The Manchester Running Company women's team took their winning ways off the road on Saturday, September 24th at the Ray Crothers Memorial Cross Country Invitational at Walnut Hill Park in New Britain; the race was the first of the year for the USATF-CT Cross Country Grand Prix Series. The men's open team was second overall, behind Morgan Kennedy's overall victory and the men's masters team was third.
The women's side was led by Anne Leonard-Blake who finished the challenging 5k course in 19:22 to take second in the overall standings and first in her age group; Leonard-Blake ran consistent splits throughout the race of 6:04, 6:11 and 6:15 to take home some hardware. Leonard-Blake was followed by Briana Demers who has been a mainstay among the scorers for MRC all year on the roads and proved herself up to the task in cross country as well. Demers was clocked in 20:02 to take the third female spot; she was followed by Melissa Emmerich in 22:12 (age group victory) and Laura Tignonsini closed out the scoring in 22:28, just one spot behind Emmerich.
The MRC ladies went unchallenged in the first XC race of the year and now hold a commanding lead in the Grand Prix Series.
On the men's side, Morgan Kennedy took the overall victory despite feeling under the weather. Conditions were ideal for racing and Morgan bid his time in the opening mile before pouncing to the lead in the latter stages of the race and taking the win in 16:10 - a 13 second gap in front of second place. Patrick Byrne was the second male across the line MRC, taking an age-group win in 19:17 and ninth overall; Dave Fusfeld ran 19:53 and Tom Soisson rounded out the scoring four in 21:15. Kenneth Johnson ran 23:01 to close the scoring for the masters squad.
The MRC (33 points) men were defeated by SoundRunner (14) who went 2-3-4-5 but placed second well in front of Brookfield Running Company (46) to secure the $80 in team prize money. The masters men finished third behind SoundRunner and Brookfield.
The XC Series continues in mid-November at the Age before Beauty 5k in Litchfield on November 13th.