Triple threat: Griswold's Strain triplets look to build on a successful freshman season
Griswold — Triplets Michael, Lucas and Jacob Strain were asked earlier this week what makes them different from each other.
"Our style, our clothing," Lucas said. "I like to wear basketball shorts. I'm not very much for the jeans look. They wear dress shirts, American Eagle shirts. I'm just going to school with shorts and a T-shirt."
"He just wears gym shorts and a gym shirt," Jacob said with a laugh. "We stay presentable."
What the boys have in common is a longer list. As freshmen last season on the Griswold High School cross country team, the Strains each finished in the top 10 of the Eastern Connecticut Conference championship, leading the Wolverines to a second-place finish overall behind East Lyme and to the ECC Division III title.
They duplicated that feat at the Class SS state championship meet at East Hartford's Wickham Park. Michael was fourth in the state (16 minutes, 58 seconds), Lucas eighth (17:17) and Jacob ninth (17:20), as Griswold finished third in the team standings. All three moved on to the State Open.
They played basketball during the winter season and looked forward to perhaps running the 4x400 relay together in the spring, as well as competing in individual events on the track, but the spring season was canceled due to the onset of COVID-19.
And so here they are again, a year later, having just turned 15 years old, looking forward to running competitively once again.
"You're not really used to it," Michael Strain said, asked of the adjustment a year ago to the high school level after the brothers took three of the top four spots the year before in the Connecticut Middle School State Championship for cross country. "Being first, second and third and this is a whole other playing field. It's not about going at your own pace (in high school). ... You sort of get a groove for it."
"It's a lot to take in (at first)," Lucas said. "You have to learn to pack together, work together. It's not just me against my brothers. You have to pace yourself off of people, not go out too fast. Our goal is to win ECC this year, beat NFA and East Lyme. We lost to NFA by a point last year (28-29 during the regular season). That's our goal this year."
The three, who are each about 6-feet tall, tend to run together during their summer training. Their older brother, Patrick, joins them.
"All three of us kind of pack up," Lucas said. "Our brother is our drill sergeant in the summer."
Also this summer, the Strains took part in the Northeast Kingdom Running Camp — as did the rest of the Griswold cross country team — which was held virtually this year. Traditionally run in Lyndonville, Vt., the camp includes several local staff members, including Mike Flynn of East Lyme High School (the co-founder of the organization) and Griswold's own Gerry Chester, a 17-time state champion prior to his retirement from coaching and a member of the Connecticut High School Coaches' Association Hall of Fame. Chester has worked with the Strains previously, as well.
The brothers also played this summer in the Night Flight Basketball League in Norwich and took a trip with their family — parents Pat and Wendy have five boys in all, including 10-year-old Patrick, the youngest — to enjoy some beach time in Maine.
This season looks good for the Wolverines, coached by Kelsey Nixon, a former runner at Ledyard High School and Eastern Connecticut State University.
Not only have the top three runners, Michael, Lucas and Jacob, acclimated themselves to the high school beat, there has been improvement from the rest of the team, too, the coach said.
Fellow sophomore Jackson Collins has worked his way to the front of the pack along with the Strains and junior Evan Gilgenbach makes the jump from the junior varsity team into the top group. Nathan Moore and Nathaniel Gauvin also had productive summer training sessions.
Griswold will compete in the ECC's regional Division II this year (there will be no division titles crowned).
"They know the expectations. They adjusted to the high school expectations. They know the expectations right from the beginning of practice," Nixon said of the triplets. "Last year was a year to get things going to open the door for our next years.
"We were right behind East Lyme. I was happy. The guys did the best they could."
There will always be differences between the Strains.
"We're all really competitive," Lucas said. "We're always arguing over the stupidest things, over the bowl being half empty or half full."
But they're alike, too, and share the same class schedule, as well, this year, making it easier for them to be in the same cohort at school since they already are at home.
"For the most part, we know each others' boundaries," Michael said.
"We like a few different things. I like to skateboard here and there," Jacob said. "But we're basically the same. We all play the same sports. We're all in the same classes. We are competitive. I remember one team had three kids last year, three seniors that we just tried to keep up with. We're trying to get better than them."
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