By John Shimer
Pentucket's cross country Division 2 All-State Alanna Poretta deserves a break.
After placing 15th with a time of 19:12 — a mere 18 seconds behind 10th place — at the Foot Locker Northeast regional at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City Saturday, the senior sensation will finally have a couple of days to rest her worn-out legs before winter track gets in full gear. Poretta's high school cross country career has officially come to an end.
Running in blustery conditions, Poretta said the weather was not as cooperative as she had hoped. However, the senior Sachem and Lynx standout was able to separate herself from most of the large pack of runners and beat out 78 other competitors in a race that contained the best from the Northeast region and saw the course record smashed by Aisling Cuffe (17:45).
"It was a tough race because the weather was pretty bad and it wasn't one of my best races of the season, but I still raced pretty strong," said Poretta, who felt that she finished a little short of her goal, which was to place in the top 10 to advance to nationals. "We went out pretty hard with the wind at our backs and sprinted the first 200 meters or so. After that there were a lot of hills that slowed down the field. Then the wind was in our faces, which slowed us down more. But everyone was looking to do well, so they kept pushing the race, and it was still pretty fast."
Another challenging aspect of the Long Island course was cardiac hill around the 2-mile mark, which according to Poretta, was the biggest she had ever faced.
"The first mile was pretty flat, but at the mile mark you hit a pretty good hill, which was not too bad," described Poretta of the course layout. "Once you hit the 2-mile mark, cardiac hill is a big hill — really, really big hill — the biggest I've ever run up. I like hills, so it wasn't too bad, but the placing of the hill was not the best."
Pentucket cross country coach Todd Ruland said running so hard at the Division 2 all-state meet last week may have cost her at the Northeast championships. However, Ruland said the Sachem star's hard work over four years paid off this year with so many marvelous accomplishments, including winning the Bob McIntyre Bay State Invitational by 45 seconds, winning the Cape Ann League championship by 54 seconds and just a week ago winning the Division 2 All-State meet.
"She accomplished everything she wanted to accomplish over the last four years," Ruland said. "That's a testament to this year's work and how seriously she's taken (running) and how hard she's worked the last four years. When you get down (to New York) and run against the elite, to come in 15th place is mind-boggling."
Despite not meeting her toughest critic's expectations in Long Island — namely herself — Poretta said finishing 15th was still pretty special.
"I think this season turned out pretty well," Poretta said. "I'm happy because I think I've had a pretty decent season, and to finish in top 15 (at the Northeast regionals) is nothing to be too disappointed in."