Sophia Jacobs-Townsley places fourth, leads Amherst to fourth at All-State Cross Country championships

  • Amherst Regional senior Sophia Jacobs-Townsley signs her National Letter of Intent to run cross country at Boston University, Friday at the high school. COURTESY PAM WHITE/AMHERST REGIONAL

  • SOPHIA JACOBS-TOWNSLEY

For the Gazette
Published: 11/18/2018 9:10:32 PM

WESTFIELD — It was another top-10 finish for Amherst Regional’s Sophia Jacobs-Townsley, her fourth in as many years at the All-State Cross Country meet.

Jacobs-Townsley led Amherst to fourth place in Division 1, in a race held in less than ideal conditions, Sunday at Stanley Park’s 3.1-mile course. She crossed the finish line fourth overall in 19 minutes 23 seconds.

Jacobs-Townsley was 10th as a freshman, third as a sophomore, and fourth as a junior and senior.

Her time Sunday was well off the WMass course record of 17:56 she set in winning her fourth straight sectional championship last weekend.

The state meet was held less than three days after a snow storm.

“These were some of the toughest conditions I’ve run in,” Jacobs-Townsley said. “It felt like your feet weren’t moving.”

The Hurricanes weren’t in a mood to celebrate their lofty accomplishment after senior standout Julia Hopley collapsed at the finish line. Hopley, who finished 75th in 21:37, was alert, but needed to be carried to her parents’ car before going to Noble Hospital.

For Jacobs-Townsley, this was the final state cross country race of her storied high school career. She will attend Boston University next year and run cross country.

“BU recruited me and it was my top choice,” Jacobs-Townsley said. “I’m excited to run for them and also being close to home.”

No one was expected to beat Natick’s Grace Connolly. She easily outdistanced the pack with a time of 18:14 — more than a minute better than runner-up Margaret Donahue of Wellesley.

The good news for the rest of the Commonwealth is that Connolly will graduate. The bad news is her sister, sophomore Kate Connolly, will be back after she finished third in 19:23, a mere four seconds ahead of Jacobs-Townsley.

The conditions were tough to combat. Jacobs-Townsley wore spikes, which helped a little.

“Once we got into the woods, it was very muddy,” she said. “You don’t know what other people are going to do. You just need to run your own race.”

She found herself in a pack midway through the race.

“I didn’t expect the pack to be so big and it was tough to get around because of the snow,” she said. “Before the race, I was thinking that I might stay with Grace, but the focus for today was the team.”

Jacobs-Townsley will head to VanCortlandt Park in New York to run in Saturday’s Foot Locker Northeast Regional.

“Being a part of such a strong team culture is something I’ll always remember,” she said.

The conditions could have been worse if not for the yeoman’s effort of meet director Tom Stewart. He spent between 10 and 15 hours preparing the course with his snowblower and used red spray paint to mark the roots in the woods portion of the course.

Mary Yount, of Northampton, turned in a top-20 finish. The senior placed 19th in 20:16. Teammate Rosie Ingmann was 46th in 21:06 as the Blue Devils finished 17th with 347 points.

Amherst had several runners step up to secure the fourth-place finish. Isabelle Shepard was 26th in 20:28 and Erin Clotfelter was 29th in 20:33.

Zada Forde took 54th in 21:17 and Maddie Shea was 102nd in 22:05. Vivian Jacobs-Townsley was 116th in 22:20.

South Hadley senior Jocelyne Rondeau placed 96th in 22 minutes.

Natick won with 113 points, followed by Concord-Carlisle (121), Billerica (132) and Amherst (153).

In the Division 2 girls race, a pair of underclassmen stood out for Hampshire Regional. Freshman Sylvia Mahon-Moore was 76th in 22:28 and sophomore Madeline Jenkins was 104th in 23:05.

In the boys Division 1 race, the anticipated battle between Amherst’s Jack Yanko and West Springfield’s Gabe Medina never materialized. Medina took third in 16:34, but Yanko struggled with the course and finished 28th in 17:11.

“Jack’s disappointed,” Amherst coach Chris Gould. “This wasn’t his best race, but I’m sure he’ll bounce back net week (at Northeast Regionals). He had trouble with his footing.”

Yanko and the Hurricanes had high expectations after winning their 15th sectional title and 10th under Gould. But it just wasn’t their day. Amherst finished 14th.

“Our No. 3 and No. 4 runners ran great,” Gould said.

Senior Aidan Shea ran a strong race and 67th in 17:46.

“This was a tough course and a lot changed because of the snow,” said Shea, who ran Stanley Park for the 11th time. “It’s always tough at states and we just wanted to run hard.”

Shea and Yanko have been friends since they played under-10 soccer.

“We’ve stuck together and it’s been fun working with him for a bunch of years,” Shea said. “We’ve got a great legacy and our juniors will carry on.”

Amherst’s Willem Goff was 101st in 18:10 to help Amherst.

Northampton placed 17th with 399 points. The Blue Devils were led by Benjamin Gordon Sniffen, who was 59th in 17:39, while teammate Tobias L’Esperance was 87th in 18:04.

Belchertown’s Evan Dunigan was 90th in 18:06.

South Hadley’s Bradyn Cote (121st) finished in 18:26, while teammate Matt O’Brien (167th) crossed in 19:16.

In boys Division 2, Hampshire Regional’s Chris Vayda was 26th in 17:51. The sectional champ was the third runner from western Mass. behind Mount Greylock teammates Jesse Seid (11th) and Josh Cheung (19th).

“I’m proud of my finish because it’s better than I’ve done,” Vayda said.

Frontier’s Carsten Carey was 33rd in 18:03.

“I should have worn spikes,” Carey said. “The conditions were legendary and everyone who ran this race will still remember it in their 40s and 50s. Every step was a battle.”

Unlike last year, the Red Hawks did not shave their heads for the race.

“Too cold,” Carey said. “This is a great way to go out and we’ve really strung something together the past few years.”

Frontier finished 15th with 370 points followed by Hampshire with 372.

Max MacFadzen was 107th (19:01) for Hampshire.

Alex Sharp was 73rd (18:39) and Peter Carey 99th (18:55) for Frontier.

Andrew Hutchinson, of Granby, was 103rd in 18:59.


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