Rocky Hill coach Brian Graca has made it clear to his runners that his coaching and his own training don't mix.

The two are entirely different. And Graca, a top runner in his own right, likes it that way.

But that doesn't mean the two don't merge once in awhile — like this past Thanksgiving.

After finishing 69th in the Manchester Road Race with a time of 25:51, Graca bumped into some of his new and old runners, including brothers David and James Wang.

When this happens Graca is hoping his runners see at least one thing — his dedication to the sport he loves.

"Hopefully that dedication rubs off a little," Graca said.

That certainly seems to be the case this season.

The Terriers, who return seniors Brennan O'Brien and Gerald Davis and junior Joe Crafa, have returned this year eager to compete for their first indoor track championship in school history. Graca says the expectations are high and Rocky Hill, which finished sixth in the Class S meet last season, feels it should be in the top three this season.

O'Brien and Davis, who finished second and first in the 300 meters and 600 meters respectively in the Class S championship, will be asked to become multiple event scorers in the big meets for Rocky Hill. Crafa, who won the CCC Championship in cross country but was disappointed by his results in his final races, is also set to shoulder a huge load.

"They know that the burden is on them to score points in the big meets and they love the pressure," Graca said. "They're looking to get attention from college coaches and they're competitors. It sets the bar high for the entire team."

Crafa is especially ready to find a new level. The talented junior is considered one of the best distance runners in the state but was sick at the end of the cross country season. Graca says Crafa has returned fully energized.

"I think at the end of the fall it was a bit like a job for him and now it has the feel of a hobby," Graca said. "His perspective of the sport has changed the most. He's at a stage now where he is having fun with it. … You can see he has passion for the sport."

NWC, Bloomfield Class S Favorites

After back-to-back second place finishes in the Class S championship in indoor and outdoor track, Northwest Catholic feels it has the personnel and talent to bring home its first indoor track title.

The Indians, led by sprinter Jared Delane and distance runner Brian Poirier, return all their starters and have All State athletes in nearly every discipline.

"We're one of the teams to watch," Northwest Catholic coach Patrick Williamson said.

But the Indians will have to get by defending champion Bloomfield, which returns seniors David Campbell, Odain Johnson and Najee Cooper.

"We always look at Bloomfield as a team to beat — [coach] Garfield White always runs a heck of a program," Williamson said.

Top Returning Athletes

Xavier's David Pugliese is one of three returning runners who finished in the top 10 in the 1,000 meters at last year's State Open. Pugliese finished with a time of 2:37 and will be expected to be a contender for the podium this season. … Like Rocky Hill's Crafa, Cromwell's Louis Tobias had a breakthrough sophomore indoor track season. But unlike Crafa, Tobias came home with some hardware from the end-of-the-year meets. Tobias won the Class S championship in the 1,600 meters and is also a threat in the 3,200 meters, where he finished fourth last season. … Edward Wilson of Conard was the only area underclassman to finish in the top 15 in the 3,200 meters at the State Open and will be looked to to lead the Chieftains this winter. … Glastonbury's Nicholas Latty is back for the Tomahawks as a senior after finishing eighth in the high jump at the State Open as a junior. … Manchester senior Shamar Smith was fifth in the 300 meters at the Class LL championship but is expected to contend for first in both the Class LL and the State Open this season.