Cross country: Stratford battles with Bunnell, Notre Dame

Stratford’s Elijah Brown and Masuk’s Zack Gingras battle it out near the pavilion at Great Hollow Lake.

The Stratford High boys cross country team opened up it’s 2017 season in the ravines of Great Hollow Lake in Monroe’s Wolfe Park on Tuesday.

Stratford took on the host Masuk Panthers, the Lancers of Notre Dame Fairfield, and its crosstown rival from Bunnell.

Mild temperatures and an overcast sky would be the setting on the heavily wooded multi surface course. Seventy five runners passed through the finish line, some in dramatic fashion.

Right off the start Masuk’s Ethan Basset, Bunnell’s Dennis Johnson, Masuk’s Zack Gingras and Stratford’s freshman runner Elijah Brown jumped out in front of the pack.

Bassett expanded his lead over Johnson around the two-mile mark finishing at 19:17. Johnson cruised in at 19:45.

Gingras and Brown had a battle of back and forth in positions during the entire race, with Brown ahead in the third spot, Gingras in fourth. But the experienced Gingras would win out finishing in third at 20:43. Brown at 20:49.

The Stratford-Bunnell rivalry lived up to it’s name with Stratford senior Ryan Duffy and Bunnell’s Johnathon Gulish being urged on by those in attendance right down to the finish line. Duffy would win the tilt at 21:24.

Bunnell’s Julian DeMattio, Pierre Barnum and Nick Gloria finished next for Bunnell.

Stratford senior Wil Das, who had to step in the number three spot for Stratford with Jesse Fabrizio out due to injury, kept Stratford’s hopes alive against Bunnell by finishing at 22:43.

Stratford’s Paul Duncanson, a surprise in the race, and Bunnell’s Maurice Neri would have the defining moment for these rivals as Neri overtook Duncanson at the one foot to go mark at the finish line by a fraction of a second — Neri at 23:07.09 to Duncanson’s 23:07.11.

Bunnell’s George Bloom and Stratford’s Rory Cooper came down the home stretch matching strides right down to the end. Bloom sealed the victory over Stratford (23-35) with a finish of 23:12 to Cooper’s 23:12.59.

Not lost in the Bunnell-Stratford matchup was Stratford’s victory over Notre Dame in the race’s closest score. Cooper’s finish gave Stratford the 27-28 win. Masuk topped Stratford, 20-41.

Rounding out the Stratford finishers were Tanner Mitchell at 24:09 and Derek McKane at 24:13.

Making the trip, but not able to participate for Stratford were Fabrizio, Juan Alvarez, Tyler Heffern and Kevin Gabriel.

Next up for Stratford, Joel Barlow and New Milford at Barlow on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

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