Carmel Fitzgibbon ’22 bolted across the finish line to secure a first-place finish, continuing her streak of top performances this season. With Fitzgibbon’s and seven other top ten finishes, Andover Girls Cross Country dominated in its meet against St. Paul’s this past Saturday, finishing with a score of 18-45. The team’s record now stands at 3-0.
In its first home meet of the season, Andover saw widespread participation among its runners, many of whom ran their first meet on Saturday, according to Head Coach Patrick Rielly.
“I’m just so happy that we got out here with a lot of runners, I think we had 30-plus runners, and everyone finished strong. There were so many people who had their 5K debuts. I just love seeing people run their first 5K on such a beautiful course, and I’m just really proud of the whole team working together in that same race,” said Coach Rielly.
According to Mia Levy ’21, the team’s strategy of pack-running aided in drawing Andover runners together, promoting a sense of support among teammates throughout the race, and ultimately dominating the meet.
“We’ve been doing a lot of pack-running [in practice], which I think we kept doing [on Saturday]. We have a lot of groups of paces, and we practice with people who are around our pace, so [during a race] we split into groups and we generally run with those people if they’re doing the races. It’s really helpful because you feel supported and there are no [opponents] running up behind you. It’s all Andover people around you,” said Levy.
In addition to showcasing Andover’s breadth of talent, Saturday’s meet demonstrated the team’s inclusive and spirited nature, according to Molly MacQueen ’21.
“I think one of the places we really showed our team spirit is at the end of the race [when] everyone stuck around to hug people that were finishing or go back and cheer on the runners coming in after them. I think it really showed how much of a team sport [cross country] is and the way that the team can support each other,” said MacQueen.
According to Fitzgibbon, Andover centers its mentality around the importance of hard work, teamwork, and spirit in both individual and team success.
“The key to my success was teamwork and working hard. I think we worked really well together and every week we just get stronger and more and more girls go to our races and it’s really fun to see everyone improve,” added Fitzgibbon.
Going into the race, Andover recognized the benefit of running on its home course and looked to capitalize on this fact, according to Coach Rielly.
“I asked the runners really to to use the home course advantage. We worked on the course all week… and [a strategy was] just really to run the course as well as they know it. I think they did a great job [on Saturday],” said Coach Rielly.
Despite the advantage of a home meet, the hilly nature of Andover’s home course still posed a challenge for Andover and St. Paul’s runners alike, according to Levy.
“[Andover is] kind of a difficult course; we have a hill going up to the log cabin in the Sanctuary and then we have a hill that we call ‘Heartbreak Hill’ that’s pretty steep, so those are always hard… We’re just always working on keeping our heads in the race and staying focused,” said Levy.
Additionally, Saturday’s low temperatures elicited further difficulty for Andover. With temperatures less than ideal for running, Andover sought extra measures in preparing for the chilly weather, according to Coach Rielly.
Coach Rielly said, “[Saturday was] our coldest day so far, [but] I think the runners were really prepared… They had multiple layers; they were warmed up well, so it was perfect.”
In preparation for its next meet, Andover plans to work on its speed, as the team has built up its strength in the early weeks with hill-running during practice, according to Coach Rielly.
“I think we’ll start to do some more speed work. I think we’re ready; [we’re] at that point in the season to start doing some track work, some pacing. Getting faster, it’s going to be good,” said Coach Rielly.
Next Saturday, Andover Girls Cross Country will compete at Northfield Mount Hermon (NMH).