A few surprises for Skippers cross country team
The girls had been reigning state champions for 5 years, from 2000-2004, but lost the title in 2005 to Coventry. They won it back last year in dramatic fashion, placing five of ten runners in the top ten and the remaining two in the top 28 at the state meet.
The loss of three key seniors, Cailtin Crawford, Siobhan Breagy and Mary Najarian, had some speculating whether the Skippers will be able to hold onto the top spot against a tough LaSalle team. The Skippers talent pool in distance running has traditionally run deep and this year is no exception.
"We are deeper than I thought we were going to be," coach Keven O'Neil said. "Some of the younger athletes are running very well."
In the Roy Varsity 1 race, NK placed all seven of their runners in the top 10. Alexa Mazur finished in the top spot with a time of 20:27. Just 13 seconds behind Mazur was islander Erin Brennan with a time of 20:27. Junior Ali Stasiuk trailed Brennan by just 4 seconds and Katy Lynch, last year's freshman state champion, finished with a time of 20:51, for a sweep of the top four spots.
Monica Black, in sixth, Nicole DiCristoforo, in ninth, and tenthplace finisher Jackie Owensby rounded out the top 10 for a first place finish for the Skippers.
O'Neil said Brennan's performance this year is the key to the team's success.
"She needs to realize how great she is and once she does that, there is no stopping her," he said.
The JV team also took home top honors in their race. Five runners finished in the top 10, with sophomore Becky Morley finishing first with a time of 21:26. She was followed by Kelsey Evans, Chelsea Tetrault, and Jamestowner Caitlin Downing, with a time of 22:30.
In probably the most exciting part of the contest, islander Emily Lester raced stride-for-stride to the finish with LaSalle's Taryn Souza, and edged her by a toe for a finish of 23:41.15, to Souza's 23:41.34.
"Emily probably ran the race of her life. She is really starting to step it up this year," the coach said.
He also commented on local Nicole Ethier, who knocked three minutes off of her previous race time, being the number one surprise of the day. "Nicole was a passenger along for the ride and now she is definitely in the driver's seat," O'Neil said.
Jackie DiCristoforo, whose older sister, Nicole, is on the varsity team, came in third place in the freshman race and was the first freshman to finish for the Skippers.
Emily Lipsitz put in her strongest performance and finished sixth overall. Islander Maddie Doherty also had a great race for the freshman, finishing the 2.55- mile race in 20:48.
"Our freshman team is large this year, and they are definitely dedicated and talented enough to carry our team into the future," the coach said.
Helping to coach that large freshman team, as well as all of the other runners, is Jamestowner Abby Anthony.
"Abby has been a great addition to our coaching staff. She brings in a woman's view of things and is a very talented runner and triathelete," O'Neil said.
Anthony, who was an All- American runner, was coached by O'Neil in junior high school and said she has enjoyed working with the team this year.
"They are such great girls, so enthusiastic and you never hear them complain," she said. "They have so much potential, not just as runners, but in life. So many of them have such great leadership skills."
As the team navigates the season under the leadership of O'Neil and Anthony, they know what their goal is-to race strong at every opportunity and to be standing on top of the podium in November.
"This team is definitely in the running for a varsity state title, a JV state title and a freshman state title," O'Neil concluded. "A coach can't ask more from a team than that."