Just ask the smiling cross country teams who are trotting out for their first maskless races in nearly two years this week.
The modifications of last year’s pandemic season not only shortened the number of meets to four for the Wakefield High girls’ cross country team, it provided plenty of challenges in addition to the masks including staggered starts in which teams essentially raced virtually.
“The girls are super excited for this season. It is great to not have to train in masks,” said head coach Karen Barrett who has 15 student athletes on the team this year. “Most of them trained hard all summer long.”
Back on the course and the Kelly Ledoux-Walsh Trail at WMHS yesterday, the Warriors fell to Liberty Division opponent Winchester 20-39.
Although they came up short, the meet won’t have an effect on Wakefield’s league standings as that only counts against the Freedom Division. Wakefield starts up those competitions back home on Tuesday, Sept. 28 against Wilmington at 4 p.m.
Sammy Seabury picked up where she left off last season, getting first place against Winchester with a time of 19:32.
“Sammy was outstanding taking command of the race and never looking back against a talented Winchester team,” said Barrett. “She led the race from start to finish and trusted her training to win it with ease.”
Seabury is one of three senior captains on the team this year along with Aiva Barnard and Caroline Collins.
“They are excellent leaders,” said Barrett of her captains. “I also have seniors Amber Roehrich and Maggie Leone who have shown a lot of leadership qualities.”
Seabury, who took 1st overall in three of Wakefield four meets last year, is one of two returning All-Stars for the Warriors along with junior Madison Nett. Nett earned a 2nd, 3rd and 4th overall in three of her meets last year.
Nett got 2nd for the Warriors and 7th overall yesterday in 21:28. She was followed by Charlotte O’Neill (21:41, 9th), Alexa Yianacopolus (21:58, 10th), Julia Welch (22:06, 12th), Roehrich (22:20, 14th) and Grace Brackett (22:21, 15th).
“I feel like we should have definitely had girls place in the top seven after Sammy but unfortunately that didn’t happen today,” said Barrett. “We are definitely capable based on our training and I totally believe we will use this as a learning experience to trust our training going forward.
“That being said, I was super impressed with Charlotte O’Neill, Julia Welch, Amber Roehrich and freshman Grace Brackett who all earned a spot in the top 7 for varsity status.
“Hopefully we will come back for our next home meet against a tough Wilmington team and trust our training. We definitely have a talented team. They have proved it all pre season, I know they have the potential to do great things.”
Wakefield finished 2nd in the Freedom Division last year with a record of 3-1. Their only loss came to Freedom champion Melrose. In addition to league goals, the Warriors are getting ready for postseason state meets which weren’t held last year.
“Our goal for the season is to win the Freedom Division and have a great showing at the state meet,” said Barrett. “Melrose will be probably be our toughest competition, although I am sure Stoneham and Wilmington will be very competative.”
After their big matchup against the Wildcats next week, the rivalry race against the Red Raiders will take place back at Wakefield High on Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 4 p.m. The winner of this race has won the Freedom crown over the last decade. The Warriors won six in a row through the 2016 season. Melrose won it in 2017, Wakefield took it back in 2018 and the Red Raiders have been victorious in the last two seasons.
The Warriors will have six meets this year – one against every Freedom opponent along with the first one against Winchester.
Altogether, the Warriors believe they have the talent and the drive to get back to the top of the league.
“Hopefully the hard work and dedication my team has displayed will pay off for them,” said Barrett. “The girls have looked great at practice. They have executed all of the workouts really well. We are looking forward to the rest of the season.”