NORTHFIELD -- The pressure was off the Mount Greylock girls' cross country team heading into Saturday's MIAA Division II State Championship meet.
No one was expecting it to win, especially after Lenox ended the Mounties' two-year reign as Western Massachusetts champions last week. The team was just there to run its final race of the season.
Whether it was the lack of pressure or wanting to prove themselves, something worked for the Mounties as they finished seventh out of 19 teams -- the highest finish of any Berkshire County team.
"This week was what we expected last week," coach Larry Bell said. "I was very disappointed last week. I kind of misread the team and didn't do a good job getting them prepared [for Western Mass.]. This week we tried something different and it obviously worked."
Emily Kaegi led the team with a 22nd-place finish in a time of 20 minutes, 0.29 seconds. Senior Kat Chenail shattered her previous personal record on the Northfield course, cutting an additional 25 seconds off her time from last week. She finished in 46th place, with a time of 20:32.92.
Chenail was barely edged out by Hoosac Valley's Kalyn Ali bozek, who was running as an individual.
"I found that I run really well with Kalyn," Chenail said. "I ran with her last weekend and again [Saturday]. It's really good to run with her because I'll catch her and then she'll catch and pass me and then I'll catch up to her. We really push each other."
Alibozek finished the race as the second Berkshire County runner across the line. She placed 42nd overall, with a time of 20:27.02. She also set a personal record for herself on the Northfield course. Team mate Sydnee Gallup knocked 20 seconds off her time from a week ago and finished 98th with a time of 21:43.88.
Kaegi along with teammates Jenna Phelps and Amalia Leamon also beat their times from Western Mass. by a significant amount.
"Since we ran [the course] last week, we're more familiar with it so maybe we know where to push ourselves," Alibozek said. "It's also just because there are so many people around you. You don't know if someone is going to pass you, so it just makes you want to go even faster."
In a field of 178 girls, it gives the North County runners a chance to compete against teams they have never compete against. It also is an opportunity to challenge them selves, and have to meet new challenges.
That became clear for Kaegi.
"I know for me, this is really the first race where I've been battling with like 10 other girls around me and that I've really had to race someone," the junior said. "That really makes you want to cut times. It's exciting because it feels harder. There is always a girl trying to pass you, so it feels harder.
"It was really a different finish, too. It's was really my first time having to sprint to try and pass girls towards the line."