Coming from behind for the third straight week, Connor Nisbet completed an undefeated season, winning the Division II cross country championship Saturday and establishing himself as the state’s top runner.
The Wilmington Friends sophomore completed Brandywine Creek State Park in 16:26.57 to win the W. Frank Newlin Award, a rotating cup given for the day’s fastest time, named for the Wilmington Parks Director who began the state meet at Rockford Park in 1954 and ran it through 1967.
Nisbet’s four-second margin over Tatnall’s Brendan Balthis was deceptively large. Balthis, a savvy sophomore who made first-team all-state last year followed his the strong start of his teammate Nick Garrett to take over the lead after two miles, parrying leads with Nisbet until the crew-cut Quaker took the lead for good on a downhill slope that precedes the uphill finish.
“The team win is what it’s about, not the individual,” said Balthis. “We were together for 2½ miles. We were making moves back and forth. He out-kicked me in the end. Give him credit; he’s a very strong runner.”
“It was neck and neck the entire race,” said Nisbet. “He made his huge move at 2.5 miles, right before you make the downhill after the walk of shame. Until the last downhill, it was a series of kicks and moves. It was tougher for him because he had run his legs out at that point. If the race was 100 or 200 meters later, I would have died by then.
“Despite how much it hurt, it was a lot of fun. Now that I’m looking back on it, when it doesn’t hurt, it’s great to compete so hard with someone, especially in the last race of the season.”
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Balthis and Garrett (7th) and first-year varsity runners Larry Mathis (13th), Sasha Latina (18th) and Joey Cintavey (21st) gave Tatnall its eighth straight title, the Hornets’ 11th in 14 years.
Bryan Delle Donne, who has blossomed this junior year, finished third for fourth-place Newark Charter.
Alex Horgan (4th), cousin of Padua champion Lydia Olivere, and Auggie Segger (15th) led runner-up St. Andrew’s. Antonio Angelini (5th) led third-place Delaware Military. Nisbet and Andrew Slomski (14th) lifted Friends to fifth place.
Drew Harris of Lake Forest (7th), Jacob Puharic of Caravel (8th), ailing Hudson Pepper of Tower Hill (9th), Padraig Han of Delaware Military (11th) and St. Mark’s Robert Vadnais (12th) made their final all-state bids. In Delmar’s first visit ever to Brandywine Creek, sophomore Austen Cave finished tenth.