Fine, Ni­chols lead KI’s sweep of Bayside cham­pi­onships

Dorchester Star - - Sports - By WIL­LIAM HAUFE bhaufe@stardem.com the

CAM­BRIDGE — Three weeks ago, after a solid fin­ish at the Tide­wa­ter Clas­sic, Kent Is­land High’s Mandy Fine told her mother on the phone, “I’m go­ing to win Bay­sides.”

Bran­don Ni­chols wasn’t ex­actly brim­ming with that same con­fi­dence on Wed­nes­day, Oct. 26, as he fell off the pace half a mile away from the fin­ish line, and was be­gin­ning to let the idea of third place set­tle in when the un­ex­plain­able hap­pened.

“I don’t know what came upon (me),” Ni­chols said.

Not long after watch­ing Fine fin­ish with a flour­ish to be­come Kent Is­land’s first girls’ cross coun­try cham­pion in 16 years, Ni­chols ral­lied over the fi­nal 400 me­ters to be­come the school’s fifth con­sec­u­tive boys’ champ, cap­ping a Buc­ca­neers’ sweep of the boys’ and girls’ team crowns at the Bayside Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onships at Cam­bridge-South Dorchester High.

“I was third most of the race,” said Ni­chols, who had a back­seat view as team­mate Erick Sanchez and Cam­bridge-South Dorchester’s Con­nor McCroy traded leads with an oc­ca­sional bump over the bet­ter part of the 3-mile course. “I started to lose them with about half a mile to go. I was a good five sec­onds be­hind the lead with Con­nor and Erick, and I was on the verge of not get­ting back up.

“But I just caught back up, and I knew if I kept with Erick, I knew I’d be able to catch him at the end be­cause I’ve been us­ing that the en­tire sea­son,” Ni­chols added of his kick.

Whether they were nav­i­gat­ing the nar­row paths that snaked through the course’s wooded sec­tions, or were out in the open sun­shine, Sanchez and McCroy swapped surges, and at times made con­tact.

“It got phys­i­cal, but it wasn’t like on pur­pose,” Sanchez said.

Ni­chols wasn’t sure if the two-way duel took a toll on the two lead­ers, but he did ad­mit, “They def­i­nitely wore me out.”

Side­lined early this sea­son be­cause of shin is­sues, Ni­chols fig­ured he was des­tined for third. But when McCroy fell back and Sanchez started open­ing a lead, Ni­chols made his move.

“I re­ally wanted to take the lead with about 1,000 me­ters to go,” Sanchez said. “That’s where I re­ally want to kick it in. But I got him (McCroy) at the end. And then Bran­don came in and got a good kick.”

Ni­chols slipped past McCroy, closed on his team­mate, and with 400 me­ters re­main­ing, forged to the front and never re­lin­quished the lead, cross­ing the fin­ish line in 16 min­utes, 8.50 sec­onds.

“Over­all this was a re­ally hard race,” Ni­chols said. “I’ve never been this tired at the end of a race be­fore. This is the best feel­ing I’ve had rac­ing since (out­door) track sea­son at Bay­sides when I ran (and won) the two-mile. It feels re­ally good.

“I don’t know. I re­ally don’t,” Ni­chols said when asked a se­cond time what hap­pened the fi­nal 800 me­ters. “But I’m rather happy it hap­pened.”

Sanchez fin­ished se­cond in 16:12.80, fol­lowed by McCroy (16:21.30), North Caro­line’s Troy Smith (16:39.70) and Kent Is­land’s Cade Stan­field (16:51.50).

De­spite the Buc­ca­neers plac­ing three in the top five, and hav­ing Shane Peters and Cur­tis Perez fin­ish sev­enth and 33rd, re­spec­tively, they only edged run­ner-up Cam­bridge-SD by three points (48-51), to win their sev­enth con­sec­u­tive team ti­tle — a con­fer­ence record.

The Vik­ings’ top five con­sisted of McCroy, Trevor Good­win (8th), Matt Ko­let­sky (9th), An­thony Thomas (14th) and Ben Corn­well (17th).

“God, that would have been nice to get,” Vik­ings head coach Sean Reincke said of the boys’ ti­tle. “Hon­estly I didn’t even know if we had a shot at KI. Com­ing into this we had re­ally not come to­gether as a team. That was

best day we’ve had all sea­son. So hats off to my guys for show­ing up when it mat­ters. But then to miss it by three.”

