HHS girls XC prepares for unusual 2020 season

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In a normal year, the Hopkinton High School girls cross country team already would have started by the middle of September and would spend the fall gearing up for the big meets at the end of the season. But nothing is normal about 2020, and instead Hopkinton will run a pared-down schedule against nearby schools due to the pandemic.

With the usual quest for championships out of the equation, coach Jean Cann said the team has opted to focus more on “process goals” this fall.

“They’ve found, this past year in particular, that there is so much out of their control and I give them credit for staying motivated when all summer they didn’t know when their next race was going to be,” Cann said. “They have risen to the occasion, putting in the miles over the summer, training on their own, and doing the little things they need in order to be ready.”

As such, Cann is not lowering expectations for what some of her stronger runners might be able to accomplish. Olivia Jones figures to be the Hillers’ top runner after finishing fourth in Division 1 at the all-state meet a season ago and earning Tri-Valley All-Star recognition. Jones, who recently committed to the University of Florida, was one of six TVL All-Stars Hopkinton had on its roster a season ago.

Greta Field also returns as a senior captain, and senior Hope DeLuca is back for her second year after switching over from field hockey.

Autumn Tumbleton and Alessandra Luce are back for their sophomore seasons after strong rookie campaigns that saw them both place in the top five at the state divisional meet. The pair have learned to run together and pace one another, Cann said, and both will benefit from having a year of experience under their belts.

Grace Joy added depth to the 2019 Hillers despite breaking her ankle, and Cann said she is expecting even more from Joy this year. Katie Callery, Lisa Levandosky, Caitlin Barnes and co-captain Abigail Casady are expected to contribute as well.

Hopkinton also has a fairly large crop of freshmen joining the program.

“Most of them are fairly new to running distance so there will be some learning for them to do,” Cann said. “We will get them excited about the sport and hopefully build more towards the future.”

Their indoctrination to the sport will be different than any other year. Hopkinton has 49 runners on the roster but, due to COVID-19 restrictions, can only race up to 20 girls per meet. Cann said the coaches sent around a survey asking girls whether they were interested in competing.

“Some of them like to be part of a team but they could take or leave the races,” she said. “We are going to try to give everyone who wants to race at least a couple of opportunities.”

Hopkinton has had to change its preparation for the year but has adapted well, holding team meetings and yoga sessions over Zoom. Still, Cann said it’s been different not to see the athletes every day at school. The runners also will have to get used to wearing masks during races — the first of which was scheduled for Oct. 10.

“It’s going to be a little challenging, especially when you’re racing hard,” Cann said. “But we are hoping they can get enough distance and space that they can pull their masks down when they are running. We will do what we can to keep everyone safe.”

A rule banning spectators at meets not only means no family members or fans along the course, but the non-competing members of the team will not be able to cheer on their teammates.

“We will try to make sure we keep that team spirit,” Cann said.

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