Five Big Blue runners crossed the finish line together last Saturday, leading Andover in its first race of the season, the Developmental Invitational. Berol Dewdney ’09, Breezy Jordan ’09, Abby Levene ’09, Jen Downing ’08, and Aubrey Zimmerling ’09 all finished with a time of 19:48. Jordan said, “I love that we have such a strong, unified team this year and that everyone on the team really cares about each other.” Zimmerling noted, “All four were encouraging me to run faster at the end, despite how out of breath they were. I owe it to those four girls for helping me break 20 minutes and for not leaving me behind like so many other teams would do.” Abby King ’07 and Sarah Cohan ’08 followed the front pack, finishing in sixth and seventh place with times of 20:10 and 20:14, respectively. Sara Ho ’08 rounded out the top ten at 20:33, followed closely by Anne Elder ’09 at 20:36. Said Ho of the race, “It was amazing to see that front pack finish all together. It really shows how closely knit our team is this year. All of our times were a lot faster than expected, and this is only the first race of the season. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish by the end of the season, especially if we keep improving.” All of the runners from Andover in the varsity race finished in less than twenty-one minutes, an amazing feat this early in the season. The front pack’s sub-twenty minute time exemplified the team’s great strength and depth, and Andover intimidated the four other teams participating in the event. Going into the race, Andover anticipated a competitive Exeter squad. However, Exeter only chose to run three athletes in the Varsity race, and as a result Andover dominated the top spots. A total of twenty-one runners competed in the varsity race: nine from Andover, three from Exeter, two from NMH, three from Loomis Chaffee and four from Worcester. The coaches decided to mix things up this week and create a challenge by having the racers run the sanctuary backwards. The course proceeded around the great lawn, behind the chapel, across the knoll, and into the sanctuary. Instead of turning right and heading towards the log cabin, the racers turned left and sped down the famous “Heartbreak Hill.” Kit Harris ’07 commented, “It was really bizarre to see everything backwards because it all looked completely different, but after last year’s home season it was nice to have a change from the ‘norm.’” The Andover Invitational was a wonderful success and helped the runners get a sense of how to race and have fun at the same time. Next week, the girls travel to Choate to compete for another victory and officially start their season.