‘A Culture of Belonging and Hard Work’: NCHS Girls Cross-Country Wins Another State Championship

In a town of football, basketball and lacrosse—where other sports sometimes are cast aside—a juggernaut has been growing before our eyes. 

An undefeated regular season last year, top-three finishes in the last three FCIAC Championships, and two state championships in the last five years: The New Canaan High School Girls Cross-Country Team is in a golden age. Beginning with a state championship in 2019—the team’s first since 2001—the squad has not stopped winning. 

Head Coach Jeffrey Brentson, who came from Brien McMahon in 2015, is a major reason for the success. A track coach since 1997, Brentson brought experience and knowledge to New Canaan’s running teams that changed the culture of the sport. 

“I tried to build up the intensity and competition within the team,” Brentson said. “Before, the girls treated the sport as just something to put on the resume, so we had to emphasize the idea that we should be competing and trying to win.”

And win they have. 

Since 2016, the girls have a regular season record of 87-25 (.777) to accompany the aforementioned postseason success. “We have built up a strong group of serious girls who place winning as their first priority, and are really a no-nonsense team,” Brentson said.

NCHS Senior Shawna Ferraro Breaks School Record in 1600

Shawna Ferraro knew that the New Canaan High School record in the 1600 meter run was 5:14.40, and that she’d missed it by five one-hundredths of a second during a Feb. 19 qualifier for the New England Indoor Track and Field Championships. “I was incredibly disappointed and upset, because it’s been a goal of mine for so long to break the record, and to be that close was frustrating,” the NCHS senior recalled Monday. 

Immediately after finishing the race, Ferraro said, she thought to herself, “There is no way I’m walking away from my senior season coming that close to breaking it and not breaking it.”

But there was a problem: Finding a sanctioned track-and-field meet where she’d have another chance. Ferraro and NCHS Girls Track and Field Coach Jeffrey Brentson searched for one, and eventually she found a meet to be held Sunday, Feb. 26 at Boston University.