After a nearly undefeated 2016 season at both the Varsity and Junior Varsity levels, as well as a second place finish in New England Prep School Division I Cross Country Championships (Interschols), Andover Girls Cross Country looks to continue its dominance this fall.
Despite losing a handful of strong Seniors after last season, including record-breaking runner Post-Graduate Samantha Valentine ’17, the team will rely on strong, positive leadership from the current senior class, including Captain Grace Rademacher ’18.
Last season, the team struggled most when racing against archrival Phillips Exeter Academy. After losing to Exeter during an away meet, Andover fell to it once again at Interschols. It was the first time since 2013 that Andover did not win the championship title.
Returning runner Rhea Chandran ’19 said, “The only thing that contributed to our defeat was in the end, Exeter runners were just a few seconds faster than us, and that difference in a cross country meet is whoever can push their pack faster. That’s really what caused the loss in places last season, but we’re determined this season to improve on those paces.”
Despite its disappointing losses to Exeter, Rademacher is hopeful about the team’s success this season.
“I think last year was interesting because we’re always kind of head-to-head with Exeter, and [its] pack was just a little bit deeper than ours, and it happens. We did a time trial the other day, and everyone was [running within] three minutes of each other, which is exactly what you’re looking for. I think our packs are a lot tighter, and they’re a little bit deeper this year,” said Rademacher.
Andover’s preseason also contributed to building a strong sense of community, which will in turn lead the team to greater success according to Lindsay Rosenberg ’19. Rosenberg was injured last season but returned to run during preseason and felt excited by the team’s energy.
“The preseason training was super fun because we got to spend a lot of time with each other and just do a lot of team bonding activities. Grace is a super energetic captain. The whole team gets along really well, and I’m really excited for the season,” said Rosenberg.
Rademacher and her fellow Seniors’ supportive attitudes are beneficial to new and returning runners alike and strongly influence the overall positive message that is highly valued by the team, according to Chandran.
“The leadership is very strong. Grace does a great job of being captain. She always brings up people’s spirits, especially when it’s raining and no one really wants to run. Grace is always out there leading the pack, and I would say with the other Seniors they’re all so supportive and they’re all really excited to just be on the team and support the younger runners,” said Chandran.
Heading into the season, Head Coach Rebecca Hession stressed the importance of taking every season as it comes and working hard to maintain the team’s tradition of success.
Coach Hession said, “One of the things we really focus on at the start of every season is acknowledging that this season has never happened before, we’ve never had this team before. At the beginning of every year, we work on finding that balance between what we want to take from last year and then what we want to look for this year, which is brand new and a new experience.”
Andover will race at the Choate Invitational this Saturday to kick off its season.