Brookline finishes 10 points ahead of Wellesley for boys title, while Weymouth take a close one against Needham in the girls’ competition.
By JOE REARDON
WRENTHAM – As a senior harrier looking to compete at a high level, Newton North’s Gabriel Grove is more than just a little happy with what the Bay State Conference offers. There’s plenty of tough harriers to go up against along with some elite teams.
“It’s a privilege to run in this conference,” said Grove. “There are a lot of great runners and Brookline is the best team in the state and one of the best in the country.”
There’s little doubt that Grove is ready for the championship portion of the season after his dominant performance at Saturday’s Bay State Conference Championships.
The hot temperatures that affected so many runners didn’t slow Grove one bit over the rolling Wrentham Developmental Center layout. The talented Tiger senior, who has mile and 2-mile personal bests of 4:26 and 9:21, passed the mile in 4:49 with Wellesley’s Stephen Goehringer and Eli Merritt running comfortably with him. Grove waited until the halfway mark to make a move and put daylight between himself and the two harriers. He extended his lead and leaped across the finish line in a quick time of 15:47.8 for the win. Runner-up Goehringer was also under 16-minutes in 15:58.
Altamo Aschkenasy led Brookline’s juggernaut by placing third in 16:00.6. The Warriors ran brilliantly with their top-five scoring runners finishing within 31 seconds of each other to take the team title with 39 points. Wellesley was a strong second with 41 points.
But it was Grove who owned the day.
He has made the leap into the group of elite harriers in the state and was confident coming in that he’d be one of a handful of runners up front. “I knew I was going to be in the front pack,” he said. “As soon as I got to halfway, I knew I had it. I felt more relaxed (with a 4:49 first mile) than a lot of other races. This is the first race we’d tapered for all season.”
Along with Grove, Sean Kerin was the lone harrier in the top 10 who wasn’t from Brookline or Wellesley. The Walpole runner had a great day, taking ninth in 16:20.3.
With decisive victories at the Frank Kelley and Twilight Invitationals, Brookline’s Lucia Werner was the pre-race favorite on the girls’ side, but there were a handful of runners capable of posting a win.
Saturday belonged to Greta Hammer.
The talented Needham senior shook free of Werner and Weymouth’s Gracie Richard after the 2-mile mark and extended her lead. Hammer was well clear of the field as she crossed the finish line of the 5K course in 18:16.6. Richard powered home for the silver medal in 18:39.8. She was ahead of an exhausted Werner, who took third in 18:55.4.
Hammer exacted some revenge over Werner, who defeated the Needham harrier on her home course in a dual meet on Sep. 20, winning by six seconds over 3.1 miles, 18:40 to 18:46.
A talented lead pack of a half dozen passed the first mile in 5:50, but the pace and heat whittled the bunch down to Hammer, Werner and Richard by 2-miles. Hammer took the lead for good with a surge shortly after, and the race was over.
“The mile felt good,” said Hammer, who was third last year. “It was definitely hot. I wanted to run with the leaders and work my way up a little bit into the lead. I was just hoping I could stay in front once I took the lead.”
The team competition couldn’t have been tighter.
Weymouth and Needham finished with identical scores of 67 points, but it was the Wildcats who came away with the win in the tiebreaker as their sixth runner finished one place ahead of the Rockets’ No. 6 girl. Ciara Evans of Newton North was a strong fourth in 19:03.8 and Bridget Reidy of Wellesley rounded out the top five in 19:10.1. Framingham’s top runner, Sasha Lamakina, was eighth in 19:16 and Braintree’s Caitlyn Chang ran well for ninth in 19:18.8. Emma Tuxbury of Wellesley finished 10th in 19:21.7.