Hawks harrier in a league of her own
Recorder/ Paul Franz
Frontier and Mohawk girls run cross-country. Purchase photo reprints »
Natalie Mako leads her Frontier teammates at the start of the Western Mass. Division 2 Girls Cross Country Championship meet on Saturday at Northfield Mountain. Mako won the race with a record-breaking time of 19:19 Purchase photo reprints »
Natalie Mako in control of first place with roughly a mile to go during the Western Mass. Girls Division 2 Cross Country Champiohsnip. Mako, who beat the previous course record time by two seconds, finished 44 seconds ahead of the runner who took second. Purchase photo reprints »
Natalie Mako aproaches finish ahead of all runners. Purchase photo reprints »
Would anyone really be all that surprised if Natalie Mako was built with wires, computer chips and an engine?
Perhaps her real name is the MakoBot 3000?
The scary thing for Massachusetts girls’ cross-country runners is that the Frontier Regional School senior is not a machine, she’s just been imitating one this season.
Mako spent Thursday afternoon braving the cold with a few of her Red Hawk teammates at Northfield Mountain Recreation Area, where she will compete in Saturday’s MIAA State Division II Championships and look to become the first WMass runner to win the meet since 2003, when Hampshire Regional High School’s Kathryn Marvel took the crown just ahead of Mohawk Trail Regional High School’s Rita Marcotte.
To say that this area has never seen anything to match what Mako has done this season might not be an overstatement. The regular season saw Mako break course records in six of her seven meets, and the past two weekends have ended with Mako breaking postseason course records. After demolishing the previous PVIAC-meet course record at Stanley Park in Westfield two weeks ago (shattering the mark by 24 seconds), she traveled to Northfield Mountain last weekend and eclipsed the previous course record by two seconds, besting 2001 Pittsfield High School runner Emily Kaegi.
That sets Mako up to be one of the favorites in Saturday’s state meet, which kicks off at 11 a.m. with the Division I girls’ race. Mako and the rest of the Division II field will start at 11:40, followed by the boys’ Division I (12:20) and Division II (1 p.m.) races.
Anyone who’s paid even a little attention to WMass high school cross country over the past six years should have known that Mako was going to be among this season’s premier runners. But even she had no idea how good she was going to be.
“Oh no,” she said of expectations for a record-shattering season. “I really wanted to get my course record, just to say that I had that, but I never thought I’d do this. I really just wanted to go out each race and perform the best I could for my team.”
Mako began running when she was in seventh grade and decided to go out for the cross country team rather than play soccer or something else. To say that running is in her DNA would not be a stretch, given that everyone in her immediate family is a runner. Father David Mako ran in high school and mother Laura Scoville still runs to this day. Her brother Calvin Mako and sister Teresa Mako both ran for Frontier.
“I’m happy I decided to go out for cross country,” she said. “I wouldn’t have gotten to know all the people on the teams I’ve been on and had all these great experiences.
“It’s kind of weird but I have fun doing it,” she continued. “I try to bring that to every race.”
Even as a seventh-grader Mako was making an impression on the scene. In her first year, Mako finished 34th overall at the WMass Division II Meet and has gotten progressively stronger each year. Now, having dusted the rest of the WMass field by 44 seconds last weekend to earn her first crown, she advances to a state meet that she said she never dreamed she might compete in.
“I definitely never thought I could win it,” she began. “I saw those girls at the front and I was so impressed.”
Last season Mako battled an injury that prevented her from competing at the highest level. But this season things have come together nicely. She said that on top of her regular running practice, she has been doing other things like swimming and cross-training, spending time on an elliptical in order to work other muscles and keep in shape while giving certain muscles rest.
On Saturday she will take to the starting line for the final time as a Red Hawk. There are no more races sanctioned by the MIAA after this, although she will again compete on the track & field team in the spring. She said she has not yet chosen a college to attend next fall, but is not making her decision based on cross country. While she acknowledged that she has gotten interest from Division I college teams and that she will run in college, her biggest priority is to find a school suitable for her education, which she said is going to be in the sciences or engineering. Still, the thought of lining up as a Red Hawk cross-country runner for the final time has been on her mind.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” she began. “No pun intended, but it’s been a great run. I’m definitely going to miss it.”
Still, ending her career at Frontier with the school’s first-ever state title would be one heck of a finish.
“I can’t even say how I’d feel. That would be awesome,” she concluded. “It’s such an honor just to run with the rest of these girls, and it would be amazing to win.”