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Fairfield County Runners Finish In Top 10 At National Cross Country Race

Westport's Hannah Debalsi, left, finished fifth while Darien's Alex Ostberg, right, finished ninth Saturday at the Foot Locker national cross country championships in San Diego.
Westport's Hannah Debalsi, left, finished fifth while Darien's Alex Ostberg, right, finished ninth Saturday at the Foot Locker national cross country championships in San Diego. Photo Credit: Contributed

DARIEN, Conn. -- Two runners from Fairfield County -- Darien High's Alex Ostberg and Hannah Debalsi of Staples -- raced to Top 10 finishes in Saturday’s Foot Locker national cross country championships in San Diego.

With a mile to go in the boy's race, Ostberg seemed poised to win another race in his outstanding season. But a pack of runners and a lingering injury that affected Ostberg’s training, cost the Darien senior in the final stages of the race.

Ostberg finished ninth as Michigan’s Grant Frazier won the race for the second straight time. Ostberg finished in 15:22 for the 5-kilometer run, while Fisher won in 15:03. Ostberg finished first among runners from the Northeast Region.

“I don’t think my strategy was flawed,’’said Ostberg, who led for significant stretches over the first two miles. “The thing that made the difference is the how deep the field was compared to last year. There were 10 guys in the race that could’ve won it. It made the race that much more competitive.

"I probably should have been a bit more away of my surroundings. I can learn from it and use that experience for the next time.”

Ostberg lost the lead as the runners headed up a challenging hill. He tried to cover Frazier’s surge, but the Michigan senior -- who will join Ostberg at Stanford University next fall -- pulled away and some other runners went with him.

“The hill got me pretty good,’’ Ostberg said. “The training hasn’t gone quite the way I wanted. I think if I hadn’t had a stress reaction, I’d have done better. I’ve only run 10 times or so in the last 30 days. Considering everything that happened, it’s an amazing accomplishment.”

The race closes the book on a fabulous cross country career for Ostberg, who won State Open and New England Regional championships this year. He also won the Foot Locker Regional championship.

“I’m really proud of this season,’’ he said. “I competed and had a Top 10 finish at a national race. I just wanted to race hard and finish this year off strong. I wanted to leave my mark on the record books. I didn’t want one race to define my season. I had a great year, and I’m very proud of it.”

Debalsi, a junior at Staples High School, finished fifth in the girl's race. She covered the 5-kilometer course in 17:47 and was the top runner from the Northeast region. Debalsi finished second in the national race last year.

Anna Rohrer of Indiana won the race in 17:13. Gabriella Richichi of New Fairfield finished 16th in 18:14 in the field of 40 runners.

“I gave it my all,’’ said Debalsi, who won Connecticut and New England championships this fall. “I had higher goals, but I had an injury that cost me training time and I just couldn’t make it up. Considering everything that happened, I’m pretty happy.”

Debalsi finished second in the Northeast Regional championships in November but said she entered Saturday’s race with positive thoughts.

“I didn’t want to count myself out,’’ she said. “I knew the injury had cost me a little training, but I still thought I could have a strong race and run with the best girls in the country.”

She has one more year to make a run at the title, and Debalsi feels this year’s race will be a good learning experience.

“I had high goals,’’ she said. “It didn’t go like I planned, but I learned a lot. I’m looking forward to having another shot at it next year.”

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