DEVENS — Oliver Ames star senior Katie Sobieraj was still huffing and puffing just seconds after her second-place finish in the girls’ Division 1 cross-country race Saturday at Willard Field in Devens.
Turning her head back toward the finish line, Sobieraj saw three other bright orange jerseys emerging.
Right then, Sobieraj knew her teammates had also risen to the occasion.
Behind Sobieraj’s second-place finish in 18 minutes, 29.21 seconds, and all five finishers placing in the field’s top 35, the Tigers tallied 88 points to capture their first state title in team history, finishing well ahead of runner-up Arlington (172 points) and third-place Wellesley (179).
“It was just surreal when I saw that,” Sobieraj said of the race’s finish. “We set this as a goal at the beginning of our season, and we’ve just worked hard every single day for this. We worked to have our dream come true.”
While he described Sobieraj’s race as “brilliant,” OA coach Kyle Sousa was equally impressed by those runners further down the lineup — namely senior Annie Reilly, who finished in 17th (19:28.38), and juniors Braelyn Graham (19:34.05) and Hannah Dupill (19:34.45), who finished 20th and 21st, respectively.
“It is the culmination of so much hard work,” Sousa said. “I just thought that they ran really strong in the middle stages of the race.”
Finishing ahead of Sobieraj for the individual title was Cambridge’s Aoife Shovlin, who notched a 23-second win (18:06.29) to defend her state crown.
While she secured a four-second victory (18:12.97) on the same course in Devens at last year’s title meet, Shovlin took a new approach en route to her dominant effort Saturday.
“A year ago, I wanted to stick to the front people in the race and try to outkick them, because I didn’t think I could lead from the gun and still win,” Shovlin said. “But this year, I really wanted to try a completely different approach and see if I could run from the front and maintain that lead. I’m just really happy with it.”
Division 2 — From the opening gun, Holliston junior Maggie Kuchman knew she needed to claw her way to the front of a pack of runners — and she picked the perfect time to make her move.
Battling through a tough field of competitors, Kuchman prevailed with a five-second victory (18:38.71) ahead of runner-up Marri O’Connell of Marblehead (18:43.89).
“I knew that it was going to be a pack, and every girl would get out fast,” Kuchman said. “I just had to stay with them. I kind of saw an opening [with a half-mile to go] … And I was just like, ‘It’s now or never.’ I just had to go to work. I didn’t think I would make it.”
While Kuchman’s victory was a major accomplishment, it also came with a highly disappointing finish for her teammate, star senior Carmen Luisi, a two-time defending Division 2 champion. Luisi held a one-second lead over both Kuchman and O’Connell at the 2.4-mile mark, but wound up not finishing the race.
While no Division 2 girls’ team strung together a series of finishers in the top 20, Wakefield (128 points) emerged victorious over runner-up Dover-Sherborn (153 points) behind a seventh-place finish by junior Lily Sallee (19:29.26) and all five scorers placing in the top 40.
Division 3 — When Pentucket senior Kaylie Dalgar lined up for her race Saturday, she was merely hoping for a top-five finish.
But after finding herself bunched up alongside three other runners with just under a mile remaining, she realized she had the chance for much more.
Aided by a late kick, Dalgar won the individual title (18:57.12) in a tight race, with West Bridgewater’s Ella Dunbury (18:59.62) just two seconds behind. Dalgar’s victory improved upon her second-place finish at last week’s Division 3A qualifier race (19:48.09) by over a full minute.
“When the four of us were all in a line, I was like, ‘I’m right here. I can do it. It’s less than a mile to go. I know I have a really strong kick, so I knew if I just stayed in the pack, I could kick it at the end.”
Bromfield took home the team title with 125 points, despite Evelyn Wool’s fifth-place effort (19:16.04) being their only finish in the top 15. Lenox Memorial (138 points) was the runner-up.