Sponsored by Scoreboard Enterprises
By BOB YORK
Last fall, Sydney Masciarelli spent her freshman year chalking up 21 goals for the Marianapolis Prep girls’ soccer team. This fall, she decided to give cross-country a try and capped off her inaugural campaign in that sport by capturing the Girls’ Foot Locker National Cross-Country Championship in San Diego, Calif., on Dec. 8. The feat, which she literally won in the blink of an eye – by .7 seconds – classifies her as the best high school-age girls’ cross-country runner in the country.
Masciarelli, a resident of Northbridge, Mass., covered the 3.1-mile course in a time of 17:00.3 seconds, which proved to be the 10th-fastest time by a girl in the 34 years the race has been held in San Diego. Her time had to be among the best ever, however, as it was just seven-hundredths of a second ahead of Katelynne Hart, a junior from Illinois, who trimmed nearly 22 seconds off her second-place time of a year ago.
“It’s the closest finish I’ve ever been a part of … I was so nervous as I watched them head down the home stretch and toward the finish line,” said Emily Gaudet, Masciarelli’s coach at Marianapolis, who has been involved in the sport – either as a runner or as a coach – for the past 16 years. “It was truly thrilling … something I’ll never forget and I doubt Sydney will either.”
“I had flashbacks of past workouts and training sessions with my brother, and for that split second I realized how far I had come and to get there and to not give it all I had would’ve been something that would have stuck with me forever,“ said Masciarelli in describing her stretch run. “I’ve never been in a situation where I had to push as hard as I did or even try to catch up to someone, so once I caught up to her I knew I had to go all the way.
“It felt good to push and challenge myself and be surrounded by such great competition,” added Masciarelli. “All the girls that ran that day were great runners and I was happy to be a part of this amazing experience. I thank Foot Locker for putting on a very special event.”
It didn’t take a cross-country trip to a cross-country championship for Gaudet to figure out she had some kind of special runner on her team this fall. She got a sneak preview last spring, when, as a freshman, Masciarelli rang up some influential numbers to qualify her as Rookie of the Year in another sport: Track. During her debut at the New England Prep School Track Association Championships, she won the 800-meter race (2:13.94), the 1,500-meter race (4:34.72) and the 3,000-meter race (10:10.63).
This fall, Gaudet knew Masciarelli was for real before the echoes of the starter’s gun had died away from her opening cross-country meet of the season.
“We opened against Noble & Greenough,” said Gaudet, “and Sydney just took off and led that race start to finish. In fact, that’s pretty much what she did throughout the entire regular season as she went undefeated (10-0).”
If any doubt lingered as to just how good a runner Masciarelli was, it vanished the second weekend of the season at the Canterbury Invitational. There, Masciarelli beat out 104 other runners to the finish line to capture the Division II championship in a record-setting time of 17:04, shattering the previous mark by an astounding 55 seconds. Her time also bested the clocking of Deerfield Academy’s Victoria Patterson, who won the girls’ Division I race in 17:55. Combining the two divisions, Masciarelli logged the fastest time of any of the 185 girls who competed at the Canterbury race that day.
Then, during this fall’s NEPSTA Championships, Masciarelli began her tune-up for the Foot Locker competition by winning the Div. IV race in a time of 17:51. Patterson, who was one of four other NEPSTA runners to qualify for this year’s Nationals, won the Div. I race with a girls’ best time on the day of 17:49.
“This race, for which only 40 girls in the country qualify … from both public and private schools … is considered the national championship in the sport of cross country,” said Erin Dromgoole, the NEPSTA president. “The list of past champions is filled with athletes who went onto become NCAA champions and Olympians. It’s a tremendous achievement and the highest honor in the sport of cross-country.
“Sydney is the first athlete to win the Foot Locker title in his or her first season of cross-country since 2005 and not only that, but her down-the-homestretch battle is being widely recognized by many long-time cross-country fans as possibly the greatest finish in Foot Locker Championship history.”
