The Triton girls cross-country team shocked many in the area at the Cape Ann League Championships on Saturday, coming in as the top area school in the sport. As far as coach Joe Colbert is concerned, it wouldn’t have happened without a trusted veteran and surprising newcomer.
“There’s no way we could have done it without the both of them,” Colbert said of senior co-captain Liz Willmonton and sophomore Maddie Quigley, both of whom recorded personal bests at the CAL’s. “We knew coming back that Liz was going to be one of the best runners in the league, and when I heard over the summer that Maddie had decided to join the team, I knew then that we were going to be capable of doing some big things.”
The Vikes finished in fourth place on the 5K course at Bradley Palmer State Park with a score of 124, the best performance in Colbert’s 12-year Triton career. Willmonton recorded a personal best and placed sixth overall with a time of 19:14 to rack up Triton’s best CAL performance since Keely Maguire ran a 17:31 in 2007 before going on to run at UNH.
“Dropping down a whole minute in just one race was unbelievable,” said Willmonton. “I saw the clock when I was in the shoot, and I started crying, I was so happy. I don’t think the girls who were behind me were too happy about that, but I was so happy, I cannot even explain it.”
Willmonton, who is current looking at running at either Bryant or Franklin Pierce next year, had never run before making the squad in her freshman season when she finished first on the team. When it came to her final CAL appearance on Saturday, she wanted it all.
“Wanting it really, really badly played into it,” said Willmonton. “Going into it, I had a lot of goals as to what I wanted to do. But Colbert was the one who really got me zoned. He came up to me and told me that I had to get out there with the top five or six girls and run it with them. And I was surprised that, even when I got out front, even when we came to the last mile, I felt great, and I picked off five girls, coming down.”
Also recording a personal best Saturday was Quigley, who came in 13th out of 85 overall with a time of 19:44. Not bad for her first year running cross-country.
“We had one of the best runners in the league, and now we have two of the best runners in the league,” said Colbert. “We would’ve been pretty good without Maddie, but her coming in was a pretty big turnaround for us.”
Willmonton had noticed Quigley during winter track last year, and asked her to come out for cross-country. The two trained together over the summer and suffered through an 0-3 start to the season before eventually settling on a 7-4 record. No one could have been happier for Quigley when she finished at the CAL’s than her mentor.
“I was crying, I was so happy,” Willmonton said. “Then I saw Maddie come in, and I hugged her and we were both just extremely happy. We had both just gotten our personal best by like a minute, and we both had such a good day.”
“I almost started crying too,” said Quigley. “I was just so happy for her and couldn’t believe that I had gotten my personal best too.”
Quigley said that she hopes to continue the legacy Willmonton will be leaving her to keep the program running well, something that Colbert is happy to hear.
“I’m hoping the community really sees this success, the achievement and the improvement, and it sort of builds from there, because it’s hard to get kids to run cross-country,” said Colbert. “So to see a young lady like Maddie come out and have some success at it, I’m hoping there are other talented athletes out there who will look at it and say, ‘Yeah, that’s an option for me because it’s a great sport. It’s a sport where I could go out there and really excel and get some attention.’”
It seems the Triton athletic program has indeed turned a corner of late. Five of the school’s seven fall teams made the post- season, and Willmonton is excited to be a part of that as a senior.
“I am so proud,” Willmonton said. “It’s not just in our sport, but all across the board we have teams making (the tournament) and it just feels good to be leading a movement that will continue over the next couple of years.”