Aftter winning the Division 1A title a week earlier kind of convincingly, Aoife Sholvin had a bold plan prior to defense of her title at Saturday’s Meet of Champions.
“I wanted to try and run from the front and kind of see how fast I could go and see if I could lead the whole race,” said the Cambridge Rindge & Latin senior. “I also just want to build a gap so I didn’t have to rely on a kick at the end.”
Following that plan to perfection over 3.1 miles at Fort Devens, Sholvlin claimed her second straight Div. 1 crown. The CB&L standout was timed in a crisp 18 minutes, 6.29 seconds, a comfortable 20-plus seconds ahead of Oliver Ames’ Katie Sobieraj, who was second at 18:29.21.
Near the midway point, Shovlin held a slight lead over Westfield’s Megan Moran (third, 18:29.69) and the chase pack, one that included Sobieraj, Brookline’s Lucia Werner (fourth, 18:33.82), and Weymouth’s Gracie Richard (fifth, 18:44.48). By the time she exited the woods on the second of three loops of the challenging terrain, that gap increased to nearly 100 meters and she was well on her way to her another significant victory in a championship race. Shovlin captured the divisional state meet by more than 30 seconds.
That performance increased her confidence that a gun-to-wire win was possible at the MOC.
“Coming into the postseason, my league meet kind of didn’t go that well so I was kind of extra determined at the divisionals,” she said. “Once I had a good race there, it kind of gave me the confidence to run from the front today.”
Pre-race favorite Oliver Ames left no doubt that a title was emanate on the Willow Park course. The Pirates scored 88 points to secure their win. Arlington was a distant second with 172 points. Oliver Ames’ top four runners crossed the line before Arlington’s first to settle the verdict quickly.
Behind Sobieraj were Annie Reilly (17th, 19;28.38), Braelyn Graham (20th, 19:34.05), Hannah Dupill (21st, 19:34.45), and Iole Apostoli (37th, 19:52.96).
“it was a combination of so much hard work and years of working harder for those girls,” said coach Kyle Souza. “I thought they ran really strong in the middle stages of the race. The pain sets in and it gets hard. I was so happy with the way they responded with every inch and every body they could possibly take. I just couldn’t be happier.”
Souza had nothing but praised for the girls on his squad, especially Sobieraj, who has been his No. 1 the last few years.
“Katie ran a monstrous race. She was really smart early on,” he said. “Obviously when you start talking about the top five, top 10 runners in the state, it’s a very, very tough field. There is no easy bodies at that point. The last 2K of her race, I thought was absolutely brilliant. You know she had to be hurting by then. She just kept digging for one more gear.”
With a pack of four runners still in contention for the title with a little more than a half-mile remaining, Maggie Kuchman decided it was time to go. That split decision paid dividends at the end as the Holliston junior won the first major meet of her career with a time of 18:38.71. She finished about 30 meters ahead of Marblehead’s Marri O’Connell, who ws second at 18;43.89.
“I definitely knew there was going to a pack all the time and every girls was going to go out fast,” Kuchman said. “I saw kind of an opening after the downhill and I was just like it’s now or never. I just had to go or I didn’t think I’d make it.”
The Panther standout was right in her assumption about the pack as she was among a lead group of at least five to six runners within strides of each other through most of the race, one that included O’Connell Whitinsville Christian freshman Emily Flagg (third, 18:54.68), Canton’s Lauren Raffeto (fourth, 18:58.54). Nashoba’s Caroline Collins and two-time defending champion Carmen Luisi, who was still feeling the affects from last week’s illness and had to drop out with less than a half-mile left.
Kuchman, a runner-up in four of her five invitational and championship races this past fall, including the Bob Glennon Twilight Invitational where she ran her best of 17:48.0, was thrilled with her victory, and admittedly, a bit surprised given the competition.
“It feels great,” she said. “I wasn’t really expecting (it). I knew that pack at the top was going to be very, very tight throughout the race, which it was. Props to everyone for running it. It was a very hard race, definitely.”
“Maggie executed that race perfectly! I am so happy for her,” head coach Jaime Murphy said. “She has worked so hard this season and it paid off in the best way possible.”
In a close battle with Dover Sherborn in the team competition, Wakefield was able to take the hardware with a 128-153 victory. The Warriors held a scant six-point advantage over their rival after the first four runners.
“Our effort, our attitude was fantastic,” said head coach Karen Barrett. “I think we went into it with confidence, but we knew what we had to do and not afraid to work hard. They understand the concept of pack running and they executed absolutely to perfection. Our saying for our team is no guts, not glory. I couldn’t be more proud of this group of girls.”
Lily Sailee led the way for Wakefield by taking seventh overall in 19:29.26. After Sailee, just 32 seconds separated the next four spots with Charlotte O’Neil (29th, 20:49.10), Grace Brackett (30th, 20:54.33), Liza Bangston (45th, 21:15.21), and Julia Welch (49th, 21:21.14).
Prior to her race, Kaylie Dalgar was hoping for a top-five finish.
The Pentucket senior got that, and a lot more in the first race of the day. With three runners still in contention with about 200 meters remaining, it was Dalgar that had the most at the end, winning the race with a time of 18:57.12. Finishing second was West Bridgewater’s Ella Dunbury at 18:59.62. Oxford freshman Cameron Davis was third in 19:02.82.
“It feels amazing,” Dalgar said. “I kind of fell to the ground at the finish. I just couldn’t believe that I won.”
The Bromfield School won a close 125-138 decision over Lenox Memorial for the team title. Evelyn Wool was the top finisher by taking fifth with a time of 19:16.04. Rosie Bradley (16th, 20:13.09), Isabel Jackson (29th, 20:52.48), Emma Squire (48th, 21:34.63), Abby Wool (68th, 22:00.84) completed the scoring.