Teamwork – including a top finish by a freshman – led the high school girls’ cross-country team to a Northeast Regional championship on Saturday.
The win means the girls’ cross-country heads to Portland, Oregon to race on Saturday at the National Championships on Dec. 3.
The race will be livestreamed on the Internet on the race website.
The team’s bus returned from New York on Saturday night to Wenham, and then Hamilton, with an escort from the Hamilton and Wenham police departments and fire departments.
A combination of police and fire trucks, with lights flashing and sirens wailing, escorted the team’s bus up Route 1A from Beverly to the Hamilton public safety building.
“It was unreal,” said junior runner Claire Pacione in an interview with five teammates outside the Hamilton public safety building when the team returned from New York on Saturday night.
The team last got an escort in 2008 when it was the state championship. They were ninth at the Regionals last year.
Saturday’s performance at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. also marked the team’s first win over Bishop Feehan in the past two years – a team that beat the Generals to win the state championship both years.
“We weren’t expecting it,” said sophomore Emily Horgan.
The Generals also bested the team from Weston High School, a team they beat by just one point two weeks ago in the sectional.
Hamilton-Wenham's 142 was enough to win, with Bishop Feeham in eighth place at 224 points. Weston was third with 198 points.
The team’s top five finishers were within 25 seconds of each other. Freshman Emily Weigand was the top General in 27th place at 19:47 on the five-kilometer course. Other scorers included Emily Horgan, (29, 19:50) Margaret Blatchford (48, 20:11) Kerry Phelan (58, 20:19) and Claire Pacione (59, 20:19).
A team from Vermont – the second place finisher – will also make the trip to Oregon. Nike, who hosts and sponsors the race, will pay for the flight and lodging costs.
“They treat you like rock stars, that is what we have been told,” Phelan said.
Phelan said the course in New York was tougher than most of the courses the team sees in Massachusetts, and tougher than the Franklin Park course the team race the sectional and state championships for the past two weekends.
Senior captain Emily Senning said the team’s goal has been to close the gap between teammates all season – and that happened on Saturday.