The Tolland boys cross country team, which won the Class M championship last year, lost its top runner to graduation and another of the Eagles' top runners was injured in August and is just coming back.
But the Eagles have still performed well so far this season and they will get a chance to see where they stack up against some of the top teams in the state Saturday at the championship race at the Wickham Invitational at Wickham Park.
The Wickham Invitational will begin at 9 a.m. with middle school races. The unseeded, seeded and championship varsity races will be held in the afternoon, starting at 1:45 p.m.
Last year's State Open champion Staples will be there, as will Haddad Windham Invitational Varsity 1 champ Hall and Xavier.
"We're hoping to run well this weekend," Tolland coach Brandon Elliott said. "Last year we had a solid group of guys, most of which returned this year."
Josh Bedard, who won the Class M title last year for Tolland, graduated. Junior Stephen Sutton, who finished 12th in the Class M meet, broke his collarbone in August and was just cleared to run after six weeks off.
"He had a good season last year and he made significant improvements during outdoor track," Elliott said. "He'll be running in the JV race this weekend until he's back to 100 percent.
"The other guys have really stepped up well."
Tolland won the small school title in the Windham Invitational Varsity 1 race as well as the Varsity 1 race at the Ocean State Invitational Sept. 23 in Rhode Island. Sophomore Killian McNamee was second overall and Alec Sauter, Nathan Paolangeli and David Hatch finished 10th, 11th and 12th and Jacob Gerow was 14th.
Xavier has injuries too: Xavier has also had injuries mar the start of the season as Robbie Cozean, who was third as a freshman at the Class LL meet last year, has been recovering from a stress fracture in his foot suffered last spring and didn't start running until August.
The Falcons returned five of their top seven runners from last year and added transfer Peter Schulten, who ran at Coginchaug for two years and finished sixth in the Class SS meet last year. Schulten had to sit out four meets before he could run because of transfer rules. Cozean raced for the first time last Tuesday at a dual meet against Guilford.
"He's not doing any speed work; he's focused on building back mileage," Stonier said.
Because of Cozean's injury, Stonier said, there is no clear-cut No. 1 runner. But that has given the team a different perspective on racing.
"We wanted to go away from the idea of you are No. 1 and you are No. 2 and so on, to what is the team doing," Stonier said. "Now we don't have that clear cut No. 1 guy. It could be one of five guys any day. It has emphasized the team dynamic."
Seniors Owen Curran and Owen Lally and junior Dillon Selfors round out the top five for Xavier.
Glastonbury girls win: The Glastonbury girls took a long trip to Belfast, Maine, last weekend to check out the New England championship course at the Festival of Champions and won the team title with 115 points. "They ran well," coach Brian Collins said. "It was a great day." The Tomahawks will be competing in the girls championship race at Wickham Saturday.