AYER – It’s been another stellar cross country season for the Ayer Shirley Regional High School girls’ team, and a chance at one of the season’s top prizes is before them on Saturday.
The Panthers will head to Lunenburg to compete in the Mid Wach D championship meet, where it’s expected to be a 2-team race at the top, with league foe Gardner High School.
ASRHS came off a Twilight Invitational appearance on Saturday October 14 where many personal records came through the ranks. However, there were some sore legs with a quick turnaround to Monday’s dual meet finale with league-favorite Gardner, which the Panthers came up on the short end of.
Saturday will mark a chance at revenge as Ayer Shirley and the Wildcats have separated themselves from the pack, and the Maroon and White finished the dual meet season with an impressive 6-1 record.
“Gardner is a really good team,” Ayer Shirley Regional Girls’ Cross Country Head Coach Mike Seguin said. “They’re front heavy, with two or three really strong runners. They were a little too much for us to contend with, but we have a number of runners that are getting better, so we’ll see how that plays out when it comes to league’s.”
Carolyn Mason is a sophomore star, securing the lead leg for the Panthers all season long with steady improvement, despite the tough challenges that league foes offer in their frontrunners.
Ayer Shirley has a bright future with only one senior in the top seven, however that’s not to dismiss the leadership and ability provided by that senior Marissa Grace and the prospects for the championship portion of the season.
Grace is a leader that the athletes on the team gravitate toward, Seguin said, as she’s been part of the program for years.
“(Grace) was a semi leader of the team last year,” Seguin said. “But now she’s stepped into that full senior leadership role.”
It’s a three-leg race trying to fill the 2-through-4 spots, as three competitors constantly push each other and jockey for that coveted silver medal on the team. Grace is certainly in contention for that honor, but Ada Perwak has been climbing that ladder weekly with ferocity.
“I think (Perwak) started at number 4,” Seguin said. “And each race got a little bit better, got a little bit better, now she’s holding down that number 2 spot pretty well right now. But there’s a group of them, and right on her heels is Jane Marshall.”
Marshall got a head start to the season with excellent offseason training, which helped to push the competition around her.
Lilly Abelson, a junior in class rank, and middle schooler Devon Perwak have been flip-flopping in the fifth final scorer and first displacer position. A typical finisher in the 7-spot is Caitlyn Schrock.
Tahanto might finish third on Saturday at league’s, but Seguin says it’s hard to project as so many teams are top heavy with their No. 1, that placing will come down to how those frontrunners play out, and which team has enough depth after that. The Panthers are heavy on depth, and the odds of a strong outcome seem likely, the question is will it be enough to outpace Gardner.
“We have a much more complete team than everyone else does,” Seguin said. “It’ll be interesting in the league meet, but I think it’s going to come down to us and Gardner.”