Published September 18. 2013 4:00AM Updated September 18. 2013 4:37AM
Groton - It wasn't anything against Ledyard or Norwich Free Academy, it's just that Fitch High School girls' cross country coach Shawn Towne was worried about his own opening meet against two strong Eastern Connecticut Conference teams.
"I was thinking, 'I have Bacon (Academy) and East Lyme I've got to deal with,'" Towne said.
Then, later in the week he went back to catch up on other teams' opening day scores. That's when he noticed Ledyard's marquee-grabbing ECC Large Division victory over perennially strong NFA.
And Ledyard was next on Fitch's agenda in another Large Division matchup. "I was like, 'Oh, man, Ledyard's really good,'" Towne said.
On Tuesday, however, Fitch was a point better to take the edge in the division, beating the Colonels 28-29.
After Fitch senior Sarah Dinovelli, first over the 2.6-mile course in 17 minutes, 17 seconds, Ledyard's Megan Brawner, Julia Driscoll and Jordan Houdeshell were second, third and fourth, claiming the early returns.
Fitch, though, had six of the next seven runners to displace Ledyard's No. 5 runner to 12th. Only Ledyard's Carina Mitchell, eighth, could break into the confident pack as the Falcons (4-0, 3-0) jumped to the top of the division.
Fitch also topped New London 15-50 and Ledyard (3-2, 2-1) defeated New London 15-48.
"It was a great meet," Ledyard coach Bruce Douglass said of the one-point loss. "It just turned out the wrong way. Going out, they had one-two on us. We were able to catch the second one, but Fitch packed their runners in. We just needed to beat one of them.
"... The story now is if we're successful, we have to get them back at the ECC meet and we can still tie them."
The Fitch pack consisted of Alicia Moroyoqui (fifth), Alana Olendorf (sixth), Molly Reinhold (seventh), Caleigh Coers (ninth), Caroline VanDyke (10th) and Katie Schneider (11th).
Fitch tied NFA for the Large Division title last season, falling to the Wildcats during the regular season, but coming through with a victory at the ECC championship.
"I think so, it showed us what we can do," said Dinovelli, asked if last year's end-of-the-season outcome gave the Falcons a confidence boost.
Dinovelli, one of three senior captains with Daria McKenna and Mindy Fan, added that Fitch has the philosophy of "one team," not centering it around the top of the pack.
"Whether you're running second or 20th, you're just as important. Always run your best time," Dinovelli said. "There's always been that element since I've been here. The last couple years we've had a young team, so the older kids have been mentors to the young kids."
Ledyard, meanwhile, has as its top three, an All-ECC and All-Area pick in Houdeshell; Brawner, a sophomore who earned All-ECC honors last year; and senior Julia Driscoll, who has never run cross country before but competes in triathlons, Douglass said.
Ledyard beat NFA 27-30 in Norwich last week.
Douglass said it was the first win over the Wildcats since 1989 and the eighth overall (not that he's counting).
"I knew we were pretty good and I knew they weren't returning a lot," said Douglass, adding it's much different than some years against NFA. "... When they're really good, I say, 'We're going to get buried. Just run a good time and we'll see where we go from here.' I preach reality."
Just as long as his runners don't overlook NFA, Towne said of NFA. The Falcons and Wildcats run each other next Tuesday at Windham. "If you look past NFA you're going to get beat," he said.
Deanna McCarvell was New London's top runner, 17th in 19:50. The Whalers are 1-4, 0-3.