PVIAC XC: Poplawski, Simmons set the pace

  • Mohawk Trail’s Erika Looman heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Mohawk Trail’s Savannah Simmons (720) and Sierra Upton (723) head toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Frontier’s Leah Gump (267) heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Mohawk Trail’s Grace Poplawski heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. Poplawski finished 17th overall to pace the locals. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Angelina Egland of Frontier (265) heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Mohawk Trail’s Grace Poplawski (719) and Erica Szewczyk (721) move through the course behind Agawam’s Kate Dustin during Saturday’s PVIAC Cross Country Championships at Stanley Park in Westfield. Obstructed behind Szewczyk is teammate Erika Looman. Poplawski was the top local finisher, taking 17th place. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Frontier’s Sasha Malo (276) heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Greenfield’s Eva Heath heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Greenfield’s Kandice Lu heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Mahar’s Thor Mead (921) heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Sean O’Dean of Mohawk Trail heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Mahar’s Liam DiDonato, center, heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Mohawk Trail’s Dennis Simmons heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. Simmons crossed in 21st place overall. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Noah deRuiter of Pioneer heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Greenfield’s Dragos Rosca (380) heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. Mohawk Trail’s Vincent Gauithier (726) runs on the left. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Greenfield’s Alex Tirrell heads toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Frontier’s Aden Gray, left, and Greenfield’s Erick Badillo battle as they head toward the finish line during the PVIAC Cross Country Championships, Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Staff Writer
Published: 10/27/2019 4:45:39 PM

WESTFIELD — From the soccer field to the top cross country runner in Franklin County, it’s been quite a ride for Mohawk Trail Regional High School senior Grace Poplawski.

After switching to cross country for the first time prior to her senior season, Poplawski showed her mettle on the big stage during Saturday’s PVIAC Cross Country Championships. Her 17th-place finish was tops in Franklin County, and she led a pack of five Warriors in the top 41 overall to help Mohawk Trail to an impressive fourth-place team showing at Stanley Park.

Saturday’s race was the first PVIAC appearance for Poplawski, who has made an immediate impact for a Mohawk Trail team that has continued to shine despite the graduation of its top runner, Meghan Davis, from a year ago. The Warriors posted a total of 135 points, putting them as the top Division 2 team in the field. Amherst won the girls title with 46 points, edging runner-up Northampton (48) with Ludlow a distant third (115).

“I really enjoyed it,” said Poplawski of Saturday’s race. “It’s different than (a dual meet) just because of the amount of people involved. There were so many girls pushing each other but everyone along the course is cheering for you.”

Poplawski traversed the 5K course, which begins on grass before going into the woods at Stanley Park, with a time of 20 minutes, 58 seconds. Pope Francis senior Emily Boutin took first overall in a blistering 17:57, more than 20 seconds clear of Agawam’s Sarah Ross, the runner-up in 18:19.

“I was pretty happy with my time,” said Poplawski, who is on the mend after missing a meet two weeks ago with calf and Achilles issues. “I’m coming back from an injury but I felt really good. I (finished) around where I wanted to be.”

While Poplawski led the pack for Mohawk Trail, it didn’t take long for her teammates to join her at the finish line. Fellow senior Erika Looman was less than 30 seconds behind, finishing 23rd overall with a time of 21:25. Next came sophomore Erica Szewczyk in 27th position (21:35), while freshman Savannah Simmons (40th, 21:54) and eighth-grader Sierra Upton (41st, 21:56) rounded out the five scorers for the Warriors. Also cracking the top 100 for Mohawk Trail on the day were sophomore Caitlin Upton (71st, 22:49), senior Carli Cusimano (83rd, 23:09) and eighth-grader Kyra Goodell (85th, 23:15).

Poplawski said she has particularly enjoyed the camaraderie that the team aspect of the sport has provided. Mohawk Trail won the Pioneer North regular season championship after posting an undefeated mark during the dual meet portion of the fall.

“I wish I had started running (cross country) earlier, to be honest,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed this team so much, I wish I had more than just this one season with everyone.”

