SMITHFIELD – More than anything, Cumberland High sophomore Amy Laverty wanted to team with her harrier friends and upset fellow powerhouse Smithfield to claim a most elusive Northern Division championship.
The Sentinels, however, provided too much depth in this “Battle of Unbeatens,” and closed the season with a perfect 11-0 mark after edging the gutsy Clippers, 24-34, at Deerfield Park on Tuesday afternoon.
Laverty certainly did her part as she covered the 3.1-mile trail in 19:59, but Smithfield garnered five of the next seven spots to not only defeat Cumberland but also Mount St. Charles (15-41) to win its fifth divisional crown over the last six years.
“I’m happy with my time; I felt good, pretty smooth, but I felt we were going pretty slow at the beginning of the race,” Laverty stated. “I was in a pack at the mile mark, and we were at 6:25. I like to be at about six minutes at that point, so I decided to pick up the pace the last two miles.
“I knew at the start the Smithfield girls would come out with me and try to force the pace, but I wanted to run my own race; I wanted to dictate what was going to happen.”
When asked if being victorious provided her any consolation, Laverty shook her head, “No. I’d rather have the team win than myself. Then again, I wanted to win because I knew it would help our team.”
Junior Stephanie Mattson led the Sentinels, taking second 11 ticks behind Laverty, while CHS junior Meaghan Scullin placed third in 20:30. After that, though, SHS swept the next four places, with classmate Rebecca Meinertz snagging fourth (20:37); freshman Sydney Magus fifth (20:50); and juniors Madison Saliba and Genessee Daley sixth and seventh (with respective clockings of 21:06 and 21:09).
Cumberland’s remaining point scorers included junior Nichole Barger in eighth, senior Ashley Bricault 11th and Kerry Connolly 13th, but it nevertheless closed its campaign at 10-1.
“They ran their hearts out, and that’s all I wanted,” noted Clippers’ veteran chief Joyce Bonner, who brought most of her girls to the Maine Festival of Champions on Saturday. “All but two had personal records in Maine, and to think they were going to come back three days later and do the same here, it wasn’t going to happen. We went to Maine to get them experience, and we more than did that.
“Meaghan Scullin had a PR in Maine at 20:27 (over the same distance), and she went 20:30 here, so that’s pretty darn good,” she added. “Barger was 20:30 (up north), and she went 21:11 (on Tuesday), but that former time was her best by over a minute.
“Naturally, I don’t like losing, but I don’t feel badly. The girls ran well, and nobody gave up. You know what? It’s a long season, and the championship meets are coming up; those are the ones that really matter. Smithfield’s a great team, and they have a lot of quality.”
Offered Sentinels’ head coach John Marchand: “We wanted to focus on running our own race. We knew Laverty’s a great runner, but I also knew that Cumberland had raced in Maine this weekend. I saw us run a very controlled first mile at about 6:26, but the girls did what they had to the final two miles. Our quality depth really helped us. A lot of them ran faster times than they did here back on Sept. 16.
“I still have to tip my hat to Laverty, as she’s a fantastic runner,” he continued. “We weren’t conceding anything; I though Steph had a shot at beating her. Still, in a perfect world, Amy’s a bit faster.”
As for the Mounties, who dropped both decisions to the hosts (15-48) and Clippers (17-44), senior Megan Corbeil hustled the course in a team-best 21:19, good for ninth, while sophomore Maddi Charbonneau placed 14th in 22:25 and Jada Wilbanks 26th in 25:01.
“Megan should make All-Division, and Maddi will probably be on the bubble,” stated MSC girls’ coach Cliff Matthews, whose squad finished at 5-6 on the season. “The kids ran intelligent races. We gave them targets to chase, with Megan and Maddi focusing on the middle of the Cumberland and Smithfield packs. I figured Megan had a shot to finish seventh but no worse than 10th, and she took ninth. She ran a very good time.”