The pressure was on the Weymouth girls in Saturday’s Div. 1 EMass Championship race, but Mike Millers’ Wildcats were primed and ready to turn away their competition over the 3.1-mile Franklin Park course.
Led by ninth-grader Ashley Betts, who finished 11th in 19:49, Weymouth placed its first five runners in the top 35 to defend its title with 102 points. Lowell was right on the Wildcats’ heels in second (117) and Peabody took third (118) in front of Newton South (122).
Weymouth, which will be looking for a second consecutive Div. 1 title in Saturday’s state meet, relished the chance to run its competition into the ground.
“We knew we had the target on our back,” said Miller. “They have t-shirts with a target on the back. They knew that all year. I tell them we don’t have to be perfect, we just have to be the best we can be. And I think for today, for what we wanted to do, we were.
“Times don’t mean anything. It’s about place and getting it done. We’re going to enjoy today and come Monday we’ll start planning for all-states. These kids get it. I’m really proud of them. They’re committed and dedicated to the sport.”
After out dueling Kathy O’Keefe of Newton South to win the Div. 1 race a year ago, Peabody’s Catarina Rocha had an easier time of it in the cool, blustery conditions.
Rocha was shadowed by Maggie Mullins of Andover early before pulling away for an 18:06 win. “I tried to stay with the competition because there’s really good competition out there,” said Rocha. “The first mile was relaxed and after I got to the second mile I picked it up a little. Maggie’s a really good competitor. She stayed with me the first mile. I look for her in these meets.
“I felt good so I just kept going and didn’t think about the competition at that point. I’m going to keep going with my training. “I just run and have fun. I don’t worry about winning or losing. If I lose, I can always come back next week.”
Peabody head coach Joe Rocha, Catarina’s father, was pleased with his daughter’s race and believes she has plenty more racing in her legs.
“She looks very strong and this was the first test,” said Rocha. “Time-wise I think she can run faster. I think she’s in shape to run around 17:45. We had a hard week of training last week. She looked very good today. She was itching to run this race. Hopefully next week will be another good race.”
Hockomock League champion Alex Giese of Franklin went through the first mile in 5:55 with teammate Lauren Hagen and Mackenzie Shelgren of Masconomet and went on to kick her way to a 19:14 win in the Div. 2 race. Shelgren was second in 19:20 and Hagen took third in 19:33.
Giese is confident the workouts she has done this season on the Franklin Park track will work in her favor in the state meet.
“There’s a lot of people (next week) who could win,” said Giese. “I want to come in the top 15. We run here a lot. We did a couple of tempos here and there. I like running in the Wilderness because there’s more solid ground and no mud.”
The battle for the team title was a tight one. Masconomet came out on top with 65 points. Lincoln-Sudbury (75), Chelmsford (83) and Franklin (91) followed.
Bay State League champion Priyanka Fouda was alone from the start in a solo wire-to-wire in the Div. 3 race in 19:15. Falmouth freshman Lauren O’Neil ran a strong race for second in 19:27 and Concord-Carlisle’s Megan Ratcliffe of Concord-Carlisle locked up third in 19:32.
“My plan was to stay with the pack the first mile,” said Fouda. “After the first 1,000 (yards) I realized I could take control. I definitely felt it (5:45 mile) the second mile. I’m never overconfident and knew I had some stiff competition. I think I was ready to react if someone did come up on me.”
Whitman-Hanson was an easy winner in the team competition with its 48 points. Abby Baker led the Panthers in fifth with a time of 19:46. The team’s five scoring runners finished in a tight 35-second span. Shannon Hickey paced runner-up Oliver Ames to second (105) with her sixth-place, 19:53 performance.
Dennis-Yarmouth standout Jordan O’Dea continued her dominance on the trails this fall as she flew threw two miles in 11:41, on the way to a 18:34 win in the Div. 4 race. Bishop Feehan sophomore Abbey McNulty led a 2-3-4-5 Shamrock finish in 18:44. Feehan was an easy winner with 36 points, the team’s seventh division title in a row and ninth since 2000.
“It was a good day,” said head coach Bob L’Homme. “It bodes well for next week. I think the girls have a good one still in them.”
O’Dea was uncharacteristically nervous on the starting line and moved out quick at the gun. “I was nervous so I took it out hard and took the pace,” said O‘Dea. “I thought she (McNulty) was close to me because people were yelling her name. I pushed in with everything I had left.”
McNulty closed on O’Dea but couldn’t pull even with the speedy Dolphin. “I felt good and I tried to inch closer to Jordan because I know how great she is,” said McNulty. “I pushed it at the end and tried to catch her. I knew I had a chance to catch her but she never let up.”
Weston’s Olivia Brackett had the best kick in furious sprint to the finish line of the Div. 5 race. Brackett pulled out the win in 19:21, two seconds in front Pentucket’s Rebecca Morse (19:23) and third-place finisher Kerry Phelan of Hamilton-Wenham (19:24).
The Generals (36 points) edged out Weston (37) in a thrilling finish.
Junior Sarah Keiran of Ipswich was an easy winner in Div. 6, cruising through the first mile in 5:40, en route to her 19:13. Lizzy McDermott of Austin Prep was a distant second in 19:42 and Lee Milne of Dover-Sherborn took third with a 19:44.
“I planned to take it quick and get in the top three in the first 800 meters, but I felt great so I just went,” Keiran said. “The only time I felt tired was entering the Wilderness.”
Dover-Sherborn won the team title with 90 points and Norwell was close behind in second with 104. Ursuline (108) and Lynnfield (157) followed in third and fourth, respectively.