No XCuses

Abington Girls Cross Country Clinches South Shore League Title


Bill Marquardt, with permission

Abington High School’s Girls Cross Country team secured the South Shore League Champion title vs. Randolph on Friday, November 20, 2020. From L to R: Coach Nick DiPrizio, Coach Matt Campbell (back), Captain Jackie Earner (11th), Gabby Maciel (11th), Selena Wood (9th). Front Mia Scarpelli (11th), Hannah Tirrell (10th), Anika Kavalla (10th), Allison Lindvall (10th), and Maddi Carini (10th).

Maria Wood, Staff Writer

For many student athletes, the 2020 fall season was entirely questionable. The COVID-19 pandemic not only cut seasons short, but also got rid of the opportunity for champions to arise. This wasn’t the case for this year’s powerhouse AHS girls cross country team.

On Friday, Nov. 20, the eight-person team made history by becoming the South Shore League Champions for the first time since 1979, 41 years ago. This win was one for the history books.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MIAA State Championships for the fall season were cancelled. This meant that the team only had a short amount of time to reach League Champion status, and that they hard to work even harder to get there.

Junior captain Jackie Earner said, “The fact that we were sort of the underdogs every single year pushed us, and then all of a sudden it was like, ‘We’re winning, that’s crazy!’ We just really wanted to prove that we were the best team in the league.”

Going into the race, junior Mia Scarpelli said, “I definitely was anxious before I ran, but I took out all my nerves on the course.” The stakes were high. Luckily, the team’s fastest runner was able to show up and show out, and bring home a championship title with her teammates.

To know that this (the meet) was the last one, where everything is on the line, that feeling of excitement and closure was a nice way to end for sure.

— Coach Matthew Campbell

Some of the athletes said they had a bittersweet feeling during the meet that marked the end of a season. Sophomore Maddi Carini said, “I was sad, mainly because I knew that this was the last meet, but I was also excited to just give my best out on the course.”

Junior Gabby Maciel added, “You always want all of your teammates there for your last meet. If you don’t have one person there, it makes such a difference, especially because each person has their own sort of role on the team.”

Coach Campbell noted the fact that the Championship title gave a sense of closure to the team that many teams last year never got. “We usually have that routine of the big meets under the lights and major moments like those. To know that this (the meet) was the last one, where everything is on the line, that feeling of excitement and closure was a nice way to end for sure,” he said.

A nice way to end, indeed.

As the girls got ready for what was going to be a historical race, their preparation was actually different from what one would think.

Although the team put in the miles and the hard work, getting into the right headspace and having some fun before the race mattered too. “Dancing will help,” said sophomore Hannah Tirrell, “We needed that to get ourselves going and to get our energy up.”

The team actually set up a mini choreography routine to the song “Low” by Flo Rida and T-Pain to shake out their nerves and just have some fun before races.

If there was anything that was the most memorable for the team, it was the fact that they won the first XC League Championship for AHS since 1979-in the midst of a pandemic. The girls all agreed that they had put in more miles than ever before, and even with such a small team it paid off in the end. “It was definitely rewarding. To have a title like this one is kind of an amazing feeling.” said Scarpelli.

Coach Campbell agreed without hesitation, saying “To have this happen during one of the most challenging years for everyone is remarkable. It’s a reflection of the work that these girls have put in, and it was absolutely earned. It’s unreal, but not surprising.”

The girls team actually had faster times during this “COVID season” than they had ever had before, which is an impressive feat considering the circumstances. Sophomore Allison Lindvall said, “People can look at our season and say ‘This season was different, so the team could have just snuck in to success’, so to speak, or they can say ‘Yes, this season was hard but they still pulled it off.'”

When the races mattered the most, the team turned to their junior leadership comprised of Earner, Scarpelli, and Maciel. Together the veterans made sure that no one was too stressed out and that they all felt ready to face Randolph.

Maciel said, “Our number one job is to make sure that the underclassmen know that we’re supporting them and that they can always come up to us for anything at all.”

Selena Wood, the only freshman on the team, felt the support from the first day on the team all the way to the SSL meet. “I was nervous at first, but the team has made me feel welcomed since day one. I just had to put the fact that I’m a freshman aside and try my hardest.” she said.

Coach Campbell said, “We rarely use the word ‘rookie’ because once we start practice, it really seems like everyone just gels together as a team. It never seemed like there was ever a newcomer or outsider, so props to the veterans for creating that environment.”

That supportive environment may have created the most memorable moment for the girls while they were battling Randolph. Hannah Tirrell went into the race not knowing how she was going to perform due to a leg injury. She and Maddi Carini ran together for the majority of the race, with Tirrell unsure if she was going to finish. About a hundred meters away from the finish line, her leg gave out and she collapsed. Carini doubled back and supported Hannah all the way to the finish line-where both girls still set PRs even with the setback. “I thought to myself, ‘I can see the finish line- I have to finish.’ It was all I could think about. When Maddi came over though, I realized I didn’t know if I would have made it without her.” said Hannah, “I think the photo they got perfectly summarizes our whole season, how we all helped each other through everything.”

When asked about who they would attribute their successes to, the entire team said Coaches Campbell and DiPrizio. “It is so important to always have someone rooting for you, and it eases our minds when we know that we can rely on our coaches. They fostered our environment of success.  ” said Earner.

Campbell echoed the appreciation, saying “There is nothing better than seeing people work hard towards a goal and achieving that goal. I am so grateful to be able to work with this team, and I have the greatest job in the world.”

This team made history on a multitude of levels, and there looks like there will be great successes for them in their future.