(Editor's Note: It’s official! Bishop Feehan standout Abbie McNulty has decided to continue her outstanding academic and athletic career at Division I program Stanford University. It was confirmed early this morning by head coach Bob L’Homme that McNulty will take her talents to the west coast to compete for the Cardinals, a consistent Div. 1 power. "When I went out to visit Stanford, I fell in love with the campus, the weather, the school, the running program, coaches, and team. There wasn't an aspect of the school that i didnt like. The only thing that made me think twice was the distance, but I was able to to realize all of the amazing opportunities available, and the distance didn't matter. I believe Stanford is the place where i can reach my full potential academically and athletically," McNulty said)
She has dominated the competition since Day One, winning most of her races by substantial margins including last Saturday’s 37-second victory at the Eastern Mass. Division 3 Championship. Four times this fall she has run 17:48 or faster for the 5K distance with a personal-best and nationally-ranked time of 17 minutes, 8.7 seconds (US #13) at the Bob McIntyre Invitational in early October.
At the MIAA All State Finals this Saturday, Bishop Feehan (Mass.) senior Abbie McNulty has a chance to accomplish a rarity at the Gardner Municipal Golf Course by winning a Div. 1 title just a year after capturing the Div. 2 crown.
Everything appears to be under control for the potentially history-making event. Nothing to change, right?
Not according to the Feehan star.
“I definitely feel I need to work on the way that I go out,” said McNulty, who sizzled to a 5:25 opening mile en route to her 17:39 time recorded at the EMass meet. “I get in the lead really fast and I kind of waste that energy at the beginning instead of conserving it for the last half. I think I need to work on that a little.”
Whether she solves that “problem” or not by the weekend is anybody’s guess, but it’s hard to imagine that a state title is not firmly within the grasp of the Cumberland, R.I., native. On paper, McNulty’s toughest challenger is Needham sophomore Margie Cullen, the EMass Div. 2 winner on Saturday with a PB of 18:00.20, almost a full-minute slower than the Feehan runner’s best.
"I've been so happy with how the season has played out,” she said, “and I really hope it continues to go like that.”
McNulty’s climb to her current elite status has been a steady one with hard work and consistency a staple to its rise. Ever since her first season of cross country at the Attleboro school, it was apparent that some amazing things would be happening in the years ahead. McNulty’s freshman campaign saw her gradually move up the varsity ranks on a team loaded with talented upperclassmen.
It was also a season that almost never happened.
“My dad was actually the one that made me go to Feehan and made me run,” she said back in October, after winning the New Balance Ocean State Invitational. “I wanted to do soccer. Once I started my freshman year, I fell in love with it. I am so happy. I am so, so happy he made me do that because I don’t know where I would be without it.”
McNulty believes the turning point to her career came as a sophomore. She finished sixth at the championship race at the Ocean State meet, one of the top regional meets in the northeast. She also placed second at the class meet and was a third-place finisher at the states, running 18:44 on Franklin Park’s rolling terrain.
A dedicated summer of training prior to the X-C season helped in the process.
“My times were improving and I was like this is something that I really enjoy and competing well in,” she recalled. “I think that is when I realized this is something I want to do and something I really want to pursue.”
McNulty’s success continued her junior season where she copped the Div. 2 race at the All State meet. Her time of 18:20.72 at Northfield Mountain was the second fastest of the day. Former Peabody great and Foot Locker runner-up Catarina Rocha, a freshman at Providence College, was the only runner ahead of McNulty with her winning effort of 18:06.12 in the Div. 1 race.
Bishop Feehan coach Bob L’Homme has enjoyed watching the progression of McNulty, who also has excelled on the track. She was a third-place finisher in the indoor mile and the outdoor two mile last year.
“She has been a beautiful athlete to watch grow up over the years,” L’Homme said. “Since her freshman year, she has been a model of consistency. She has just improved every single year. Her leadership on the team is outstanding and that has grown also. She has really matured as an athlete and as a person. It’s been awesome.”
When she steps on the line at Gardner for the last time as a high school runner this weekend, McNulty is hoping to not only win an individual crown but help lead the Shamrocks, a four-time winner in Div. 2, to the team crown in the state’s highest division.
She also has her eyes on the Nike Cross-Country Nationals. Along with her teammates, McNulty will make the trip to Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., on Nov. 30 for the NXN Northeast Regionals. In last year’s meet, she and the Shamrocks each finished sixth overall. McNulty’s placement was just one spot shy of qualifying individually for the nationals in Portland, Oregon.
“This year I really want to go,” she said. “I want to get states first and I definitely want to go to Oregon.”
Two attainable goals for this gifted harrier that begins this weekend in Gardner.