EASTHAM — After ending the regular season with a 9-0 record and a first-place finish in the league championship meet on Oct. 26, the Nauset High girls’ cross-country team aims to defend its state sectional title on Nov. 9 at the Eastern Mass. Division 4 championships.
Nauset won the Atlantic Coast League (ACL) championship last year. But at the end of the school year the league was consolidated into an expanded Cape & Islands League. Nauset now competes against large schools like Dennis-Yarmouth, Falmouth, and Sandwich along with private, charter, and smaller public schools.
“[This season] kind of mirrors what we did last year,” Coach Katie McCully said. She has been head coach of girls’ cross-country for 13 years.
The team consists of 11 girls: four seniors, five juniors, and two sophomores. Leading the way are co-captains senior Abby Farrell and junior Izzy Nobili.
In just her second year on the team, Farrell placed first overall in every one of the team’s regular season competitions and ran right into the record books.
Farrell beat her own school record at Nauset’s 3.1-mile home course by posting a time of 18:28 at the team’s meet against Sandwich on Oct. 15. Her previous record was 19 minutes.
She set a new meet record at Barnstable’s 2.6-mile course on Oct. 1, posting a time of 15:25. That’s a pace of under six minutes per mile.
The only race Farrell hasn’t won this year was the Cape & Islands championship meet.
Co-captain Izzy Nobili has not been far behind, placing second in several competitions.
Cross-country races are scored by assigning points based on the place a runner finishes in. The first-place runner earns one point, second place two points, and so on. The lowest team score wins the meet.
The first five runners on a team are scored based on where they finish. After that, runners’ scores don’t count toward the team score but they can help to displace runners on other teams. For example, if the sixth Nauset runner finishes before the fifth runner on another team, that team’s score is one point higher.
Last year Nauset won the championship with a score of 84; second place Westwood scored 110.
“We have a strong group of runners,” said Nobili. “Last year we gained Abby and Makayla [Hutchinson] and this year we gained Shay [Riske]. So we have a continued influx of talented athletes.”
From top to bottom the team is very solid, McCully said.
Along with the co-captains, sisters Rebekah and Rachel Pranga and Ella Kelly have led the team to an impressive season.
“The success this year comes from a strong work ethic,” McCully said. She tries to give the team challenging workouts while also making sure they understand the importance of proper rest and stretching, she added.
The Nov. 9 championship meet is a 5K (3.1-mile) race on a golf course in Wrentham. McCully said the team has been training at Fort Hill in Eastham and some other hilly local courses in preparation for the terrain. Most races during the regular season are held on flatter courses. Weather can also be a factor: runners faced heavy winds and a muddy track at last year’s state meet.
More than 30 teams will compete for the state sectional title, which means around 200 girls will be running.
“The target is on our backs,” McCully said.
The cross-country team will graduate its four seniors this year, including Farrell, but five juniors, including Nobili, will look to continue the success next season.
“We’re riding this wave we’ve been on,” McCully said, noting that after next year a rebuilding phase may be in order.
But last year Nauset Middle School added a cross-country team to its athletics program, and McCully said she hopes that will continue to produce fine runners.
“We have a good, hardworking group of girls willing to face any obstacle,” Nobili said.