Brooke Strauss just wrapped up a fantastic freshman year on the cross country trails.
Strauss was the Guardians lead runner, finishing second overall at the state tournament as the Guardians captured a Class LL state championship at Wickham Park in Manchester on Nov. 1.
The freshman-phenom ended up duplicating her second-place finish at the State Open last Friday (Nov. 5) and earlier won the Central Connecticut Conference tournament on Oct 19.
Strauss has been pleasantly surprised with her performance this fall.
“I knew I had a little bit more experience than most freshmen, but I didn’t expect this much [success],” Strauss said after the conference tourney.
Head coach Brian Collins knew early in the season that Strauss was ready for the big stage.
“In most races this season she has raced from the front. Our very first tri-meet we had was Hall-Southington and she was a stride behind Katie Sanderson from Hall and Jacki Izzo from Southington, and she realized she could run with them.” said Collins, “Now she knows she can dig down and go a little deeper and stay with the pack for the first little bit and be able to go when she feels like it.”
The Class LL title was the team’s first championship since 2017. Strauss was the runner-up with a time of 19:16, shaving four seconds off her first-place time at conference. Jackie Caron placed 11th (20:19), Ava Gattinella placed 17th (20:39), Jackie Dudus placed 19th (20:45), and junior Lucy Bergin placed 24th (21:01), Haley Evans placed 32nd (21:26), and Kelley MacElhiney placed 39th (21:56) to rounded out the Guardians top seven runners at states.
Heading into the state tourney, Strauss said the main goal was to perform best as a team and “see what happens individually”, adding that her more experienced teammates have mentored her this fall.
“It's been really great. They’ve done a really good job at showing how to complete workouts and how to stay focused with training.”
All seven runners will be returning next fall to defend their title, led by Strass, who will return as the prohibited favorite after finishing behind only Katherine Rector of Ridgefield at the Class LL meet.
Strauss ended her freshman season with a personal-best 18:48 at the State Open, besting Rector and finishing as the runner-up behind senior Rachel St. Germaine of Somors. The Guardians also finished second overall as a team, behind only New Milford.
“[Brooke} is running against kids that are three or four years older than her. They are older, stronger, and they know exactly what they are doing on the course,” added Collins. “For her to be able to do what she has is phenomenal. It’s a testament to her and the hard work that she’s put in and the belief in herself and the belief in her teammates.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin