WRENTHAM — Just one mile into the Division 1 junior and senior race at the MSTCA Frank Mooney Invitational cross-country meet, one thing was abundantly clear: Nobody was going to catch Andrew Mah.
At the sound of the gun, the Newton North senior shot to the front of the pack and led the entire way, cruising to the finish line to claim first place in 15 minutes, 20.40 seconds on Saturday at the Wrentham Developmental Center.
It was complete dominance for Mah. Runner-up, Methuen senior Samuel Cook, finished in 16:20.96 and Newton North senior Ilai Gavish took third at 16:21.20, both more than a full minute behind Mah.
His closest rivals, St. John’s Prep senior Tristan Shelgren and Arlington junior Ryan Oosting, didn’t compete in the meet, giving Mah the opportunity to take over.
“I thought Shelgren and Oosting were going to be in the race, but after 800 meters I realized they weren’t and it was just a little tougher because now I was working against myself,” Mah said. “I didn’t psych myself out though and I still wanted to get a good time. Just wanted to stay focused.”
Mah wasn’t sure what his competition looked like until around the 400-meter mark.
“It’s not like track where you know right away who you’re up against because there’s only a few people on the line,” Mah said. “Here, there’s hundreds of kids lined up so you don’t really know who’s there.”
Mah will be back in Wrentham next week for the Division 1 championships, where he finished less than a second behind Shelgren in third last year.
“In my senior year I want to go out on a high note,” Mah added. “And our team is definitely feeling like we can do pretty well next week.”
Parker Charter senior Nico Agosta took first place in the Division 2 junior and senior race in 16:14.37. Stoneham senior Jake Luongo (16:25.62) took second place and Ipswich senior Kellen Waters (16:25.79) was third.
After staying with a small pack up front for the first portion of the 5,000-meter course, Agosta took the lead at the mile mark and never looked back.
“When I went out I wasn’t feeling too great, but once I got into a good rhythm I was fine and just kept a good pace,” he said. “That last two miles was mostly just fear because I didn’t know how far back [Luongo and Waters] were, so I just kept pushing it.”
On the girls’ side, Beverly junior Ashley Foley (18:49.75) narrowly defeated Newton North senior Einat Gavish (18:53.96) for first in the Division 1 junior and senior race. The two were neck and neck the whole race before Foley broke away at the home stretch.
Stoneham’s Mari Avola was right behind Seekonk’s Abigail Tenreiro for much of the Division 2 junior and senior race. Then with about 1,000 meters to go, Avola burst to the front and won in 18:55.02.
“For me, I’ve been used to going out to the front and keeping the lead, so this was a little different,” Avola said. “It was nice though, because you don’t have that pressure of someone breathing down your neck.”