Last Saturday, Andover Girls Cross Country won the NEPSTA Division 1 Cross-Country Championships for the fifth consecutive time at Northfield Mount Hermon. All factors were set against the runners on Saturday. Hosted by NMH, the course was a series of hills over uneven and often steep and rocky terrain. The clouds had been pouring rain all day, flooding the course and creating mud several inches deep and resulting in slippery footing throughout the course. However, the team traveled to NMH determined to emerge victorious. “Our team goal was to win [the] championship, but I knew that it was going to be a challenge,” said Captain Caroline Gezon ’10. The race started on a flat, grassy puddle of a field, followed by a series of short, muddy hills. Kate Bulger ’11, Caitlin Kingston ’11, and Katie Ellinger ’12 led the start of the race together, racing Senior Caroline Bazinet of Choate. They spread out by the first mile, with Bazinet leading. Gezon said, “I started really fast, because I was focusing so hard on not falling in the mud like many of the girls around me. I was really shocked when I realized after the first stretch how close to the front I was, just behind Kate, Caitlin and Katie.” Bulger, however, refused to let Bazinet win. “Every downhill I really gained on her, and I could tell that it was going better for me than for her,” Bulger said. Halfway through the race, Bulger and Bazinet pulled farther ahead of Kingston, who dropped back a few seconds to run as a pair with Ellinger. Kingston and Ellinger pushed each other throughout the third mile, relying on the strength of team running. But as the two approached the third mile mark, a St. Paul’s runner caught the pair, forcing Ellinger to kick ahead, ultimately beating the other racer for third place. Meanwhile, Bulger finally passed Bazinet with a few hundred meters to go. “It was really too early, though.” said Bulger. “After that, I had to start my kick early and then just hope that I didn’t die before the end.” But with the finish in sight, Bulger slipped in the mud. “I was sure I had lost the race when I fell, but I just told myself to keep going. The mud was the hardest part – every course has hills, and you can usually just push yourself hard on those. But with the mud, it’s out of your control.” Bulger ultimately caught Bazinet and went on to win the race with a phenomenal time of 20:30. Kingston slipped as well, and a runner passed her from Exeter. But Kingston chased down the runner and finished fifth. Gezon, not far behind, saw her teammate’s finishes and used them as inspiration for her own, beating out three runners from St. Paul’s and a single Exeter racer in the final stretch. “All I could think about during the last stretch was how I needed to pass that pack. I knew that it was going to be really close, and every place was going to count, so when I saw the Exeter girl fall in the mud, I just went for it,” said Gezon. In passing these girls, Gezon played a vital part in winning the meet. She took four points from Andover’s score, and tallied three more to its competitors. Kelsey Jamieson ’12 finished 15th, followed by Mimi Tanski ’11 in 19th place and Tavie Abell ’10 in 21st, closing out Andover’s top seven. The JV team dominated, placing all seven runners in the top 15. Alex Morrow ’12 took first, followed by Kristen Faulkner ’11 in second, Jess Simmer ’10 in fourth, Emily Kent ’11 sixth, Claire Harmange ’11 eighth, Molly Levene ’12 13th and Katie Fanikos ’11 in 14th.