NORTHFIELD -- When the state's top cross country runners descend upon Northfield Recreation Center for the Massachusetts State Champion ships on Saturday, North County's best runners will just be happy to be there.
"I think our goal was just to get to [states] and have another week of practice," Mount Greylock's Emily Kaegi said after finishing second in the Western Massa chusetts Division II meet. "I think we have individual goals for states rather than team goals."
Kaegi and the entire Mount Greylock girls' team will be in attendance at the state meet after taking second place at Western Mass. Hoosac Valley's Kalyn Alibozek and Sydnee Gallup will also be running after qualifying as individuals.
On the boys' side, Mount Greylock will have its entire team present as the Western Mass. champion and Hoosac Valley will send three individuals. The Hurricanes missed qualifying as a team by just two points. Travis Ciempa, Austin Poulton and Trevor Ciempa qualified by finishing inside of the top 10 runners on teams that didn't qualify.
"We're not expecting that much [at states]," Greylock's Carter Stripp said. "We're just going to go and run hard."
If the Western Mass. results are any indication, Berkshire County teams could be in store for a solid day. The top four Western Mass. finishers on the boys' side all came from Berkshire County schools. Lenox's Scott Carpenter and Tucker McNinch took first and second place,
The same schools also qualified for the state meet on the girls' side. Lenox took first place, while Greylock finished second and Monument was third. Hoosac finished eighth as a team. Individually, North County teams accounted for four of the top 10 spots, while Berkshire County runners took seven out of the top 10.
Qualifying means another week of practice for the teams, but Greylock's girls coach Larry Bell insists his team won't be doing anything different.
"Nothing. Enjoy the fact you made it to states, take your trophy for second place [at Western Mass.] and be proud of that," he said. "[On Saturday], there is going to be such a solid stream of runners that you won't be able to know where your team is. You're going to have no clue where the team is, it's going to be like a human snake. It's going to be about personal times and doing your best."
It will be the second consecutive weekend North County runners have to run at Northfield, one of the harder courses in the state. The 5-kilometer course features steep hills at the start, middle and even close to the finish. While Western Mass. runners have experience on the course, Eastern Mass. and Central Mass. runners do not. It's something that could be both an advantage and disadvantage for local runners.
"I mean we might [have an advantage]," Alibozek said. "I don't know, though, because people from Eastern Mass. might be surprised at how hard it is. It's good we know what it's like, but at the same time it's still hard for us."
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