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Monday, May 20 News

Shepaug girls cross country team breaks BL drought

It’s been a long time coming.

Depth and a clutch performance added up to a long-awaited Berkshire League title for the Shepaug High School girls cross country team last Friday at Black Rock State Park.

The girls team title was up for grabs going into the race with Shepaug, Lewis Mills and Thomaston each entering the event with 8-1 records. Shepaug (44 points) came out on top over second-place Mills (48), after No. 4 runner Erin McGrath came through with an 11th-place finish.

“The BL Championship went great. We talked about pace before the race and how some girls would go out too fast but everyone on our team was in the correct position at the one mile mark,” Shepaug coach John Spear said. “Our top three have been outstanding all year.”

The Spartans’ top three were once again on their game as Elisa Afiouni (2nd), Eilish Foy (3rd) and Aileen Rosa (5th) set the tone for the entire meet. The rest of the team came through with great individual runs as well and it added up to a title.

“To have three first-team all stars is amazing,” Spear said. “Erin McGrath is peaking at the right time and Jolie Grazia ran a season best time. Claire Buckley returned from injury and ran a gutsy race to finish in the top 30 along with Peyton Nash.”

Not only did the win break a long drought for the Spartans’ girls program, but it also ended Spear’s quest for a title.

“I’ve been here for four years and I’ve been coaching for 17 years now,” Spear said. “I’ve had quite few runner ups to finally get over that hump was a relief and pure joy. It felt amazing.”

Now Shepaug turns its attention to the Class S Championship race on Saturday at Wickham Park. The Spartans will be in the mix for a title but will have company and need to run another strong team race.

“Derby ran really fast times at the NVL Championships so they appear to be the favorites on Saturday but we should be in the mix,” Spear said. “It comes down to the 3-4-5 runners of both teams and who has the better day as both teams have two studs up front. I think we have the experience advantage with four seniors in our top 5 who have been here last year. It should be fun, close and exciting.”

And if it’s anything like the BL meet, the Spartans could end up celebrating another title.