Five years ago at the Marathon Sports/HOKA Ocean State Invitational, a young junior from North Rockland in New York turned Goddard Memorial State Park into her own personal time trial. Not sure, at least in the foreseeable future, we’ll ever see a performance quite like the one we witnessed back in 2018 when Katelyn Tuohy scorched the field and simply annihilated the 5K course record with her winning time of 16 minutes, 6.87 seconds. But while the course record by the Tuohy, now a two-time NCAA champion at North Carolina State, appears untouchable. the field that has been assembled for Saturday’s Championship race is absolutely loaded. Take a look at the digital clock at the finish as we could have several runners making it around the scenic grounds of the Warwick park in the 17-to-18 minute range, perhaps a dozen or more. It’s that good!
Here’s our list of the top talent that could make their marks this weekend at the 16th annual event.
Emily Bush, Saratoga Springs (NY) – This year’s meet will include our team champion from the 2022 Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) with Saratoga Springs coming to town. As a junior last year, Bush was the top harrier for the Blue Streaks and is our favorite for individual honors this weekend. Bush clocked 17:52.30 at NXN to place 30th among the best runners in the country. She was the Section 2 cross-country champion last year where she was timed in a PR of 17:41.70. On the track, she has all-time bests of 4:29 for 1,500 meters, 10:21 for 3,200m and 17:06.49 for the 5K, which she did to place fifth at the New Balance Nationals this past June. Bush has already broken 18 minutes this season, winning a dual meet last week in 17:44.72, 30 second ahead of teammate Alycia Hart. The Saratoga Springs standout will be attending Providence College next fall. That should give her added motivation to put on a show in a state she’ll soon be calling home for her next four years.
Alycia Hart, Saratoga Springs (NY) – Hart’s another runner that we’re expecting to be among the lead pack. She was the No. 3 runner for the Blue Streaks last year and placed 42nd at NXN where she ran 18:04.90. She was seventh at the NYSPHSAA – New York State Championships in 2022, a meet she placed fourth at as a sophomore a year earlier. Watch out for Hart in the closing stages of the race. She has sub 60-second 400m speed and has done 1:40 for 600m. Hart recently ran 18:14 to take runner-up honors behind Bush in their dual meet last week.
Anya Belisle, Saratoga Springs (NY) – Could the team title be determined after the first few runners cross the line? It could happen. With Belisle also in the field, Saratoga Springs has the ability to have its first three runners among the top seven. Belise was the No. 4 runner for the Blue Streaks at NXN where she had her PR of 18:15.30, an effort that placed her 59th among the nation’s best. She was fourth at NXN-NY last year placing ahead of Bush and Hart with a time of 18:31.70 on the difficult 5K of Bowdoin Park. Belisle is also a sub five-minute miler, clocking 4:59.64 at the Glenn B. Loucks Games in mid May.
Liv & Tess Sherry, Conard (CT) – The last name should sound familiar. The twin sisters are the younger siblings of former course record holder and national champion Gavin Sherry and his talented twin brother Callum, both of who are sophomores at Stanford. After swimming for the last two years, Liv and Tess have decided the leave the pool for the dirt trails. Much like they found on the track, we expect the two juniors to endure equal success on the uneven terrain. This will be the first major meet for the Conard teammates and don’t be surprised to see them break up the potential party up front with Saratoga Springs. in a dual meet on Tuesday, Tess and Liv went 1-2 with times of 18:19 and 18:31, respectively. Tess was the State Open 1,600m winner this past spring where she ran 4:48.77, the fourth fastest time in the state’s history. She also has bests of 2:11.45 for 800m and 4:49.20 for the mile. Liv, who owns a 4:51.68 PR for mile, was the State Open 1K champion during the winter and also a runner-up for 800m in the spring where she had a best of 2:11.78. Based on their credentials and their recent start in cross country, we expect the Sherry twins will be front and center this weekend with the ability to challenge our leaders.
Paige Sheppard, Union Catholic (NJ) – Keep your eye on this runner. Sheppard is only a freshmen, but has already shown great promise in her young career. As an eighth-grader last year, the Union Catholic phenom ran 2:07.97 for 800m and 4:49.79 for the mile. Her 800m earned her an eighth-place finish at the New Balance Nationals in June and her sub 4:50 produced a victory in the junior high race at the Brooks PR Invitational a few days earlier. In other words, she’s not intimidated when it comes to high-level meets like this weekend. Last week, Sheppard won the 5K at the Trials Of Miles XC Opening Night in her home state, clocking a PR of 17:53.68. We believe she has a legitimate chance to pull off a victory this weekend. It’s not too far-fetched.
