourth in the ECC-Small with 86 points after finishing 5-6 overall, 3-2 ECC-Small in the regular season.
Completing the Lions scoring were Lea Janz (58th overall, 24:11), Gracie Anglin (78th, 25:14), Lizzy O’Gara (90th, 27:02) and Kalee Lewis (91st, 27:03). Wheeler finishes with a 3-6 divisional record, taking into account regular season and ECC championship place results.
Wheeler runs in the Class S state meet on Saturday, Oct. 26 at Wickham Park in Manchester at 9:45 a.m.
Fitch won the girls’ meet with 97 points, followed by Plainfield (100), NFA (113) and Small Division champ Griswold (126). Wheeler finished one spot behind 12th-place Stonington.
In the ECC boys’ 3.1 mile race, Wheeler senior Troy Stefanski led the Lions with a 27th-place finish in a time of 18:32.
Wheeler placed 12th out of 17 teams 319 points and fourth in the Small Division with 87 points, just four points behind third-place Windham’s 83 and two points ahead of Lyman.
Griswold won the Small Division, while NFA won the overall title with 75 points.
Wheeler beat Windham in the regular season and lost to Lyman en route to its 2-3 ECC-Small record. The Lions finish with a 3-6 final divisional record.
For Stefanski, filling the role of top runner for the graduated Asa Palmer added increased responsibility this season to his usual cross country role of staying in shape for the basketball and baseball seasons.
“I know I’m not a natural runner, but I love to beat people and like to do my best,” Stefanski said. “The 27th place was about what I expected, looking at the times across the ECC.
“I had big shoes to fill figuratively and literally after we lost Asa. I think we had a pretty good season as a team and cross country looks good for the future with all the young runners we have.”
Max Reck was Wheeler’s second-fastest runner, finishing 54th overall in 19:39. Freshman Anton Smith (74th, 20:16), Billy Grigg (79th, 20:29) and Joe Dellaporta (91st, 21:09) were the Lions’ other top five finishers.
The Lions return to action on Saturday, Oct. 26 in the Class S state meet at Wickham Park in Manchester at 9:15 a.m.
Wheeler placed four runners in the 3.1-mile JV mile race with Sam Gauthier (88th, 23:10), Adam Volack (105th, 23:50), Cole Reck (137, 25:26) and Sullivan Mrowka (157th, 34:21) competing.