Birlin pg 11 10-11-18

The Woodstock Academy's Kenneth Birlin runs toward the finish at Wickham Park Oct. 6. Photo by Marc Allard.

Woodstock Academy senior Kenneth Birlin had a goal this season.
He has wanted to catch his teammate, sophomore Ethan Aspiras.
Birlin finally accomplished that Oct. 6.
With a burst of speed going up the final hill, Birlin finally accomplished his goal at the Wickham Park Cross-Country Invitational Oct. 6 in Manchester.
Birlin finished 87th in 18 minutes, 51 seconds, just two spots and two seconds ahead of Aspiras in the boys’ varsity-seeded race.
“It pushes you,” Birlin said of the competition from within. “It makes it feel more like a team when you can banter with somebody. It pushes them to go harder too and they push you. It’s really good for the team.”
Centaurs coach Pete Lusa said he had instructed the team not to go “full out” in the meet because Woodstock Academy had its only home meet of the season Oct. 2 against Norwich Free Academy, Stonington and Windham.
That meet, in Lusa’s mind, was going to be just as hard as the race at Wickham was due to the hills that both courses have and the fact that both are soft underfoot.
“Just as muddy,” Lusa said with a laugh.
But he also was happy to see Birlin and Aspiras wage a brief battle on the course in Manchester.
“It’s not an ego thing with these guys. It’s me against you at this moment; let’s see who can do it. It’s a good challenge. The senior beat the sophomore (Saturday). Ethan will have plenty more glory days ahead of him,” Lusa said.
Aspiras said he was happy to see his teammate take the advantage on the final hill.
The team finished 23rd overall with Spencer Collins (142nd), Evan Gianfriddo (147th) and Noah Pepper (156th) making up the top five.
“The goal for (Saturday) was just to try our best,” Birlin said. “We were just trying to reach our personal goals for the day and work with that.”
It was also a preview for the team of what is to come in just 21 days when the state championship meets are also held at Wickham.
“I’m hoping it won’t be as muddy. It was really bad (Saturday),” Birlin said. “I actually had a pretty good time with it, but there were a couple of places where you could not avoid it. It’s easier to just go through the mud than around it. You just had to be aware of your surroundings.”
Lusa said, even with the home meet looming, he knew it was important to run on Saturday just to get a feel for the course.
Unlike Woodstock Academy freshman girls’ runner Linsey Arends, who ran the varsity seeded race, Lusa opted to have his freshmen compete in the boys’ freshmen race.
“They didn’t see the varsity course, but Hamilton (Barnes) will likely run the state championship race. The course is similar enough that he should know things. We come here for the experience,” Lusa said.
Earlier in the week, Aspiras finished second for the Centaurs (4-4, 0-2 ECC Division I) in North Stonington as they downed Tourtellotte, 15-50, and Wheeler, 16-47, but lost to Fitch, 19-41.
Christian Mink finished eighth, Hamilton Barnes ninth and Birlin 10th in the quad-meet for the Centaurs.
Marc Allard
Sports Information Director
The Woodstock Academy


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