Vineyard girls run to glory

MVRHS girls XC take Eastern Mass title; boys join them in state finals.

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The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School girls cross-country team made history on Saturday morning, running to the school’s first-ever Division 5 Eastern Massachusetts cross-country championship.

The Vineyarders’ stunning performance, including five runners finishing in the top 25, also punched their ticket to the state championships next weekend, along with the MVRHS boys team, which qualified for the state meet as the top wild card after a strong performance gave them a fifth-place finish. The top four teams in Divisions 1 through 6 qualify for the state finals, with two wild-card picks.

Eighth grader Adrienne Christy led the Vineyard girls with an overall seventh-place finish (19:55.1). Junior Catherine Cherry overcame back issues for a gritty finish of 14th in the field of 155 runners in her division. Yayla DeChiara (20), Eloise Christy (21), and Amber Cuthbert (25), Kailyn Freeman (116), and Margaret Sykes (117) completed the Vineyarder record-setting performance in the wind and cold at the Wrentham Developmental complex.

Vineyarder junior standout Peter Burke finished 14th (16:59.8) in the boys Division 5 race, closely followed by sophomore Isaac Richards in 17th place in the 167-runner field. Senior Owen Porterfield (36), sophomore Isaac Richards (37), Owen Atkins (42), Zach Utz (48), junior Kieran Karabees (51), and sophomore Nathaniel Porterfield (60) put all the boys’ harriers in or near the top third of the field.

Coach Joe Schroeder was over the moon and nearly speechless after the awards ceremonies. “They crushed it, just crushed it. All of them. We’ve never had an EMass championship in school history until today. We’ve sent both boys and girls teams to states before, but not like this,” he said.

The state finals will be held in Westfield at Westfield State University on Sunday, Nov. 18, a reschedule of the original date and venue (formerly planned for Saturday in Northfield).The first MVRHS event, the girl’s Division 5 race, will likely begin at 11:30, Schroeder estimated earlier this week.

How they all made it to Westfield is the story. On a cold day, encumbered by a constant, keening wind and spits of rain intermixed with flashes of sunshine, both young squads ran to finishing times that the coaches thought were possible.

“They rose to the occasion, they did what we thought they could do. After that, you just never know what’s going to happen,” Schroeder said, adding that the performance by eighth grader Adrienne Christy was noteworthy. “Her athletic maturity at this point is pretty amazing; Margaret Sykes keeps on improving, and ran her personal best time in this race,” he said, adding that “Eighth grader Eloise Christy (yes, she and Adrienne are twin sisters) and Yayla DeChiara finished strongly. Big upside for them.”

That level of perseverance paid off for the boys as well, who qualified as a wild card by achieving a team average time nearly 30 seconds better than several dozen other wild-card contenders.

For spectators, cross-country races are an exercise in fluid beauty, watching people run seemingly without effort, as fast as they can for 15 to 25 minutes. The effort required is clear beyond the finish line as runners fall, stumble, stagger, retch, cry, and support each other without regard for team colors.

That’s part of what makes cross-country race environments different from most sports. Racing each other produces a collegial atmosphere between competitors, a hallmark of the sport’s personality.

There were 1,120 runners, 160 teams and hundreds of coaches and fans, probably 2,000 people in all … and zero problems.

These events have the feel of a country fair, with a medieval aspect of small, square team tents winding through a course marked with chevron pennants in different colors. Quite something, really, and for MVRHS fans, a long window of opportunity. Program stalwart Owen Porterfield is the lone senior on this young history-making group.