Dromgoole also pointed out that NEPSTA had a total of five of its runners qualify for this year’s prestigious finale. In addition to Masciarelli and Patterson, who failed to finish due to a hamstring injury, the boys’ race featured Matt Farrell of Loomis, who finished 23rd, in a time of 16:04.9, while Choate’s Mustafe Nahir and Richard Sturtevant of NMH were 30th and 32nd, with respective times of 16:18.3 and 16:19.5, “which,” added Dromgoole, “is another tremendous accomplishment given that the qualifying is open to every high school cross-country runner in the United States.”
“Victoria truly crushed it this year,” said Deerfield cross-country coach Dennis Cullinane. “She’s a dream athlete to coach for her focus, dedication, professionalism and ferocity. The Foot Locker regional was her stepping-up race where she ran 17:27 and finished tenth … our exact goal.
“Unfortunately, all the travel to the West Coast and standing around for pre-race ceremonies set her up for a strained hamstring on the big downhill,” added Cullinane. “Frustratingly, she was running 18th at the time and looked fantastic, but we expect her to return next year and do really well.
“I would add that her progression at New Englands has been wonderful, finishing fourth as a freshman, second last year and first this year and that the excitement of winning was second only to the thrill of running back the last 200 meters to cheer on her teammates.”
Farrell chalked up his third consecutive Founders League championship and his second straight New England Div. I crown this fall to prep for the Nationals. Dahir, who is the first Choate runner to qualify for the Nationals in 16 years, earned All-NEPSAC laurels after finishing fourth at the NEPSTA Championships and second to Farrell in the Founders League Championships. Sturtevant, meanwhile, finished up fourth in the NEPSTA Div. I Race in a time of 15:47.
“Matt has been the fastest runner in the Loomis Chaffee program since he arrived as a freshman, and this year, for the third year in a row, he received our Most Valuable Runner Award and that probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has watched him race,” said Loomis Coach Sally Knight.
“What might surprise people, however, is just how hard Matt works for his wins,” added Knight. “This year, unlike preceding years, his competitors have been running with him stride-for-stride in the majority of the season’s races.”
Masciarelli, who is already drawing interest from Division I college basketball coaches after the 5-10 point guard helped lead Marianapolis to the NEPSAC Class A championship game as a freshman, punched her ticket for the West Coast during the Foot Locker Northeast Qualifier in the Bronx. There, she covered the 3.1-mile course in a time of 17:27.6. The top 10 girls to finish as well as the first 10 boys on the clock qualified for the nationals, along with the top 10 boys and girls from the Midwest, South and West Regional meets.
Patterson, who hails from Greenville, S.C., competed in the South Regional and earned her spot by finishing 10th in 17:27, at McAlpine Park in Charlotte, N.C., The boys’ competition saw, Farrell, Dahir and Sturtevant all compete in the Northeast Regional where they finished eighth, ninth and 10th respectively.
Although Gaudet admits that a number of opposing coaches came up to her this fall after watching Masciarelli register win after win after win and asked her, “where’d she come from,” her appearance on this fall’s Golden Knight roster didn’t come as much of a shock to her coach.
“Sydney did very well in track last spring and I think that got the juices flowing for her,” said Gaudet. “Plus, running is in her blood … her twin brother, Sal, just happens to be the best runner on our boys team, so it all makes sense.
“She’s a gifted athlete who runs both effectively and efficiently,” added Gaudet. “Plus, she’s a tremendously hard worker … she goes all out in everything she takes on and I can’t wait to see what she’s able to accomplish over the next two years.”
The NEPSAC SPECIAL NEWS is sponsored by Scoreboard Enterprises. Scoreboard Enterprises is a Sports Technology Company and exclusive Daktronics dealer in the New England area. We provide, install and service scoreboards, video displays and audio systems designed specifically for athletic facilities. Contact us for more information at www.scoreboardenterprises.com; 274 Fruit Street Mansfield, MA 02048, 508-339-8113.