Natalie Mako, Amherst Regional each fifth in state cross country
Recorder/Geoff Bluh Frontiers Natalie Mako crosses the finish line in the girls Division II State XC race at Northfield Mountain on Saturday.
NORTHFIELD — For the first time all season, Natalie Mako crossed a finish line while staring at the back of another runner Saturday.
The Frontier Regional senior came up short in her bid to finish the season unbeaten as she crossed the finish line fifth at the state Division 2 Cross Country Championships at the Northfield Mountain Recreation Area.
Before Saturday, Mako had won every race she appeared in this season – seven regular season meets, the PVIAC Championships, and the western Massachusetts Division 2 crown – in convincing fashion. She broke records in six regular season meets and in each of the first two postseason events.
That led her to become one of the favorites in Saturday’s race, which featured 178 Division 2 runners from all over the state. Had she won, Mako would have become the first girl from western Massachusetts to accomplish the feat since 2003.
Junior Abbey McNulty of Bishop Feehan ran away from the rest of the competition on the hilly 5K course in a time of 18 minutes, 20.72 seconds. Sophomore Erin Dietz of Bedford was second in 18:31.65, followed by Tyngsborough sophomore Kerri Keohane in third with a time of 18:56.03.
Mako headed into the final stretch in a race against Jaylan Fraser-Mines, an eighth-grader from Tyngsborough. Fraser-Mines wound up passing Mako in the final 100 yards to take fourth, while Mako was fifth at 19:11.98.
“I wish I could have done better,” Mako said. “I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, and I just wish I could have done better. To be with all these girls is great, but …”
Mako did manage to shave eight seconds off her time from a week earlier when she won the sectional Division 2 meet on the same course by 44 seconds.
Frontier coach Bob Smith said the fact that she was able to better her earlier time is even more impressive due to the grueling conditions Northfield Mountain presents.
“This course punishes you, and it takes a long, long time to recover, longer than a week,” he said. “So for her to be (almost)10 seconds better than last week, and for her to run the best western Mass. time here today, she has nothing to be sad about. She has nothing left, and that’s the way you want it to be in the end. You have nothing left in the tank. And we’re really proud of her.”
In the Division 1 girls race, western Massachusetts champion Amherst Regional finished fifth.
Hurricane senior Mel Devoney was the first runner from western Massachusetts to cross the finish line with a sixth-place time of 19:25.13.
Catarina Rocha, a senior from Peabody, won in 18:06.12. Christine Davis of Acton-Boxborough was second at 18:51.02.
Devoney was joined by teammates Emmy Zimmerman (29th in 20:09.43), Sara Vannah (42nd, 20:20.49), Anna Kaplan (62nd, 20:41.23) and Emma Gonzalez (87th, 21:02.64).
Vannah said she was proud of how her team finished.
“I’m thrilled,” she said. “We came in here with high expectations, and I think we pushed ourselves as hard as we could. It was a really tough field this year and I think as a team we did really well.”
In the Division 1 boys race, Amherst junior Ryan Stender had the best finish of any local runner in 50th place at 17:07.87.