The Bay State has never been short on producing quality distance runners over the years, and this season is no different.
Of the talented returnees coming back this season, 10 broke 2:16 for 800 meters, five dipped under five minutes for the mile and we had seven under 11:20 for two miles. Now add in what transpired this past indoor season, and there's potential for some special happenings this spring.
Six of the top eight finishers in the 800m will be back on the track. Newton South's Clare Martin finished second behind individual winner, Bellingham graduate Sarah Edwards in 2016. Martin missed most of the indoor season due to a foot injury from cross country. She still managed to clock some impressive times in the limited meets that she ran, including a 2:14 800m and a sub five-minute mile at the New Balance Nationals this past March. If she can regain her old form from a fantastic junior campaign where she clocked 2:47 for 1,000m and twice ran under 2:10 in the 800m, including her win at the New England's last June, she'll be tough to beat. Acton Boxboriugh junior Samantha Friborg, a third-place finisher as a tenth-grader at last year's states, should be considered one of the top contenders. Friborg is fresh off an indoor season where she clocked the state's best time for 600m, her nation No. 12 of 1:33.69. She was a runner-up in the event at the All State Meet and New England's. There's several others, to name a few, that should finish in the mix, including Milton's Bridget Mitchell and Collette O'Leary, Hopkinton's Isabelle Giordano and Concord Carlisle's Sarah Reichheld. Mitchell could be focusing more on the mile where she has low 4:50 potential, but if she's got fresh legs for the 800m you can't count her out as a potential runner that will break the tape. She has a PB of 2:15, but she's capable of much faster as evident by her win in the 1,000m at the All State Meet where she ran a best of 2:54.31 out of the unseeded section. That's a time that equates to a time considerably lower than her best.
The indoor season saw five runners break five minutes for the mile, led by Natick's Grace Connolly. Connolly, a sophomore, finished second to Tewksbury's Rachel Sessa at last year's All State Meet where she ran her then-best of 4:55.40. Expect the two talented runners to be back at it again. Connolly might have the edge this time around. She won the mile and two mile at the All State Meet this past February. In both races, Sessa placed second. The Natick runner is also coming off an All-American placement at the New Balance Nationals where she clocked her all-time best of 4:52.38 to finish sixth overall. You have to believe that Mitchell has a chance to contend, too, if she chooses to make this her primary event. She has a best of 4:56 and twice ran sub five-minute legs at the New Balance Nationals as an anchor for the 4xMile and Distance Medley relays. Wellesley's Margaret Donahue (4:59.13) and Littleton's Sarah Roffman (5:00.03) are a few others that could be battling for top placements.
Finally, there's the two mile. This is a race that again could match Connolly versus Sessa. The top four finishers from last year's states are all gone to graduation. The No. 1 returnee is Amherst-Pelham's Sophia Jacobs-Townsley, who was fifth as a freshman with an 11:07.38 clocking. Beverly's Abby Walsh was sixth in the race. Jacobs-Townsley had a strong season on the indoor season, placing fourth in the deuce with a best of 10:57. Newton South's Katherine Collins (10:51.37), Sessa, Ayer-Shirley's Katherine Cooper (10:53.46), Connolly (10:45.82) have all broken 11 minutes. Sessa is the fastest among the bunch with her 10:39.01 best from last year's Weston Twilight Invitational.