Girls XC “Rebuild” Beyond Expectations
By Ellen Oliver
After losing several top tier runners to graduation, Coach Dan Glover had his mind prepared for a “moderate rebuilding year.” But with his team top in the league and ranking 11th in the state, Glover is the first one to tell you how happy he is with the strength and focus of the 2012 team. “They are working hard, having fun,” he said. “I expected them to be decent. I knew Rylee [Gillen] was coming up and Kara [McCormack] was running as good as she ever has.”
The best example of the Chieftain’s prowess was at the 12th annual Quabbin Invitational meet on October 13, where rival Wachusett has topped the podium the last 11 years. With another strong team, the Mountaineers looked confident, until Nashoba showed up.
Gillen, a freshman, blazed to first place, McCormack placed fourth and Grace Dempsey, Natalie Bettez and Kelsey Horowitz placed seventh, eighth and ninth, allowing Nashoba to defeat Wachusett 29–44 and capture first place as a team. “I always hope we’re good enough to give Wachusett a run, so this was a nice win,” said the coach.
The signs were there early in the season. On September 22, the girls placed fifth at the very competitive Amherst Invitational at Hampshire College.
Nashoba’s fifth place finish (150 points) was just 11 points out of second place. Nashoba’s top finisher was Gillen, who ran the 3.1 mile course in 18:44 to place fourth overall, just three places behind the 2011 Division 2 State champion. Glover was happy all his top seven runners – Gillen, McCormack, Kelsey Horowitz, Grace Dempsey, Natalie Bettez, Peri Matatia and Taylor Brady – all had great times to push the Chieftains up the chart.
Now ranked top in the league and 11th in the state, Coach Glover said the girls have a “reasonable hope” to break the top five, at least top ten, of those state rankings. “I knew they had talent,” said the coach. “But they progressed so quickly. That was a nice surprise.”
To prepare for the state championships on November 17 at Northfield Mountain with its infamous hilly course, Glover says his team will be running local hills. “Northfield has about a mile of hill at the start, so we’ll work on legs,” he said, adding that the practice is only part physical conditioning. “Most of it is mental, not physical since the hill is at the beginning of the course. It’s a matter of getting it under control mentally.”
In addition to having Gillen, the 2011 Massachusetts middle school state cross country champion, thriving with the increased high school competition, Glover said he has many other key contributors. “My captains, Kara, Tina Orlando and Maddie McMullen, have been great,” he said.
Glover credits Horowitz with being the driving force in the pack, keeping everyone motivated and determined. “I call her the spice of the team,” he laughed. “She leads by example, pushing the way the group performs.” Glover said Horowitz is also living up to the legacy set by her older siblings. “Kelsey is running so well this year. She’s is really pushing herself,” he added. Glover also commented that sophomore Matatia is showing signs of development, shaving four minutes off her times from last year.
The coach wanted to acknowledge some of the junior varsity squad who are preparing with the top runners, especially Charlotte Young, Gwen Savino and Emily Sargent. “They’re stepping in to train with varsity, just in case,” said Glover, stopping short of uttering the dreaded i-word (injury). “They are happy to do so. They’ve been great.”