BRISTOL - The Bristol Central boys and girls cross country teams are smaller and younger than in the past, but still have all-state talent keeping the Rams competitive.
Moving forward after four years of dominance from Nate DeAngelo, who is now running at UMass-Lowell, will not be easy for the boys team, but junior Frankie Porrini will lead the way for a skilled team. The girls team, bereft of any seniors, will find out who will be top runners in the program in the coming years.
“[The team] is small, but it was small last year,” coach Tamara Stafford-Kirk said. “We were heavy on the seniors last year whereas I only have two seniors this year [on the boys team]. I definitely have a younger team this year.”
With DeAngelo graduated, Porrini is now the top runner on the team and will be one of the first to finish line in every race he runs. He earned all-state honors a year ago, and more recently placed sith in the 800 and 1600 at the Class L state meet for outdoor track.
“Frankie is definitely one of the strongest juniors in the state,” Stafford-Kirk said. “He was all-state last year for cross-country, ran a 4:24 mile in outdoor [track]. He is a very strong runner, had a great summer of training and just physically has gotten a little bit taller and a lot stronger. He will definitely make waves at every invitational we’re at, in the state meet, hoping [for him] to do well in the state open and qualify for New Englands. He should have a strong season as long as all goes well.”
Stafford-Kirk also mentioned junior Chris Roy as another member of the boys team she expects to have a strong season. She hopes the boys team will compete in all of its meets in the regular season, finishing off by extending their winning streak over Bristol Eastern in the intra-city race.
“Individually, we’re really looking for Frankie to do well statewide, for a kid like Chris Roy to move up in the rankings,” Stafford-Kirk said. “For the boys team, we’d like to be undefeated in our division. We would like to defend our city championship, not counting last year, this would be our 17th or 18th in a row.”
With such a young roster, expectations are murkier for the girls team, which has no seniors, one junior and seven sophomores. Stafford-Kirk hopes to see the sophomore class improve in their second cross country seasons.
She acknowledged Sophia Stark for having strong freshman seasons in both cross country and track. She was a part of two top-10 relay teams at the 2021 Class L state meet for outdoor track and was the fifth-fastest freshman in the 800-meter.
“She ran cross country last year and did well,” Stafford-Kirk said. “Then [she] had a nice outdoor season for us, so she has stepped it up and is doing well and is helping to lead a very young group of girls.”
Regaining the city title is also a team goal for the girls after a 10-year run of dominance ended in 2019. The Rams begin their season Monday against Berlin and Platt at Hubbard Park in Meriden.
“Practices have been great just because last year at this time we were in masks a lot when we weren’t actively running,” Stafford-Kirk said. “This year, to be able to be outside, unmasked as long as we’re keeping good physical distance has been a much more positive way to start the season. The kids are just excited to have what feels like more of a normal season with some invitationals, with the state meet scheduled, with a bigger conference championship scheduled. They’re very excited.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.