Terriers XC Excels, Wins Division
Rocky Hill cross country standouts (l-r) Maria Corcoran, Jazzy Edmunds, David Leal, Bryan Martinez, Brayden Bayek, Matthew Rostkowski, and Daniel DiTunno
Rocky Hill cross country is having a season for the ages.
The boys’ team recently wrapped up a 14-0 season, winning the CCC-North Division title following the CCC championship at Wickham Park in Manchester on Oct 19.
For the team, particularly the seniors, it was an accomplishment four years in the making.
“Last year we had a special group of seniors too and this group picked up where they left off,” said head coach Austin Bobrow, who also teaches at RHHS. “I always look forward to coming out to practice because I look forward to being with these kids. It’s a tremendous group of kids that do it the right way. They care about each other, they push each other, and they support each other.”
At the conference finals, junior Brayden Bayek was the first Rocky Hill runner to cross the finish line, placing 19th with a personal-best time of 17:16.
Despite the PR, Bayek thought he could have done better, “It wasn’t a phenomenal day for me, but I was happy because it was more of a team day and we won the conference, and that was most important to me.”
“He ran well as a freshman and he cracked 18 [minutes] before we were shut down last season,” Bobrow said of Bayek, “I could tell by just watching him last year that he was locked in. He was fully engaged and he also grew several inches. He’s like your prototype long distance runner type of body. Knowing he’s back next year is great. Just the experience this year is so valuable; you can’t trade that for anything.”
Senior Bryan Martinez also accomplished a personal-record (17:23), finishing a few seconds after Bayek, placing 21st. Bobrow said that Martinez “is peaking at the end of the season.”
“That race I was really focusing and I wanted to get a PR because this is my final year. I felt good the entire race and I am really happy with the time that I got,’ said Martinez, who overcame a sprained ankle near the end of summer. “That was pretty hard mentally because I felt disappointed with my progress being halted and I felt like I was not improving. But that helped in a way because I wanted to improve, so I put in even more work.”
Matt Rostkowski also entered this year following a foot injury. The senior also has asthma, but neither stopped him from running his best this season, finishing with a time of 18:07 at the CCC finals.
“Coming into this year I wanted to remain injury-free and I focused on eating right and getting the right sleep. Having six guys around me every day at practice and uplifting me and always joking around and having a good time has helped me mentally,” said Rostkowski, who credited last year’s seniors. “The culture was widely instilled by the seniors prior. Trevor Christensen, Zach Mascaro, they all put in a culture where we can have fun but we also know when we need to get the job done and focus on the workouts. That’s something that coach Bobrow definitely implemented.”
Freshman Daniel DiTunno and senior David Leal crossed the finish line next for the Terriers at the conference finals.
DiTunno, who ran 19:26, is new to the program but was welcomed in with open arms.
“I had pictured cross country as more of an independent sport, but since day one everyone has been really supportive and the varsity team welcomes everyone and supports you,” said DiTunno. “As a group everyone is pushing each other to run harder, and that benefits everyone. Being with each other makes the team environment that much better.”
Leal, who ran 20:18, is the team’s motivator, recently giving an impassioned speech during a pep rally.
Leal stated, “I’m the hype man out here. I’m always cheering everyone on, I always have a cowbell at the meets, yelling their names at races. It’s about getting people excited, getting people hyped, and getting people ready for races. It’s very important, a lot of people think cross country is just purely running but there's a huge mental aspect that isn’t taken into consideration.”
Overall the boys’ team, which competes at a Class M level, finished well ahead of perennial division powerhouses Newington and Wethersfield, which both compete at Class L.
“For them to go out with the Division Championship this year, I’m so happy for them. Last June they were saying, ‘we’re winning the banner next year’. They did hills over the summer, working on their own. Hard work pays off,” added Bobrow.
Bobrow, who took over as the head coach last fall, is following in the footsteps of longtime head coach Brain Graca. Bobrow was an assistant under Graca before taking over during a COVID-shortened season in 2020.
“It’s always been a strong culture and had a strong foundation. Last year, as difficult as it was, it was also galvanizing in a way,” added Bobrow. “In a strange, long, scenic route it brought us back together so this year we were full steam ahead, which I saw from day one.”
Not to be outdone, the girls’ team finished the season with a record of 10-4.
Senior Maria Corcoran placed 14th at the CCC finals, running a career-best 20:41.
“This season is the most fun season I’ve had,” said Corcoran. “Last season was definitely an adjustment because of Corona and I also didn't really race that well last season. I had a pretty good summer and I’ve had a lot of fun racing this season.”
Corcoran won the Blue Dragon Invite early in the year and Bobrow praised her efforts.
“I’ve known Maria all four years and she is tremendous. She has run all three seasons for all four years and she is probably our most experienced runner out here and just a great person and great leader,” stated Bobrow, “We had a conversion about a month ago that embodies what she is about. She is talking about how she was feeling a little burnt out over the summer and then all of a sudden she found the joy in running. I’d say with anything, especially distance running, when you find the joy it becomes so much easier. I thought that was a pretty powerful statement from her and for the younger kids who need a role model to look up to, someone like Maria that is doing the right things every day, smiling, encouraging, it sets the right tone. She is intelligent, academically she is fantastic and athletically she is too. To have her is definitely a blessing. She will be missed.”
At the conference finals, junior Audrey Grant ran a 23:28 and sophomore Zara Bilal ran a 23:40. Senior Jazzy Edmunds finished at the 25:27 mark.
“It’s a great environment and all the girls are really helpful. Sometimes I would have tough days mentally and even physically and people Maria would always be by my side and cheer me up and help me get through it,” said Edmunds. “This year we’re more together, there was definitely a separation of the underclassmen and upperclassmen last year but this year it’s been much better. I felt like we were more of a family and not just a group of people doing a sport.”
Overall the girls placed just in front of Wethersfield, edging out their division rivals.
Bobrow, who coaches both teams, said this is surely a group that he will not forget, “The word family gets thrown out a lot, but being here it does feel like it’s a family. They lead by example and do things the right way.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin