STAMFORD, Conn. – Westhill’s girls cross country team enjoyed a couple of firsts en route to a seventh-place team finish Saturday at the Class LL championships at Wickham Park in Manchester.
Claire Howlett finished fourth and Nicole Ambrosecchio finished sixth, giving Westhill two all-state runners. In addition, the Vikings qualified for Friday’s State Open race. Both feats are first-time accomplishments for the Vikings.
Alison Ambrosecchio, Isabelle Yick and Laura Schaffer helped the Vikings to finish seventh. The Vikings have just five runners, the minimum needed to qualify as a team, and forfeited several meets this season when it could not field a complete team.
“We lost our No. 5 runner from last year when she decided not to run,’’ coach Ed Lane said. “That was one I was counting on. I thought that was it. I had high hopes, but I didn’t think this was the team. Once it started falling apart, I didn’t think we’d get there.”
The Vikings have welcomed Schaffer’s emergence. “She really took to the training,’’ Lane said. “Her times have really dropped over the last two months.”
The Vikings have two standouts in Howlett, a junior, and Ambrosecchio, a senior. Howlett, the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference runner-up, finished the 5K race in 19:42. Ambrosecchio ran 19:49. “Nicole ran a great race,’’ Lane said. “She looked strong. She picked her way through the crowd.”
Now the Vikings will try for another first. Howlett and Nicole Ambrosecchio could finish in the Top 25 at the State Open. Westhill has never had more than one girl make New Englands. “We train to peak for the State Open,’’ Lane said. “That will be our big race. I think they’re both ready to go.”