CHELMSFORD — In terms of wins and losses, only two Tewksbury Memorial High School fall athletic teams finished the season with winning records. The girls soccer team finished 7-2-1 in their abbreviated ten game schedule and last Tuesday, the girls' cross-country team closed out a terrific season with a 20-35 victory over Chelmsford to bring their overall record to 5-2.
“On the whole, I would characterize this season as a success. We went 5-2 with our two losses coming by a combined eight points,” said head coach Fran Cusick. “I think if we had raced a full schedule like in a normal year, we would have beaten Lawrence and Andover and lost to North Andover, so we’re talking about a 7-3 record in one of the most competitive conferences in the state. That’s pretty good!
“Most importantly, the girls were able to connect with each other and have some semblance of normalcy in what has been a dismal seven month stretch. I don’t know what the future will hold for us this winter, as it seems extremely unlikely we will have any indoor track season at all. But I’m very glad we got to get this in and I’m appreciative of all of the people that made that happen.”
Tewksbury traveled to Chelmsford and competed on its three-mile course and had four of the top five finishers and five of the top seven which was the difference in the outcome of a win or a loss. Senior Makayla Paige put the feather in her cap, winning her final meet with a time of 19:29.4. Fellow senior Isabelle Carleton also polished off a solid career with a third overall place finish with a time of 20:35.8.
Finishing behind the two of them included Maci Chapman (4th, 21:01.0), senior Erin Sands (5th, 22:25.3), Olivia Millspaugh (7th, 22:31.4) to round out the top ten.
“We had seven meets this year and five of them have been at home, so I do think their was some discomfort and anxiety in this one about going to a new course. Because of the COVID rules, we have not been allowed to do course preview runs this year, so we are basically relying on a grainy map and a quick warmup run to give them a sense of where to run. So it’s fair to say there was quite a bit of anxiety on the starting line,” said Cusick. “We were also just tired. Even though this season is significantly shorter than previous ones, I could tell on the warmup run that people were a bit drained. Whether that is from running seven meets in seven days, from school, or just the overall stress of 2020, who can say, but we were certainly a tad lethargic while getting ready. We were also running without Molly Cremin, who has been our number three runner basically all year, and we were facing a Chelmsford team that’s got some good young talent on their home course on senior day.
“Thankfully, once the gun went off the girls seemed to put all that aside and ran an aggressive race. It’s hard to compare times because the course are so different, but I would say this was one of our better races of the season from a total team effort across the board perspective.”
Rounding out the competitors included Cassidy Paige (14th, 24:20.0), Emma Jensen (15th, 24:21.7), Elyse O'Leary (16th, 24:23.7), Tierney Trant (21st, 25:44.5), Maisan Nguyen (27th, 28:31.5), Erica Hinkle (29th, 30:07.7) and Victoria Allen (31st, 31:08.9).
The meet ended the career of four seniors, including Maria Da Silva, Izzie Carleton, Erin Sands and Makayla Paige.
“Maria Da Silva was a two-year member of the cross country team and there’s not a girl on our squad that doesn’t feel comfortable talking to her,” said Cusick. “She’s just such a warm, friendly presence that makes everyone else comfortable and does so much for our team dynamic. She’s more of a sprinter, so running long distances is not an activity she loves, but she never complained about the distances or the workouts. I had Maria in class a sophomore and I’m very proud of the way she has matured.
“Izzie Carleton has also been a steady presence for our team over the past four years since transferring to TMHS from Central in the winter of her sophomore year. She seems to thrive at Chelmsford as she had arguably her best cross-country race ever her sophomore year at the MVC Championship on a rain-soaked and mud-filled course. On the whole, Izzie has been a stalwart of our program and will be missed immensely next year.
“I’m really glad that Erin Sands got to run such a good race to close our her season, as she really deserves it. Few in the program have worked harder than Erin over the last couple years, as she is a complete grinder who never gives up on herself. She has been on the team since her sophomore year as well and this season was the most complete one she has put together. Erin has one more race that she will be running unattached in and I’m looking forward to seeing what she can run for the full 5K.
“Makayla Paige is our fourth and final senior. She’s been a fantastic bridge for our program as she came onto the team during Rachel Sessa’s senior year and has done a great job carrying over many of the team’s traditions and values to our current crop of kids. As Makayla herself will tell you, she would much rather be on a track running sub 60 (second) 400 pace than slogging through a mud-filled field, but to her immense credit she very rarely complained and turned herself into one of the best cross country runners in the state.”