Girls Cross Country Competes Despite PandemicNov 30, 2020 11:50AM ● By Christopher Tremblay
The Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc amongst high school sports, cancelling the spring seasons throughout the state, while forcing the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) to make numerous revisions to fall sports.
Football, volleyball, and cheerleading were moved to February, but all other sports took to their respective fields with new rule changes.
The girls’ cross country Tri-Valley League was broken up into two groups with schools having five matches against only those schools in their proximity. On the actual courses, groups of five runners per team are sent out in waves wearing masks whenever near other runners and meets are only to take place on Saturdays.
The Ashland girls’ cross country team has only eight runners on its squad, but Coach Chris Avery believes her girls are prepared to compete in this abbreviated season.
“The girls got together in small groups prior to the season and ran just in case we had a season. I believe that they were more prepared this season than they were last year,” the clocker Coach said. “I think they were just excited to have a season after the spring got cancelled and were able to run. This is a close-knit group of girls and their attitude has been great.”
Thus far in the early goings of the season Ashland currently finds themselves at 1-2 having defeated Bellingham while losing to Medway and Hopkinton. They were scheduled to square off against Norton, but that was moved to the end of the season due to contact with the virus in one of the schools, not necessarily with a runner. In addition to the Norton contest, Ashland will have to square off against Holliston; both teams have strong distance runners, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the Clocker girls do.
“In the words of (New England Patriots Coach) Bill Belichick, we are taking things one week at a time,” Avery said. “The girls feel good about how they’ve run so far. I don’t think they were expecting this (being 1-0-1) at this point, they are just happy to be running and having a good time.”
Leading the Clockers on the course this fall are junior captains Emilia Agostinelli, Ellie McSweeney, and Brooke Boulanger. Agostinelli has been the team’s top runner over the past two seasons and runs the course in 22:44, which is usually a minute over the next Ashland runner to cross the finish line.
McSweeney (23:16) and Boulanger (23:27) are usually are inseparable whenever they run and will finish third and fourth for the Clockers.
Freshman Nora Quitt has been running an average of 23:04 good enough to be the team’s number two runner behind Agostinelli and has really impressed the Coach thus far.
“Nora had a fantastic season last year as a middle school runner,” the Coach said. “She’ll usually start out real strong and lead the pack before Emilia passes her to take over the lead. Nora’s still young and hasn’t learned how to pace herself yet.”
Meredith Reilly (23:59) and Ella Fong (25:10) make up another group that likes to run together at practice, but during the meets with five girls going out in each wave Reilly finds herself in the first group to go out. Fong, the team’s sixth runner, goes out in the second wave and doesn’t have anyone to push her the way Reilly does so her time is slower than it would be with competition.
Rounding out the team are sophomores Maggie Long and Sophia Kriegsman.
According to the Coach, having such a small team always makes it tough to be competitive against some of the bigger schools, but likes the attitudes her girls have when they take to the course.
“Covid messed with a lot of things this year, one of them being having no middle schoolers running and I’m hoping the lost season doesn’t cause them to not come back next year,” Avery said. “Coming into the season I really didn’t have too much of an expectation, but we are definitely doing much better than in the past. We have an awesome bunch of girls that all enjoy running and being only 8 of them are rather close to one another.”
Just being able to run with their friends is much more than the Ashland cross country team could ask for during the current situation; having won one meet and tying another is a bonus.