The Mount Greylock girls' cross country team will do something it hasn't done in three weeks on Saturday.
The Western Massachusetts cross country meet will mark the first competitive race the Mounties will participate in since Oct. 19. That was the last meet of the regular season, which the Mounties hosted. The team made the decision not to run in the Berkshire County cross country championship last week, citing rest as the reason.
"We've had time off from racing, but in reality we've been training super hard," Greylock junior Emily Kaegi said. "Some people might see it as time off, but it's really not for us. We've been training harder these last few weeks than ever."
They made the decision to not participate in the county race as a way to help prepare themselves to defend their Western Mass. title. Despite being the two-time defending champions, the Mounties will enter the race as an underdog. According to Greylock girls coach Larry Bell, Lenox enters as the favorites. He also expects Frontier and South Hadley to be tough opponents.
"We're hoping that our freshness might close the gap a little bit," Bell said. "That was really the main reason we did it, so we could be fresh for this race."
Over the course of the season, the Mounties ran in 10 races. With so many races and Western Mass. taking place at Northfield -- a hilly and difficult course -- the Mounties thought missing the Berkshire County race was their best option.
"I think it was good for us," junior Jenna Phelps said. "It helped us prepare better for Western Mass. than if we ran the Berkshire County meet."
Greylock has alternated between hill workouts and speed workouts throughout the past three weeks in preparation for Saturday. The last strenuous workout the team did was last week. Over the course of the week leading up to Western Mass., Bell has put his team through various speed and endurance workouts.
"We ran a lot of races this year," Bell said. "We were concerned that a three-week gap might be too much, but maybe it's better than a two-week gap.
"I've had [layoffs] like this before and I think it we'll be fine. My biggest concern is three weeks is a long time for a high school kid, but the girls seem more normal this week."
Kaegi won the individual crown last season, covering the course in 20 minutes, 29 seconds. She won the race by nearly 20 seconds. She was the first of four Mounties to finish in the top 10. Mackenzie Hitchcock took fifth, Laura Nolan finished seventh and Kat Chenail took eighth. Hitchcock and Nolan both graduated last year, meaning another group of Mounties will have to step up this season.
The Mounties finished the season 11-3 and had their three-year Berkshire County winning streak snapped by Lenox early in the season. Including Division I Pittsfield, the county now has three teams with a shot to claim a Western Mass. crown.
"I don't think it will be disappointing if we don't win," Kaegi said. "The league in general has gotten so much better this year and that's really exciting because everyone is getting challenged no matter what spot they run in."
Greylock took a trip out to Northfield to scout the course and get a practice run under its belt.
"We ran it a week ago as a workout to give the kids a feel for it," Bell said. "It's a challenging course with the hills and all that climbing in the first mile."
The most difficult part about not racing in three weeks will be the actual feeling of running in a competitive race. However, Greylock feels it has that aspect covered.
"It's definitely different because you can't simulate the race adrenaline in practice," Kaegi said. "But, we've been doing workouts to work on that."
"We've spent a lot of time doing race simulation stuff," Phelps said. "So I really don't think we're that far off from that kind of work."