Written by head coach Dennis Cullinane
The Big Green girls varsity cross-country team returned to Canterbury to defend their title on a race-perfect day with temperatures in the low 70s, partly cloudy skies, and just enough fragrant wind to remind us we were in the country. Despite the textbook ingredients for a great race, the pressure was on the Big Green to defend their title. At times our girls actually became a little unnerved as they could hear whispers and proclamations emanating from other teams- “Deerfield’s here!” and “There’s Deerfield, they’re defending champs, go after them!” Even our new team members now understand that this is the price of continued hard work and subsequent success; winners are the team to beat and so wear metaphorical bulls eyes on their backs. Indeed, it was going to take a significant effort to win again this year, but win they did, with strategic and gutsy efforts from every single one our seven runners. They bested the field of eleven other schools over the beautiful but iconic hilly northwestern Connecticut countryside, finishing with highly respectable times that at this point in the season would look reasonable on significantly flatter courses.
The Big Green girls bested a perennially excellent Windsor School for the division I title, as well as Hopkins Academy, Loomis Chaffee, and eight other schools. Leading the way was junior Captain Victoria Patterson who tied her personal record while smashing the previous course record (18:38) with a nationally ranking time of 17:55. Following her were tenth grader Noelle Abeyta in sixth with a time of 19:47, star ninth grader Abigail Fernald in eighth place in 20:13, gutsy tenth grader Grace Russell in 14th place with a time of 21:16, a determined 11th grader Jane Mallach in 21:49, senior Captain Gemma “The Passer” Bishop in 22:11, and a resurgent 11th grader Erin Howe in 22:27. Starting the race at smart, considered paces, the girls spent the entire time passing less experienced runners, to the point where senior Gemma Bishop likely passed the most competitors from start to finish of any girl in the race. As their coach, I will admit to an anxious moment about 200m into the race with Deerfield spread across the top ¾ of the field and teams like bright red Windsor representing up front, but by the first mile it was clear our game plan was working and by two and a half miles it became abundantly clear that we had won the day. With improvement from last year across the board, the Big Green seem poised to once again be a significant factor this 2018 season. It will be an uphill battle to defend our New England Championship, but the girls seem willing to put in the effort.
Join the girls next Saturday as they take on multiple teams while defending their title at the always-challenging Miller Invitational at the Westminster School. This meet brings the entire squad to bear and should be a fun opportunity to see everyone lace up and test themselves on yet another challenging but scenic course.