Carmen Luisi, Holliston (MA) – This will be the first race of the season for Luisi, the two-time defending MIAA Division 2 champion. She was dealing with shin splints that forced her to miss the outdoor season, but word is it’s now behind her and she’s focused on a solid senior season. At her best, Luisi is a sub 18-minute runner, especially on a fast course like Goddard Park.
Macey Shriner, Plymouth North (MA) – Shriner is another talented runner from the Bay State. She tied for seventh with Barnstable’s Ava Bullock in this race last year with a time of 19:10.0. She was third at the Div. 2C Championships last year and is a five-minute miler with 59-second speed for the 400m and a 2:15 best for the 800m. A few weeks ago, Shriner placed fourth at the Vineyard XC Invitational.
Katie Sobieraj, Oliver Ames (MA) – Sobieraj was the top MA finishers at last year’s meet, placing fourth overall with a time of 18:37. She concluded her fall season by taking eighth at the Div. 1C Championships and tenth overall at the Meet of Champions. During the track season, she primarily focused on the mile where she was consistently under 5:10 with a best of 5:04.
Ava Bullock, Barnstable (MA) – As stated, Byullock tied fir seventh with Shriner at last year’s Championship race. She was eighth at the Div. 1B Championships and MOC, both times running under 18:50. In track, she had a best of 11:07.30 for the two mile, an effort that earned her a silver medal at the Div. 2 Championships.
Maddie O’Neill, Narragansett (RI) – O’Neill was sixth in the Varsity 2 race at last year’s meet. She ran a 5K best of 18:24.50 on a quick 5K course at the Glennon Twilight Invitational in Barnstable and was seventh at the RI State Meet. O’Neill did not compete at the Injury Fund Carnival at the beginning of the month, but did come out on top in a Southern Divisional matchup on Sept. 11 where she ran 20:04.
Kiley DeFusco, Cumberland (RI) – DeFusco leads a Clipper squad that have potential to place high this weekend. Especially over the last year, she has proven she has the talent to prosper in a competitive race like this weekend. She looked smooth and relaxed in winning her race at the Injury Fund Carnival where she coasted to a time of 20:03.24. During her sophomore season in 2022-23, DeFusco finished second at the Class Championships and was tenth at the State Meet. The Clipper junior, who competes on the swim team during the winter months, is coming off an outstanding outdoor campaign where she had best of 4:48.69 for the 1,500m and 10:18.42 for the 3K, which she did to place third at the states. We believe this could be a breakthrough race for DeFusco where a time in the high 18-minute, low 19-minute range is possible.
Who are the top teams that will answer the gun on Saturday? It clear that only two teams will be battling for the team title – Saratoga Springs and Union Catholic. As we mentioned, Saratoga Springs is the defending NXN champion. From that squad, the Blue Streaks lost just two runners with the bulk of its roster coming back, including 1-3-5 finishers – Bush, Hart and Belisle. Union Catholic could certainly pose a challenge to their neighboring rival. The Vikings, who most notable alumni is Olympic 400m hurdle champion and world record-holder Sydney McLaughlin, are currently ranked No. 1 in New Jersey. At the recents Trials of Miles meet, Union Catholic’s top four ran 18:35 or faster.
How about the other spots on the podium? Cumberland (RI) brings a solid crew to Goddard. The Clippers were second at last year’s State Meet and have five of their top seven returning, including two all-staters. There’s also East Greenwich, another top squad from the Ocean State. The Avengers are the defending state champions. They were eighth in this race last year.
From MA, there’s Oliver Ames. In the recent BSR/HOKA Power Rankings, the Tigers were No. 4. Last year, Oliver Ames was third in this race. The Tigers went on to capture the Div. 1C title and finished fourth overall at the MOC. Acton-Boxborough, ranked No. 6 in the Div. 1 Power Rankings, have its top five returning from last year. Consistent MA power Lexington returns this weekend after placing sixth overall last fall. The Minutemen are currently among the top 15 in Div. 1 this season.