Natick’s Grace Connolly bound for cross-country nationals

Natick sophomore Grace Connolly will compete in the national cross-country championships next month in San Diego.
Jonathan Wiggs/globe staff/file 2015
Natick sophomore Grace Connolly will compete in the national cross-country championships next month in San Diego.

Just one week removed from winning the Division 1 state individual cross-country title in Gardner, Natick’s Grace Connolly was tasked with an even bigger race — the Foot Locker Northeast Championship at Van Cortland Park in the Bronx, N.Y.

The sophomore crossed the finish line Saturday in 18 minutes 1.9 seconds — good for fourth overall and a trip to the Foot Locker National Championship in San Diego on Dec. 10. The top 10 runners in the boys’ and girls’ seeded races advanced to nationals.

Connolly, who finished 23rd last year as a freshman, said having raced the 5K course once already helped alleviate some of her worries.


“I was so nervous, the most nervous I’ve been all year for a race,” Connolly said. “But I felt really confident coming into it because I knew the course from last year.”

Get Breaking Sports Alerts in your inbox:
Be the first to know the latest sports news as it happens.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Like the Gardner Municipal Golf Course — the home of this year’s All-State race — Van Cortland Park is hilly. Connolly added that the state championship helped prepare her for the up-and-down terrain.

“My focus for this race was to not go out really fast because the hills were as bad as they were at Gardner,” she said. “I felt really prepared, Gardner helped me a lot with that.”

Alyssa Aldridge, a junior from Linwood, N.J., won the race in 17:40.3, followed by Jacqueline Gaughan, a junior from Exeter, N.H., in 17:55.2, and Maria Coffin, a senior from Annapolis, Md., in 17:59.8.

Connolly wrapped up the first mile on the outside looking in of the top-10 runners. She cited that in her previous two races, she wasn’t happy with how fast she came out at the start. But right around the 2-mile mark, she was able to make a push into the top five.


“I just knew my first mile I had to stay focused and not go out too fast. The first mile was my biggest focus,” she said. “Place-wise I was just trying to stay in a comfortable place. I didn’t want to put pressure on myself to go out in the top five.”

Concord-Carlisle senior Margot Ehrenthal finished 18th (18:49.6). The senior finished second in last week’s Division 1 All-State race.

On the boys’ side, Noah Affolder (15:28.2), a senior from Carlisle, Pa., beat his sophomore brother Samuel (15:36.6) across the line.

Tristan Shelgren of St. John’s Prep finished 14th at 16:04.2. He finished second in last week’s All-State Division 1 race.

Newton North junior Andrew Mah finished 20th (16:13.2) followed by Newburyport senior Jack Carleo, the Division 2 state champion, in 23rd (16:16.2).



Nantucket 42, Martha’s Vineyard 0 — The Whalers stepped off the boat to Martha’s Vineyard with a 13-year Island Cup drought hanging over their heads. Nantucket coach Brian Ryder explained to his players, one way or another, they would vividly remember this game for the rest of their lives.

“It’s an island pride thing,” said Ryder, following his team’s 42-0 victory over Martha’s Vineyard.

“It’s just a big win and a very satisfying win, not only for this team and staff, but for this community.”

Quarterback Jack Holdgate and fullback Alex Small led the Whalers, with each junior rushing into the end zone twice. Holdgate scored the only touchdown Nantucket needed in the first quarter on a 4-yard power sweep.

Defensively, the Whalers were ruthless, keeping Martha’s Vineyard on its side of the field until the fourth quarter.

“The kids were just really excited for this game, we felt like we had something to prove,” said Ryder, who competed for Nantucket in the 1986 Island Cup. “The entire community rallies around it . . . We’re very happy to have the cup back home.”

Globe correspondent Sammy J. Hurwitz contributed to this report.