WRENTHAM — With her mom as coach, All-Scholastic outdoor track mile champion Liz Holmes is hitting the trails this season rather than the soccer field and the Foxboro sophomore left a lasting impression at the Frank Kelley Invitational Saturday with a first-place finish in the Division 2 race.
“I thought she did a fantastic job today,” Foxboro coach Ellen Gallagher said. “It’s hard to coach her as her mother because you worry about her. She’s my daughter first and I kind of worry when she runs and there’s a lot of anxiety that comes along with any given race.”
Last fall, Holmes played one junior varsity soccer game for Foxboro before being bumped to the varsity squad. Now she’s a varsity cross-country runner.
“It never really occurred to me because she’s played soccer for six or seven years and she’s always been really good at soccer. So I frankly thought soccer was going to be her sport for high school,” Gallagher said.
After strong indoor and outdoor track seasons, Holmes admitted soccer wasn’t for her.
“I’m really glad I’m not playing soccer,” she said. “I have a love-hate relationship with running.”
She relies on that love-hate relationship to connect with teammates and to get through practice and pre-race jitters. Her true running passion lies on the trails during races.
“It felt really good running,” she said. “It’s my second 5k, so I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I felt good.”
The sophomore completed the race in 18:29.3, the second fastest overall girls’ time behind Peabody’s returning state champion and senior Catarina Rocha’s 17:40 finish in the Division 1 race.
“I felt pretty good. I just ran the race like it was any other race,” Rocha said. “I just go out there and run my own race.”
Peabody finished with four girls in the top 20, leading to a first-place team finish.
The Lowell boys’ team took first in Division 1 thanks to the combined effort of four runners in the top 10.
“We did really well,” coach Phil Maia said. “There are no easy meets. You just have to run hard. When you race and train at a higher intensity, you perform better. I just think we are the product of having a good league.”
Cross-country All-Scholastic Mike O’Donnell of Methuen won the Division 1 race in 15:56.4. He was part of a tight lead pack that included Tewksbury’s Brian Amaral (second in 16:02.7) and Lowell’s Patrick Coppinger (third in 16:03), all finishing within seven seconds of each other.
“I felt pretty good at [the one-mile mark]. I wasn’t confident, but I felt better than I thought I was going to,” O’Donnell said. “Going up that last hill with like 400 [meters] to go, I saw one of them drop his arms and I was like ‘all right, this is my time.’ ”
But it was Newburyport sophomore Nick Carleo who clocked the day’s fastest overall time (15:56), beating O’Donnell’s time by four-100ths of a second.
“It feels really good. It’s the first time I’ve come anywhere near [breaking 16 minutes] and I did it, so it feels great,” Carleo said. “I wasn’t really expecting to win. I kind of just came in hoping for a top 30 spot.”
Just before the two-mile mark, Carleo said he was in fourth place and pulled away with 600 meters to go.
“I was not expecting to do that at all. It just happened,” he said.