Cross country: Northampton girls take third, Amherst boys place eighth at states

By HANNAH BEVIS

Staff writer

Published: 11-19-2023 4:03 PM

DEVENS – Northampton head coach Linda Rowbotham and junior Maeve O’Neil hovered over Rowbotham’s phone, checking the live results of the MIAA Division 2 Girls Cross Country Championship race that had just concluded minutes before. 

As far as the Blue Devils were aware, they’d placed fifth, tying the best finish in team history. They were excited with their performance, but O’Neil and Rowbotham wanted a closer look at everyone’s individual finishes. 

But when Rowbotham pulled up the page, Northampton wasn’t in fifth – the Devils were in fourth. The race was still wrapping up, and the scoreboard was updating in real time. Ecstatic, they called the team over to tell them the good news, and during the celebration, Rowbotham happened to check her phone again. Her jaw dropped. 

“Next thing you know, I'm looking at it again and I go –  you guys aren't gonna believe this, but we just moved up one point over Newburyport (into third),” Rowbotham said. “We were kind of – I don't wanna say in disbelief or whatever, but we were just wondering, ‘Hey, maybe if we close our eyes, maybe in five minutes we’ll be in second place.” 

The third place finish (195 points) was the best in Blue Devils’ girls state history. Maeve O’Neil placed 11th to earn a medal with a time of 19 minutes, 41.44 seconds. Her younger sister, Mairead O’Neil, took 22nd in 20:29.59 and Tess Geis-Benton took 41st (21:08.79). Charlotte Shimpach (55th, 21:27.11) and Lily Green (121st, 22:51.38) also scored for Northampton. All five of Northampton’s top finishers from Saturday are slated to return next season; the club had just one senior in their top seven, Ursula von Goeler. 

In the boys’ race, it was Amherst celebrating a historic finish, though not quite history-making; the boys placed eighth with 273 points. Just like the Northampton girls, they edged out a team by a single point to claim eighth; Boston Latin Academy took ninth with 274 points. 

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“The last two races… it’s been incredible. As a team, we really came together and we're playing off each other really well. We’ll run together, push each other to get faster and faster,” Amherst’s Will Larson said. 

Larson paced the ‘Canes in 36th place with a time of 17:08.00, followed by Calvin Miller (53rd, 17:25.74), who had one of the best kicks on his team on Saturday, passing multiple runners in the straightaway to help move Amherst up the scoreboard. Third, fourth and fifth place finishers Nico Lisle (85th, 17:52.34), Sam Woodruff (94th, 17:57.78) and Kyle Yanko (97th, 17:58.81) all finished six seconds apart to round out the scoring. 

The Amherst girls team placed 13th as a group with 312 points, finishing in a tight race behind Old Rochester (12th, 311 points) and Minnechaug (11th, 310 points). Elizabeth Sawicki was the top finisher for the ‘Canes, crossing the line in 21:14.91 for 44th place. Isla Cusick took 58th in 21:31.73, and Lillian Pope (89th, 22:02.01) placed third  for Amherst.

Northampton also sent two individual qualifiers in the boys’ race, Teddy King-Pollet and Davis Wheat. King-Pollet cracked the top 25 with a 24th place finish in 16:54.86, and Wheat finished 66th in 17:40.39. 

Division 3

The Hampshire Raiders had a good day in both the boys and girls Division 3 races. The girls took ninth place overall, led by Kathleen Barry, who medaled with a 15th place finish in 20:07.76, and the boys finished 10th, paced by Nick Brisson in 43rd place with a time of 17:30.99. 

Besides Barry, Sicily Chase finished second for Hampshire in 73rd place (22:05.92), followed closely by teammates Alexandra Henrichon (76th, 22:09.31) and Amelia Perry (94th, 22:24.51). While Barry was happy with her medal, she hoped that she could have raced a little faster – though she was happy the Raiders were finally able to best Frontier, which finished 18th as a team (357 points). 

“I think I did the best I could do, I just wish the best was a bit better,” Barry said. “We had a bit of a rough season – Frontier, shout out to them they're amazing, but they beat us a lot this season. So to be able to come back from that and have a good final position was good.” 

The Hampshire boys once again relied on their depth to help propel them to a top ten finish. After Brisson, the Raiders’ second through fourth runners, Oscar Schiff (57th, 17:49.84), Zach Jones (62nd, 17:55.52) and Tim Cahill (65th, 17:56.67) were all just seven seconds apart.

“We got tenth last year, and got tenth this year, and there’s a lot more competition this year, so we can’t complain. We gave it all we got,” Brisson said. “(Our depth) definitely played a role, and it has all season.” 

Frontier’s Evan Hedlund walked away from Saturday’s race with a medal, placing 12th overall with a time of 16:38.73. The Redhawks finished 16th overall with 440 points; behind Hedlund, Luke Howard placed 95th (18:25.76) and Amory Maxey finished 113th in 18:39.33. 

Though Hedlund didn’t PR – it was actually his second slowest time of the season – nearly every runner had difficulty on the hilly course, and Hedlund was happy with how he executed his race plan. 

“They changed the course a lot. I think this was my best executed race this season. The course is way different than last year, it’s a lot slower, so it felt like a way faster effort,” Hedlund said. “I didn't just get nervous and go out too hard, or rest when I should have been going faster, (and) I feel like I made surges when I needed to.” 

The Frontier girls team had a tougher race, placing 18th overall with 357 points. Sylvie DiBartolomeo finished first for the Redhawks in 65th (21:59.82) while senior Leah Gump took 70th (22:03.52) and Nicole Plasse finished 91st (22:21.01). 

Belchertown’s Kami Wlodyka got the best finish for any of the Orioles, taking 34th with a time of 21:03.51 in the girls’ race. Teammate Cameron Ting, also an individual qualifier, finished 139th (23:40.53). 

Besides typical pre-race nerves, Wlodyka had the added challenge of running the majority of the race with one of her shoes untied, though she said it’s happened before in races and didn’t bother her that much. 

“I did want to go out pretty hard because I do better going out aggressively and trying to move up,” Wlodyka said. “I'm just not that aggressive of a racer, so I tried to go out hard in the start and it worked out pretty well for me.” 

The Belchertown boys finished 17th overall, just one point behind 16th place Frontier. Nathan Fernandes crossed the line first for the Orioles in 90th (18:20.54) and teammate Benjamin Les took 101st in 18:29.78. 

Granby’s Addison Hill, a seventh grader, placed 47th overall in 21:34.58 while teammate Nathan Hutchinson took 52nd (17:47.13). 

PVCICS placed 23rd as a team, led by top runner Grafton Tolopko in 82nd place (18:16.02).