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Girls' State Cross-Country Championships

Panthers pull a fast one

Peabody’s Catarina Rocha takes the Division 1 title. Peabody’s Catarina Rocha takes the Division 1 title. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
By Braden Campbell
Globe Correspondent / November 20, 2011

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Last week, Whitman-Hanson girls’ cross-country coach Keith Erwin credited his team’s run to the Division 3 title to his runners enjoying “the race of their lives.’’

At yesterday’s MIAA girls’ Division 2 state championship race at Franklin Park, the Panthers outdid themselves. All five of Whitman-Hanson’s scoring runners crossed the finish line in under 20 minutes, well ahead of their respective times on the same 5K course last week, sending a “not so fast, Coach’’ note to Erwin.

Abby Baker (19 minutes, 27 seconds), Gianna Cacciatore (19:42), Jenny Dimascio-Donahue (19:44), Kelsey Tierney (19:44), and Rachel Baker (19:47) led the team to its first state title, scoring 93 points to cruise past second-place Wachusett (168).

“They just came in all together, I couldn’t even hit the button fast enough,’’ Erwin said. “Just a sea of people . . . I couldn’t see. It’s just absolutely amazing.’’

Weymouth (177), Masconomet (182), and Lincoln-Sudbury (197) rounded out the top five.

The Panthers’ run to the top these past two weeks has been dramatic. Baker faltered just short of the finish line last week, succumbing to a fluid imbalance that forced her to fall from fourth place to 30th by race’s end. She suffered some residual ill effects yesterday, but still managed a strong race. Teammate Caroline Mulrey lost a shoe early in the race yesterday, running the remaining 2-plus miles with a bloodied foot, and finishing 61st overall in 20:24.

“The race took it out of [Rachel] again today, but she held it together, everybody pulled through today,’’ Erwin said. “Her pulling through, the freshman Kelsey [Tierney] running the race of her life, and to have [Mulrey] have her spike come off during the race, they all stepped up for each other and ran amazingly well.’’

Peabody’s Catarina Rocha (18:12) captured the individual title in 18:12, well ahead of Longmeadow’s Camille Blackman (18:41) and Andover’s Maggie Mullins (18:45).

In the Division 2 race, Bishop Feehan captured its third consecutive state title with 63 points.

Katie Powell (18:43) and Abbey McNulty (18:43) finished a half-second apart to place second and third, respectively, to lead Bishop Feehan. Hamilton-Wenham, led by the fourth-place finish of Kerry Phelan, was second with 79 points, followed by Weston (99), Mount Greylock (169), and Dover-Sherborn (184).

“We had a good team coming back,’’ Bishop Feehan coach Bob L’Homme said. “We needed some young kids to step it up and they did.’’

Sophomores McNulty, Brynna Harum, and Kate Svensen were among the Shamrocks’ scoring runners. The Bishop Feehan boys, also coached by L’Homme, also won the state title.

“It was unbelievable, a great feeling,’’ L’Homme said. “[This was] the second time that our boys and girls both won. We’re like one big team, and that really helps, too.’’

Dennis-Yarmouth junior Jordan O’Dea won the race in 18:34.

“It feels really good,’’ O’Dea said. “It’s been my goal ever since last year to get first at the state championship meet.’’