Frontier Regional School earned a top 10 finish as a team, taking ninth with a total of 270 points. The Red Hawks put all five of their scorers in the top 80 individually, with freshman Abigail Howard continuing her stellar fall with a team-best 28th-place showing on Saturday. Howard paced the squad with a time of 21:37.

Eighth-grader Leah Gump was next across the line in 55th position (22:20), with freshman Angelina Egland (65th, 22:37), seventh-grader Sasha Malo (67th, 22:42) and sophomore Sadie Ross (78th, 22:59) rounding out the scorers for Frontier. Seniors Adrienne Josephs (79th, 22:59) and Lia Vichi (87th, 23:17) were top 100 finishers on the day.

Greenfield High School was the only other local side to score as a team, and the Green Wave finished 19th overall with 552 points.

First across for Greenfield was junior Eva Heath, posting a 66th-place finish with a time of 22:41. Sophomore Kandice Lu took 90th overall in 23:26, followed by juniors Johanna Guiod (105th, 24:12) and Shane Subeldia (156th, 26:38), and eighth-grader Natalie Grunwald (29:00).

Pioneer Valley Regional School seventh-grader Allison Clary was first across for the Panthers on Saturday, taking 102nd overall with a time of 24:05. The young Panthers also received finishes from freshman Samantha Baldwin (138th, 25:54), seventh-grader Amelia Fowler-Shaw (155th, 26:31) and Lucy Koester (162nd, 27:01).

Like the girls race, which actually featured a false start, the boys race featured a Mohawk Trail runner as the top Franklin County finisher.

Sophomore Dennis Simmons crossed in 21st place overall, as his time of 17:01 was good enough for fifth-fastest among Division 2 runners in the field.

“The course wasn’t cleared out as well as I was hoping so it made things a little tough,” Simmons said of the terrain at Stanley Park, which slowed him a bit when he took a rock to the heel while entering the wooded portion of the course. “But I finished about where I expected.”

Despite being just a sophomore, Simmons is no stranger to the big races, and he’ll be one to watch near the front of the pack in two weeks at the WMass Division 2 Championship at Northfield Mountain.

Sophomore Sean O’Dean was 86th for the Warriors in 18:39.

“There’s more emphasis on corners and taking turns when you’re in a big race like this,” he said. “My aim is top three (at WMass). Northfield is a course where I’ve run some pretty good races.”

Pioneer North league champion Frontier was the top team in the boys field coming out of Franklin County on Saturday. The Red Hawks took 12th with 363 points, paced by junior Gehrig Brynda’s team-best 31st-place finish in 17:20.

Frontier senior Brett Robinson was next in 81st position (18:35), with teammates Kai Sharp (83rd, 18:37), Patrick Boyden (87th, 18:42) and Aden Gray (102nd, 19:07) rounding out the team’s scorers.

Northampton cruised to the boys team victory with 46 points, followed by Amherst (104) and Longmeadow (122). Northampton went 1-2 in the individual department, as Tobias Lesperance was the winner in 15:50, followed by teammate Simon LaClair (15:56).

Greenfield nabbed 16th as a team, compiling 485 points with senior Alex Tirrell leading the pack in 91st place (18:50). Junior Gianni Passiglia was close behind in 94th place (18:51), followed by sophomores Erick Badillo (103rd, 19:10) and Emanuel Rosca (112th, 19:20), and junior Matt Conway (115th, 19:23).

Mahar Regional School senior Thor Mead had the third-fastest time in Franklin County, as he was 38th overall in the field with a time of 17:40.

“I'm pleased with Thor's results,” Mahar coach Ben Just said. “He took 10 seconds off his Western Mass. time from last year.”

Pioneer’s Noah deRuiter had his school’s best time, crossing in 19:30 to put him 120th overall.

Also cracking the top 150 from the area were Frontier’s Danny Fellows (134th) and Aleks Carey (139th), along with Mahar’s Liam DiDonato (141st).

The WMass Division 2 meet is set for Nov. 9 in Northfield.




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