Emily Flagg could hear the footsteps.
Just as she’s done for most of her races this season, the Whitinsville Christian fabulous freshman took charge at this past weekend’s Division 2C Championships. But throughout her journey on the moderately-challenging five-kilometer course at Wrentham, she could hear the footsteps of her closest pursuer.
“There were definitely times I could hear her and could see her on turns, so I definitely knew she was there,” said Flagg, making reference to Groton Dunstable’s Georgia Brooks. “She was definitely pushing me.”
She heard the footsteps, but they never got past her.
On a sunny but brisk day for racing, Flagg once again reigned supreme on what’s been a fantastic season for the Crusaders’ frosh, breaking the tape with a winning time of 18:23.8. Brooks held on for second at 18:36.2. Apponequet’s Hailey Desmarais also joined the sub-19 club, settling for third in 18:58.8.
Flagg’s victory keeps the title in the family, coming a year after twin sister Abby Flagg won the crown as an eighth-grader in 2022. It also continues a string of impressive performances by the carefree runner, who’s also scored big wins this fall at the Ocean State Invitational, Bob Glennon Twilight Invitational and the Dual Valley Conference Championship. In her final preparation for the divisional meet on Nov. 4, she placed third at the MSTCA Frank Mooney Coaches Invitational where she clocked a PR of 18:08.7.
Flagg admitted that winning Saturday’s meet was never even a thought when she started the season back in September, one that began with a win in the Freshman 3K race at the Vineyard XC Invitational in early September.
“I did not expect this at all,” she said. “This is crazy. I don’t know what I was expecting out of this season. I was just here to have fun. Being here is really crazy for me.”
Flagg is now focusing her attention on this weekend’s Meet of Champions where she has the ability to challenge with the frontrunners on the 5K layout of Fort Devens.
In the team competition, the day turned out extra special for Flagg and her Crusader teammates. Whitinsville Christian was able to hold off Dover Sherborn, breaking up a 77-all tiebreaker with the placement of their No. 6 runner.
Nashoba Regional’s Caroline Collins was able to win a close race with Canton’s Lauren Raffetto in the Div. 2B race. The determined senior finished with a time of 18:21.4 Raffeto was second at 18:23.9. Holliston teammates Maggie Kuchman (third, 18:30.2) and Annabelle Lynch (fourth, 18:53.0) took the next two spots. Two-time defending champion and Holliston senior Carmen Luisi was among the leaders throughout the race but faded to tenth by the finish with a time of 19:58.0.
Collins maintained contact with the leaders throughout the race and started to make her move with about 800m left.
“Throughout the race I was like, ‘Caroline, this is your race. You can do it. You’re feeling good.'” she recalled. “There were great conditions today. I didn’t race last weekend so I’m fresh with my legs and I just started to taper and really focus on being recovered and ready for these last few weeks.”
Collins is looking ahead to the MOC, a meet she placed second last year to Luisi.
“I’m excited,” she said.
Wakefield went home with the team hardware with a 91-108 victory over Newburyport.. Northampton was third with 111 points.
“These girls put in so much work,” Wakefield coach Karen Barrett said. “They believed in each other. They held each other accountable. I couldn’t be more proud what they did.”
Marblehead’s Marri O’Connell turned in the fastest time of the day in the Div. 2A race. In a gun-to-wire victory, the Magicians’ sophomore was dominant against her competition. She held a sizable 27-second lead on eventual second-place finisher Ila Zollo by the 3K mark and increased that cushion even more by the time she reached the finish line with her winning 18:11.0 clocking. Zollo was second at 18:52.8. Minnechaug’s Kay Dickson was third in 19:23.7.
O’Connell’s latest victory bodes well for the upcoming MOC and continues a stellar season for the talented underclassmen. It’s one that’s included a PR of 17:47.99 from the Twilight Invitational last month and a victory at the Northeastern Conference Championships.
“I think the season is going really well this year,” she said. “I am really proud at what I’ve done and really excited to do well at (the Meet of CHampions).”
In the team battle, just five points separated the top three schools with Melrose escaping with the win. The Red Hawks earned the banner by scoring 86 points. Longmeadow was second with 90 points, just one ahead of third-place Walpole.