After finishing fifth at the very competitive Class LL state meet last week, Trumbull High girls cross country head coach Jim McCaffrey was cautiously optimistic entering Thursday’s State Open race as the Eagles’ overall team time put them in striking distance (9th overall) among the 20 participating teams.

The top six teams at the Connecticut State Open qualify for the New England Championships.

“Preparation for a meet goes beyond training well, it is about race ID,” said McCaffrey, who earlier in the week was named the FCIAC girls cross country Coach of the Year. “We knew where we ranked and we did the work to research the field. Most importantly, we stepped to the starting line knowing what it would take.”

Trumbull finished fourth overall with 165 points, finishing behind champion Danbury (115), runner-up Immaculate (116) and third-place Ridgefield (160).

As a result, Trumbull earned a berth to next weekend’s New England championship race, which will be held at Derryfield Park in Manchester, New Hampshire. It will be the Eagles’ second consecutive appearance at New Englands.

Leading the way at the State Open for Trumbull was junior Alessandra Zaffina, who solidified herself as the one of the state’s elite runners, with a 10th place finish (19:24).

Zaffina, who previously earned All-State honors after her third-place finish at the Class LL meet a week ago, would have qualified for the New Englands as an individual as one of the meet’s top 25 finishers.

Sophomore Calyn Carbone placed second among the Trumbull runners, finishing the race in 39th place with a personal-best time of 20:31.

Carbone was followed by senior co-captain Maggie LoSchiavo, who placed 46th with a time of 20:44.

Junior Emily Alexandru placed 63rd (21:02) and freshman Kali Holden finished 79th (21:19) to complete the Eagles’ scoring.

Juniors Sabrina Orazietti (101st, 21:52) and Rebecca Margolnick (125th, 22:19) also competed for the Eagles in the race, which featured 172 runners.

McCaffrey credited the Eagles’ success to a strategic mindset about the girls cross country program.

“Systematic success is a product of annual growth,” he said. “Each year, as a staff we set goals. These goals influence our strategy and our planning. Our middle school programs have helped us look in the crystal ball. But they have also created an excitement about the sport. We want young runners to know that they can immediately enter high school and have an impact, being a varsity runner and competing for FCIAC, Class LL and New England titles.”