Though fin­ish­ing be­hind team­mate Molly Con­nelly at this year’s Spike Shoe In­vi­ta­tional and Tide­wa­ter Clas­sic may have spurred Fine’s

Bayside-win­ning pre­dic­tion, con­stantly fin­ish­ing be­hind Eas­ton’s Kathryn Gearhart, Kent Is­land team­mate Emma Tvelia, and North Caro­line’s Chris­tine Sturm a year ago pro­vided her mo­ti­va­tion en­ter­ing her se­nior sea­son.

“Last year there were three girls ahead of me ev­ery race and I was like, ‘This is my year. I’m de­ter­mined this year,’” Fine said. “And it worked.”

But Fine also ad­mit­ted it took a more con­certed ef­fort on her part when it came to prac­tice. Once sat­is­fied with turn­ing in a few sub-3-minute 800s dur­ing speed work, Fine fo­cused on get­ting un­der 3 min­utes in all of her 800s after Tide­wa­ter.

“I would be like, ‘Yeah, I ran re­ally fast in the be­gin­ning, like 2:55,’” she said. “And then I would be like, ‘Oh, the last two I can run a 3:05. There’s no prob­lem with that. Now, I’m like I have to get un­der three (min­utes) ev­ery 800. I set my goals and I make sure I achieve them.

“It’s al­ways been a goal to do some­thing like this,” Fine added of win­ning a Bayside ti­tle. “But I had no idea what I was go­ing into this year. I didn’t know my com­pe­ti­tion. And then Molly, she’s been killing it this sea­son. So I knew she would be a threat here.”

Fine and Con­nelly rushed right to the lead off the start­ing line, but as the pair emerged from the woods for the first time, Fine held a lead with Con­nelly and Snow Hill’s Emily McAl­lis­ter in tow. As Con­nelly and

McAl­lis­ter splashed through pud­dles and rus­tled leaves be­hind her, Fine main­tained her lead head­ing into the fi­nal mile, then took a peek be­hind her.

“I glanced over once we hit the trees and I no­ticed there was Molly and the Snow Hill girl, and they were like only five sec­onds be­hind me,” Fine said. “And I was like, ‘Now is my time to go. Once I got out of the woods I knew I only had 800 (me­ters). I can pick it up now.

“At the end I screamed be­cause I was dead,” Fine con­tin­ued. “But by her be­ing on me the whole time, at the end it pushed me so much in the straight­away. Once I got to the 800 I knew I had to push it be­cause I heard my coach say­ing, ‘She’s right be­hind you. You’ve got to go.’” And I glanced back quickly and I no­ticed she was right be­hind

me. And I was like, ‘I got to go now. I can’t give it up.”

She didn’t, cross­ing the fin­ish line in a per­sonal-record 19:14, to be­come Kent Is­land’s first girls’ Bayside cross coun­try cham­pion since Brit­tany Um­berger in 2000.

Kent Is­land fin­ished with 56 points — 13 ahead of de­fend­ing cham­pion North Caro­line. The Bucs, who have been with­out the in­jured Tvelia all sea­son, and then learned Mon­day they wouldn’t have No. 4 run­ner Kim­mie Palace be­cause of an in­jury, had Con­nelly fin­ish third in 19:34.80, fol­lowed by Han­nah Claggett (13th), Carly Turner (19th) and Claire Mack (24th).

The ti­tle was the fifth in the last six years for Kent Is­land’s girls.

McAl­lis­ter fin­ished se­cond in 19:19.90.

Se­cond-place North Car- oline was led by Me­gan Han­negan (8th), Sierra Reynolds (11th), Emily Lewis (15th), Han­nia Jos­se­lyn (16th) and Natalie Cal­loway (23rd). Queen Anne’s, which fin­ished third, was led by Emily Gates (4th, 19:45.90) and Made­line Wilson (7th, 20:34), while Eas­ton’s Claire Dowd (20:29.40) and An­nie Ray (20:34) fin­ished fifth and sixth, re­spec­tively.

PHOTO BY WIL­LIAM HAUFE

Cam­bridge-SD’s Con­nor McCroy nears the fin­ish line to take third place at Wed­nes­day’s Bayside Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onships.

PHOTO BY WIL­LIAM HAUFE

Cam­bridge-SD’s Trevor Good­win (132) and Con­nor McCroy (134) break away from the start­ing line dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s Bayside Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onships.

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