Girls XC Powers Through Mud to Steal Top 12; Shorter Distance Course Leads to Speedy Race

The Andover blue and white jerseys were blue, white and brown by the end of the race at Deerfield on Saturday, which ended in yet another perfect score of 15-50 with Andover on top. The ongoing rain led to a muddy, soft and slick course, and even those wearing spikes for traction had trouble with the terrain; several runners fell and quickly recovered. But the performances did not reflect the difficulty. Coach Lang advised the team to “take the first mile conservatively, push the second mile a little bit harder, and then finish strong…with something left.” This strategy worked well for Jen Downing ’08, Abby Levene ’09 and Stephanie Moroney ’09, who led the pack with a 1-2-3 finish. Their times of 16:19, 16:21, and 16:26, respectively, all came close to the course record of 16:08, which is held by Andover’s Melissa Donais ’02. Aubrey Zimmerling ’09 followed the trio in 17:03, then Sarah Cohan ’08 (17:12) and Sara Ho ’08 (17:24), and six other Andover runners before the first Deerfield runner, who placed 13th. Though this year’s course was slightly different from that on which they had previously raced at Deerfield, the conditions were no less wet and muddy. On the same fields which flooded two years ago, the Andover girls slogged bravely through mud, standing water, and wet leaves. Becca Macrae ’09, who finished 10th, said “wearing spikes definitely helped, but girls were still sliding all over the place. Nevertheless, it was a really fun race!” Becca and her teammates quickly discovered that it is more efficient to go straight through puddles and continue with waterlogged shoes than to try to avoid every soggy spot. The soaked finishers reflected this. This season’s course differed only slightly from the 2005 course. The race began alongside the soccer fields and looped around the football and field hockey fields. Next came Rat Hill, a short but very steep climb up dirt, leaves and roots. Following a path past a pumpkin patch and Deerfield’s physical plant, the route returned to the fields before taking a sharp right over a bridge and up towards the track. After a lap around the track, it looped around the fields again and finished by the football field, attracting many cheering fans. The course was 2.71 miles in length, significantly shorter than a 5K. The raw times could not compare to those on Andover’s 5K course, but with calculations, Coach Lang translated the day’s times into roughly what they would have been on a 5K course. These calculations revealed that many girls would have run personal bests if the race had been 3.1 miles long. Zimmerling said, “All the girls on the team did a fantastic job adapting to the day’s elements and ran some fabulous times!” Andover enjoyed its success at Deerfield, of course, but the team’s sights are set on the upcoming Andover-Exeter dual meet and on the New England Prep School Track Association Championships in November. The short Deerfield race was considered a speed workout—one of the last of the season for the team. Starting with the days leading up to the Exeter race, the team will begin to taper the training by reducing volume and intensity. This will ensure that the runners are fully rested and ready to give it their all at these two end-of-season meets. The Andover-Exeter dual race will take place on Saturday.