STONINGTON — Stonington High's Nate Gonzalez and Ryan Gruczka were ready to go when this boys cross country season started.
And it showed — once the season ended, both runners earned first-team All-ECC Division II honors for the Bears.
ECC postseason honors are based on a formula that takes into account performances during the dual meet season and the ECC championships.
Gonzalez was the third-best runner in the division; Gruzka, the fourth.
"Nate came in in great shape," first-year coach Jeff Parkinson said. "So we were really able to do some difficult workouts. He worked really hard throughout the whole season and improved his times on various courses."
Parkinson said Gonzalez also grew in other ways.
"He also improved as a competitor and as a racer," Parkinson said. "Now, he understands his strengths and weaknesses. He has a better understanding of how to run the race."
Gonzalez was the first Stonington runner across the line at the ECC meet, placing 16th. He was also the second Stonington runner at the Class M meet, finishing 26th.
Gruczka wasn't a surprise to Parkinson even though he was just a freshman.
"I knew he was somebody that liked running and I could tell from the first couple of days that he was going to be at least our second-best runner," Parkinson said. "I wasn't surprised. He even beat Nate a couple of times."
Gruczka, who had competed in some big races before getting to high school, has good speed that helps in the later stages of a race.
"He's very talented, cares a lot about running," Parkinson said. "He also came in in good shape and worked really hard in workouts."
Stepping up to varsity competition can sometimes be a challenge for younger runners, particularly as the season wears on.
"He endured it pretty well. We were conscious of that with him being a freshman and took that into account in terms of his training," Parkinson said. "The mental pressure can take a toll on them."
Parkinson expects Gruczka to be a contributor on the school's indoor and outdoor track teams.
Gruczka placed 17th at the ECC meet, just one second behind Gonzalez. He was the first Stonington runner across the line at the Class M meet, placing 24th.
Dan Robinson was the team's sportsmanship winner, and Filip Aubrecht won the scholar-athlete award.
Stonington finished third in Division II at the ECC meet, trailing Ledyard and Waterford. The Bears were eighth overall.
Stonington was 14th at the Class M meet.