Cross Country: Amherst wins, Northampton takes second at Div. 2 qualifiers 

  • The Amherst girls cross country team captured the MIAA Division 2A championship at the All-State qualifying meet on Sunday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/HANNAH BEVIS

  • The Northampton girls cross country team took second place in Division 2A at the All-State qualifying meet on Sunday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/HANNAH BEVIS

Staff Writer 
Published: 11/13/2022 9:19:19 PM

WESTFIELD – A chorus of shrieks sounded near the finish line at the MIAA Division 2 Cross Country state qualifying meet on Sunday afternoon. 

The Division 2A girls race had just concluded, and results were trickling out into the crowd. The Amherst girls team had just learned that not only had it qualified for the All-State meet — they’d won the 2A championship, too. 

“It was so exciting because I didn't think that we would win today. I knew we would all race well,” Amherst’s April Schilling said. “We were talking last night at our pasta dinner. We didn't even think we would get top three…. it was just such a surreal moment, especially because going into Western Mass., like the pressure was on to win, but then today it wasn't an expectation, so it was even more of a surprise.”

All year long Northampton and Amherst have been battling on the cross-country course, and that rivalry continued on Sunday at Stanley Park. Amherst took the top spot in the 2A girls race with 79 points while Northampton placed second with 86 points. Both teams were thrilled with their placements, and were looking forward to what they might accomplish at the upcoming All-State meet, scheduled for next weekend at Fort Devens.

“I keep telling them that they're amazing, that they have to be confident, they have to believe in themselves,” Northampton head coach Linda Rowbotham said. “I think now they're believing.”

Tamar Byl-Brann broke away from the top pack just before the two-mile mark and earned another individual title, crossing the finish line in 18 minutes, 42.25 seconds. Two other local competitors cracked the top 10; Northampton’s Norah Reade placed fifth overall with a time of 19:23.88 and teammate Maeve O’Neil finished ninth in 19:43.04. 

Amherst’s middle three runners sealed the win for the Hurricanes – senior Schilling was a medalist, placing 14th in 19:59.95, followed closely by Elizabeth Sawicki (16th, 20:16.24) and Isla Cusick (17th, 20:17.11).

Both Amherst’s and Northampton’s boys teams also qualified for the All-State meet, but it was a much closer call. The Hurricanes pulled out a sixth-place finish as a squad, earning 203 points, just eight points behind rival Longmeadow (195) in fifth. Northampton, sitting first out in the eighth spot with 230 points, had to wait and see if its times were good enough to earn one of two wild-card spots. Luckily for the Blue Devils, it was. 

Theodore King-Pollet was the fastest between the two teams, finishing 21st overall with a time of 16:54.44. Just behind him was Amherst’s David Pinero-Jacome, who gutted out a 27th place finish (17:06.71) in one of his more difficult races of the season. Sam Woodruff (32nd, 17:12.39) and Diego Lopez (33rd, 17:14.20) finished side-by-side for the Hurricanes, helping boost their team score to take sixth; Northampton’s Jack Kamins (46th, 17:26.10) and Davis Wheat (50th, 17:28.49), and Amherst’s Aidan Bergeron (49th, 17:28.41) also cracked the top 50. 

Holyoke’s Pablo Tapion also ran in the 2A race, finishing 113th with a time of 19:31.78. 

Back-to-back for Btown

Belchertown head coach Bill Wheeler tried very hard not to let his nerves show in front of his runners prior to Sunday. After qualifying for All-States last year as a team, their first time back there since the 1980s, Wheeler knew they had a shot to do so again. But racing can be unpredictable, so he had to hope that his runners were able to execute. 

The Orioles had a strong showing in less than ideal conditions, placing sixth as a team with 148 points, roughly 30 points better than last season’s score. The team was led by twins Trevor and Brandon Adamson, who placed 19th and 20th, respectively with times of 17:33.93 and 17:38.52. Also helping the team qualify were Derek Gould (29th, 17:50.40) and Carter Masse (31st, 17:50.86). 

It was a meaningful performance for the Orioles, now a more experienced and determined group after last year’s surprise success. After a 21st place finish at All-States in 2021, this team thinks they can better that this time around.

“That whole lead up to that week for states was just a party (last year). We took it seriously, but we were just excited to go. So we probably weren't as fresh or as solid as we could have been,” Wheeler said. “(This year) we previewed the course, we went to (Fort) Devens for an invitational just to see it, so we know what the course is like. I think if we maintain our pack running, we should be able to finish better.”

Also qualifying individually for the All-State meet was Granby’s Nathan Hutchinson, who placed 39th with a time of 18:24.03. 

In the girls 2C race, Belchertown’s Molly Bail led the Orioles and placed 41st with a time of 21:42.09.

Western Mass., Bestern Mass.

Though Amherst, Northampton and Longmeadow all consider themselves fierce rivals, it’s always a friendly competition. On Sunday, all three teams were hoping to punch their tickets for the All-State meet to represent Western Mass. against the best of the best. Like Amherst and Northampton, Longmeadow qualified both of its squads to the All-State meet. 

“There's always good spirit and sportsmanship between all of us when we have dual meets and stuff, I think it's just healthy competition,” Northampton boys coach Eric Pfalzgraf said. “It’s just pride in the region because we're all good, right? We're all kind of around the same level. So it's nice to get us in those big meets all together.” 

Div. 3 championship action

It was a solid day for the Hampshire Regional girls at the Division 3 qualifying meet at Gardner Golf Course on Sunday. 

The Raiders took second in the 3B race to earn a spot at the state meet. Kathleen Barry was the top Hampshire runner, taking third with a time of 21:06. Ellia Masenior (12th, 22:10) and Sicily Chase (18th, 22:41) also had big days for the Raiders. 

"It was really cold and wet out there but I finished and did well," Barry said. "Since we were the first race of the day the course wasn't that bad. I didn't fall but there were points I had to slow down on the hills. It wasn't my best time but it's raining and a bad course so I'll take it." 

The Hampshire boys also qualified for states, taking third in the 3B race. 

Spencer Reese took eight overall with a time of 18:01 while Dillon Neveu finished in 19th (18:57) and Tim Cahill took 20th (19:00) for the Raiders. 

"It went pretty well today," Reese said. "I was doing well so I went for it. I did a lot better than I thought I would." 

The Frontier girls took third overall in the 3B group to secure a spot in the state meet. 

Leah Gump paced the Frontier girls, finishing sixth overall with a time of 21:29. Abi Howard finished in 14th (22:21), Bianca Peura took 28th (23:03) and Sylvie DiBartolomeo earned 29th (23:06) to help the Redhawks take third. 

“It’s exciting finishing third,” Gump said. “It’s been really fun to go through a growth period as a team. We have two seventh graders who have stepped up and all of us have been improving the whole season which is exciting.” 

The Frontier boys had to deal with adversity before the 3B race even started. Luke Howard, the top Redhawk runner, got hurt before the race and was unable to participate. 

Evan Hedlund stepped up, securing an individual spot in the state meet with a 17th place finish with a time of 18:44. Erich Brown (38th, 20:04) and Oliver Brown (52nd, 20:41) were the next two Frontier runners across the finish line. 

“Our No. 1 got injured right before the race started,” Hedlund said. “I just tried to run as hard as I could the whole time. These races are exhilarating. It’s really easy to pace as well. The course felt good, some of the mud made it difficult.”

Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School earned an 11th place finish in the boys 3C race and a 16th place finish in the girls 3C race. The Gateway girls took 12th place in the 3C race while the boys took 20th in the 3C race. 

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