NORTHFIELD -- It's not surprising Emily Kaegi, Kalyn Alibozek and Kat Chenial crossed the finish line in succession at the Western Massachusetts championships, and it shouldn't be a surprise if they finish close together at the state meet. The trio has been doing that all season.
Kaegi and Chenail are the top runners for Mount Greylock, while Alibozek is Hoosac Valley's top runner. Including the Western Mass. meet, the trio has gone head to head five times this season.
Kaegi's second-place finish at Western Mass. was the third time she's beaten Alibozek and Chenail in the same race. Alibozek has defeated the Greylock duo twice in those five races. Chenail has never led the trio across the line. She did finish before Alibozek once this season, and topped Kaegi in a race Alibozek did not compete in.
"I don't think there is a specific reason why we go back and fourth," Alibozek said. "I just think we each have our better days and our worse days. It's fun because I'm always thinking about who is going to win, because we are always going back and fourth with each other."
In races featuring all three runners, the biggest gap between them was 1 minute, 2 seconds. That happened in the season-opening race at Wahconah, where Alibozek took first place in a time of 19:26. Kaegi was second in 19:59, and Chenail was third in 20:28. The next biggest gap between the three occurred at Western Mass, with 53 seconds separating the first
The smallest gap was just 7 seconds, recorded at Mount Greylock on Sept. 27th. Kaegi took second in that race in 16:11, with Alibozek 4 seconds behind and Chenail crossing the line 3 seconds later. Alibozek returned the favor two weeks later, beating Kaegi by 4 seconds at Greylock.
"She's really nice and always has a great attitude, so it's fun to run against her," Kaegi said. "It's not like a rival thing. There are never hard feelings or anything after the races. It's all in good spirit."
The Mounties and Hurricanes raced at the same location for six of the eight regular season meets. Alibozek missed an early season meet with an injury, while Kaegi and Chenail were held out of another match up.
Pittsfield's Lauren Farry was the only other Berkshire County runner to finish in front of the trio, beating all three on Sept. 27 and Alibozek on Oct. 3 at Hoosac Valley in the meet Kaegi and Chenail sat out.
It's not just at the finish line where the trio runs close together. At Western Mass. all three were together until approximately the mile-and-a-half marker. Chenail and Alibozek stayed close the entire time, finishing just 4 seconds apart.
Chenail and Kaegi are used to running together, they do it pretty much everyday. However, having an added competitor is also something the duo has enjoyed throughout the season.
"It's fun having someone to run with," Chenail said. "It's really fun running with them. I love running with Emily, and running against [Alibozek] is great, too. I like her so it's fun running with someone different. She is really good and challenges us, so it's good competition."
While Chenail is running in her final cross country meet Saturday, Kaegi and Alibozek are both juniors and will continue to go up against each other next season. Only time will tell if the battles will continue to go back and fourth.
"That's probably going to depend on how track season goes and how much we work over the summer," Kaegi said. "I hope it does, though. It relieves the pressure, because there is always someone I'm trying to catch."
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