NORTHFIELD – COVID-19 took a bit of a bite out of the Parker Charter Essential School’s girls’ cross country team. But as numbers continue to build back from their fall during the pandemic, the Panthers have some reason to feel optimistic, as they were able to improve upon last year’s performance at the state qualifier and finish 12th overall in Division 3C Saturday at Northfield Mountain.
“Coming out of the COVID-19 year we only had 5 girls on the team,” Parker Charter Essential School Cross Country head coach Ben Benoit said. “We graduated some girls around COVID and our numbers just decreased. It’s been a struggle building it back, but there’s definite optimism in that we’re a couple places higher than we were last year. We’re young and only have one senior.”
The Panthers were bitten by the injury bug the day of the meet, which was impactful, as the team’s second best runner Elsa Pierpont was sidelined with an illness and unable to participate.
“That was some tough news when we heard (Pierpont) would be out,” Benoit said. “But the other girls stepped up, and they all had solid races.”
Trisuli Mitchel led the way for the Panthers, finishing in 35th place and posting an impressive 22 minute 36.81 second time on the 5K course.
“(Mitchel) had a goal of making states as an individual,” Benoit said. “And she actually fell just short, which was a bummer. She actually ran the time that she wanted to run, but it was a competitive year in terms of the individual qualifiers, and she just missed it.”
Freshman Heidi Lewis was able to crack the top 60 out of the 173 runner field, posting a 23:46.01.
“(Lewis) is a captain and she was ready,” Benoit said. “She’s somebody who really wants it.”
It looks like a promising future for eighth grader Summer Goyette, who finished 72nd with a 24:02.50. Seventh grader Lillian Gregoire added some valuable experience to her young career securing 89th place with a 25:16.04.
“(Goyette and Gregoire) it’s their first year on the team,” Benoit said. “They’ve learned a lot; they improved a lot over the course of the season. Their future is very bright, they’re definitely runners.”
Senior Ava Soderman has been the heart and soul for the Panthers as the team looks to climb back to prominence, and finished her important career on a high note, securing 120th place and posting a 26:46.31.
“(Soderman) held our team together going through COVID,” Benoit said. “She basically helped rebuild our girls program. Noone works harder than her, she works really, really hard.”
In Division 3A Jayden Jean finished 93rd (26:07.53) to represent Nashoba Tech at the state qualifier.