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Triton's Keely Maguire, left, and North Andover's Kirsten Kasper start out neck and neck yesterday in Byfield.

BYFIELD — Defeating Triton star Keely Maguire of Georgetown was a stiff challenge in itself, but overcoming her with a stomach cramp was too much to ask for North Andover standout Kirsten Kasper yesterday afternoon.

In one of the most anticipated dual-meet duels in recent years, on a gorgeous afternoon for running, Maguire pulled away from a hurting Kasper halfway through the 3.08-mile Triton course and cruised to first in an impressive course-record time (by 48 seconds) of 17:00. Kasper gutted it out to finish a distant second in 18:17.

Triton won the meet, 25-30.

“I got a cramp and I couldn’t work through it,” said Kasper. “I’ve never had one in a race before, so it’s kind of disappointing. I was really looking forward to this race. I’ve been thinking about it since the beginning of the season, because you always want the competition. It’s too bad, but there is always the CALs (Cape Ann League race).”

This was the first time the two CAL stars had faced each other in a dual meet. Two years ago, when Kasper was a freshman, she missed the dual with an injury, and she missed her entire sophomore cross country season with an injury. In their only meeting two years ago, Maguire beat Kasper at the CAL meet, but Kasper had superior times when they both placed first at the state meets later in the season.

For the first mile and a half, Kasper stayed right with Maguire, sticking behind her shoulder, hoping to surge to the lead later in the race. “I was right where I wanted to be,” she said.

But Maguire, without knowing that Kasper had developed a cramp, was intent on making a move before it got too late.

“I was trying to pull away at a mile and a half,” said Maguire, who recently accepted a scholarship offer from the University of New Hampshire. “I knew if it came down to the end, it could be tough for me. She’s an amazing athlete and I didn’t want it to come down to the end.

“I’ve been looking forward to this race since the start of the season, because she’s a good athlete and I don’t have many people to race against. I like the competition and it’s not easy to always run by yourself.

“At the moment I think I have an advantage on her (Kasper) because she was hurt last year and I’ve really put in a lot of mileage, averaging about 50 miles a week. But at this time next year, if she puts in the mileage, she’ll be incredible.”

Both Kasper and Maguire regret that they’ll only meet one more time this season. They’ll once again be in different class meets at Franklin Park and different state meets at Gardner. Kasper will be in Division 1 and Maguire in Division 2.

“It’s too bad they don’t combine the (state) races,” said Maguire. “We’d have a great race with (Bromfield’s) Emily Jones (who placed first in Division 2 last year).”

Triton won the meet 25-30.

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