TOPSFIELD — As this year’s perfect storm makes its presence felt along the North Shore, so does another amongst the various Cape Ann League running teams.
The Newburyport cross country program is in the midst of a wonderful season, and it was no less impressive on Saturday at the Bradley Palmer State Park for this year’s CAL Cross Country Championships. The unbeaten boys team (10-0) cruised to a first place finish with 37 points (average time of 16:31; total time of 1:22:35), and the ever-improving girls squad (9-1) finished fourth with 116 (average time of 20:44; total time of 1:43:39).
Over the past few seasons, Newburyport coach Don Hennigar has seen his two teams make consistent strides; notably his girls team which, despite a hard-luck fourth place finish on Saturday, continues to surpass expectations.
“As far as the girls go, they’ve kind of been overshadowed by the boys team – the girls have had an excellent year, only losing to Hamilton-Wenham, who are one of the best teams in the state,” Hennigar said. “They didn’t have the best race yesterday, and that was on me. They ran the race exactly the way I told them to run it. We just went out a little too slowly and simply had too much ground to make up. It wasn’t that they didn’t run well, I should have given them better advice in running the course.
“This group, over the past three years, has gotten progressively better. Their goal was to finish 8-2, and they finished 9-1,” Hennigar said. “They’ve improved every year, and with just about everyone coming back next year, hopefully we’ll be able to take a whole other step. The only runner who won’t be returning is our lone senior captain, Liz Fiascone, who has just done a great job for the team — she’s been a true leader.”