Mako takes fifth
Frontiers Natalie Mako crosses the finish line in the girls Division II State XC race at Northfield Mountain on Saturday.
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Frontier’s Natalie Mako is among the front of the crowd of runners at the start of the girls Division II race at Northfield Mountain on Saturday.
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Frontier’s Natalie Mako edges past an unidentified runner from Tyngsboro on the home stretch at Northfield Mountain during Saturday’s Division II State XC girls race. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHFIELD — For the first time all season, Natalie Mako crossed a finish line looking at the backs of competitors.
The Frontier Regional School runner came up just short in her bid to finish her senior season unbeaten, crossing the finish line fifth during the MIAA State Division II Cross Country Championships Saturday at the Northfield Mountain Recreation Area.
Mako has not only won every Pioneer Valley race she has entered this season — winning all seven regular-season meets, the PVIAC Championships, and last week’s WMass Division II crown — but she has done so in convincing fashion, breaking records in six regular-season meets and in each of the past two postseason events.
Thus she was a favorite at Saturday’s race, which featured 178 Division II harriers from all over the state. Had she won, Mako would have become the first girls’ runner from WMass to accomplish the feat since 2003. But it was not meant to be, as junior Abbey McNulty from Bishop Feehan High School of Attleboro ran away from the rest of the competition on the hilly 5K course in a winning time of 18 minutes, 20.72 seconds. Sophomore Erin Dietz from Bedford High School was second across the line in 18:31.65, followed by Tyngsborough High School sophomore Kerri Keohane in third with a time of 18:56.03.
Mako headed into the stretch run amid the mass of people lining the sides of the course in a race against Jaylan Fraser-Mines, an eighth-grader from Tyngsborough. Fraser-Mines wound up passing Mako in the final 100 yards to take fourth, forcing Mako to settle for fifth at 19:11.98.
“I wish I could have done better,” Mako said immediately following the race. “I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, and I just wish I could have done better. To be with all these girls is great, but …”
While the sting of losing may have been fresh in her mind, Mako did manage to shave eight seconds off her time from a week ago when she won the WMass Division II meet at the same venue by 44 seconds. Frontier coach Bob Smith said the fact that she was able to best the mark from a week ago was made even more impressive, due to the grueling conditions Northfield Mountain presents.
“This course punishes you and it takes a long, long time to recover, longer than a week,” he explained. “So for her to be 10 seconds better than last week, and for her to run the best Western Mass. time here today, she has nothing to sad about. She has nothing left, and that’s the way you want it to be in the end. You have nothing left in the tank. And we’re really proud of her.”
Mako was one of three local girls competing. Greenfield High School eighth-grader Eve Charest sprinted home to a 79th-place finish with a time of 21:18.06. Charest ran the seventh-best time of any runner younger than a freshman. Mohawk Trail Regional High School junior Abbie Yezierski came in 107th in 21:57.33, and said that while she was not very happy with her finish, it was an honor to be involved in the race for the second time in her career.
“It’s an honor, especially when you look at the starting line and you’re among the best in the state,” Yezierski said. “I want to be here next year and run better, though.”
The area was also represented by three boys in the Division II race. While no area runners finished inside of the top 50, Western Mass. did celebrate its only individual champion on the day in any of the four races when Lenox Memorial High School’s Scott Carpenter sprinted home in a first-place time of 15:55.75.
Mohawk sophomore Evan Wheeler made his first trip to the state meet a successful one with a 74th-place finish of 17:56.43. Wheeler said that he still didn’t feel fully recovered from last week’s race. Despite that, he was pleased with his finish, after beating a personal mark he had set for himself.
“It went all right. I was a little sore coming into this,” Wheeler said. “At Thursday’s practice I didn’t feel 100 percent. My legs are still tired in preparation of the race, but I did all right, I think. My goal coming in was to finish under 18 minutes, and I beat last week’s time by four seconds.”
Greenfield senior Colen Stack was four places behind Wheeler in 78th place (18:01.92). Mahar Regional School’s Zabien Shaw did not finish the race.