Andover Girls Cross Country’s top three runners, Carmen Bango ’16, Captain Peyton McGovern ’16 and Michaela Jones ’18, finished within 30 seconds of each other at the New England Preparatory School Track Association (NEPSTA) Division I Cross Country Championships (Interschols), clinching the championship title for the second year in a row. The impressive postseason victory at Taft capped off the team’s undefeated 6-0 season.
Bango, McGovern and Jones finished with times of 18:58, 19:11 and 19:18, respectively. Andover’s three frontrunners finished almost half a minute in front of any other runner in the competition, highlighting Andover’s impressive pack running tactic.
Marina Hunt ’17, who was Andover’s fourth fastest runner with a time of 20:41, said, “The strength of our team is our pack of [Bango, Jones and McGovern]. They all finished within seconds of each other, and they led from the very start – I could see them in front of me throughout the entire race.”
Throughout the week before the championship event, Andover toned down its training to avoid fatigue. Rather than exert itself physically, the team focused more on getting to know the Taft course and preparing for the mental challenges of raceday.
Bango said, “The week leading up to Interschols, we practiced with just the Interschols team, which helped us bond even more – even though we already became so close throughout the season. We worked on a lot of visualizing the race and just preparing mentally for it. Physically, we did faster workouts, but with less volume.”
Grace Rademacher ’18 added, “We had been focused on Interschols all season, so we were trying to stay confident but smart and plan out the race. We tried to make sure we knew the competition and the course map, and each member of the team was given a sheet to write out their goals for the race, team-wise and individually. There was a large focus on simply being present in the moment of the race, and running it without fear.”
Heading into the race, the team expected its greatest challenge to come from its perennial rival Exeter. Nonetheless, Andover was confident about its chances due to its undefeated record and strong performance throughout the season.
Bango said, “Going into the race, our varsity team knew we were really strong contenders to win Interschols.”
“Exeter is obviously our rival school, and they were our biggest competition this season, so at Interschols it was the same thing. The race was kind of like a duel between Andover and Exeter for a lot of the race,” said Hunt.
Jones added, “Since the Varsity team beat Exeter the weekend before Interschols, we felt pretty confident about our ability to beat them at Interschols. There were a few teams that we had never raced before that we didn’t know much about, so we knew we would still all need to have strong races to win.” Beyond facing tough competition, Andover also encountered the unexpected challenges of heavy winds and low temperatures. The girls, however, did not allow the weather to stifle their spirit or performance. “It was so windy that even the coaches were saying they thought it would have a bigger impact on our times,” said Hunt.
Bango added, “It was very, very windy and cold that day –– definitely the coldest race of the season. But throughout the race we just pushed each other really hard, and all our hard work definitely paid off.”
Overall, Andover’s greatest assets were its team camaraderie and positivity.
Bango said, “I think our team did a good job of supporting each other and keeping positive attitudes during the race, which is so crucial for runners because so much of your performance is based on what you’re thinking about during the race. You don’t have any room to doubt yourself, so I think our team did a good job of keeping that mindset.”
Hunt added, “Everyone did a really good job of motivating one another and supporting one another and turning the race into something fun rather than stressful so that everyone wanted to be there; it wasn’t something they were obligated to do, but rather something they were excited to do. There was no fear of your teammates being disappointed in you because no matter how the day goes, everyone is interested in not only the result but in the process and the experience and being with the team. It’s special that there were no negative attitudes on our team.”
Reflecting on its championship win and season as a whole, Andover was very satisfied with its performance.
“I am extremely proud of our team, and happy that even with 50 girls we managed to be cohesive and unified. Being repeat champions was exciting,” said Rademacher.
Jones added, “In the end, we were just the strongest team. It really helped that we got places one through three, but everyone ran their hardest for the team and it was great for it to pay off for the second year in a row.”