Trumbull earns spot in Nike Cross Country Championship

Julietta Siciak, Kiki Grant, Kali Holden, Calyn Carbone, Evelyn Marchand, Brenna Asaro and Abigail Poplawski helped Trumbull to a berth in the Nike Cross Country Championship.

Julietta Siciak, Kiki Grant, Kali Holden, Calyn Carbone, Evelyn Marchand, Brenna Asaro and Abigail Poplawski helped Trumbull to a berth in the Nike Cross Country Championship.

Trumbull Athletics / Contributed photo

An untraditional 2020 season came to an exciting end as the Trumbull High girls’ cross country team participated in the Nike Cross Virtual Championship on Nov. 20.

This fall, Trumbull joined high school cross country athletes from across the U.S. to compete in a virtual season, in addition to participating in a shortened FCIAC season; one that saw the team capture the league’s Eastern Regional title.

“Nike wanted to inspire and motivate high school student-athletes to continue to train and push the boundaries of their sport, whether they were having a traditional or untraditional fall season,” Trumbull head coach Jim McCaffrey said.

“The Nike Virtual season was extremely fun for us,” McCaffrey explained. “For seven weeks, we had a chance to produce our fastest possible times. This unique platform allowed me, as a coach, to strategize our weeks.

“Typically, our top runners would have two meets in a regular season week. One would be strategic and the other would be a goal tempo effort. NXV allowed us to keep that kind of normal.”

On Nov. 10, McCaffrey received word that Trumbull would be one of three teams to represent the Northeast Region for the Virtual Championship. McCaffrey was able to surprise the team with the news at its end-of-the-season socially distant awards ceremony later that evening.

The 16 teams in the Nike Cross Virtual Championship all competed on its own home courses between Nov. 16 and 24.

Kali Holden concluded her outstanding junior season with a solid performance, finishing the 3.1-mile course in 19:33.

Senior Calyn Carbone finished second in 20:25, while junior Evelyn Marchand was third (21:11).

Seniors Kiki Grant (21:26) and Brenna Asaro (21:36) finished fourth and fifth, respectively, while sophomore Abigail Poplawski (21:52) and junior Julietta Siciak (21:56) rounded out the Trumbull contingent.

“A fun part for me was setting up the course,” McCaffrey said. “We made some adjustments to personalize the course and make it 5,000 meters. We mowed the grass down close, double lined the course throughout. It has never looked as good as it did. My attitude was that if you show pride in the course, the runners will take pride in their performance.”

The Eagles were able to train for two additional weeks and experience some pretty cool perks, too, as Nike sent a large pink box to McCaffrey that contained all the course markings, team jerseys, bibs, and other race swag for the girls.

The team was able to record the experience for a NXV Race Introduction video each team was required to complete. That video can be viewed at : https://rb.gy/zardjc.

McCaffrey said: “Our three seniors - Calyn Carbone, Kiki Grant and Brenna Asaro - were able to finish their careers on a positive note. Each girl suffered an injury at some point in their four years that took them out for an entire season. But each came back and led our team with their example and hard work. They will all be missed.”

Carbone and Grant were multiple All-FCIAC honorees during their scholastic careers, while Asaro earned all-league recognition this fall. Eight Trumbull runners earned All-FCIAC regional honors in 2020, and Holden earned All-State recognition.

“I couldn’t help but smile after the race,” McCaffrey said. “This wasn’t a new normal or compensation for an abridged season; it was a positive deviation and authentic celebration of hard work. The team will always look back at this season as a success, not an asterisk.”