Hopkinton High School girls cross country coach Jean Cann has tried to reassure her team that, should it qualify for the Meet of Champions at the tough Gardner course at the end of the season, it will be just fine.
The course is difficult and anything but flat, but Cann said that should play right into Hopkinton’s strength.
“I’ve told the girls, ‘We are the Hillers, this is what we do,’ ’’ Cann said. “We can train on hills all the time, we have an advantage here.”
Hopkinton returned nearly all of its top runners from a season ago. In addition to a strong group of seniors, Cann has several younger runners who made significant strides during the offseason. Junior Elyse Srodawa is the top runner on the Hillers roster.
“She had a good, strong season last year, and then she kept improving in track,” Cann said. “She put in a lot of work over the summer, and I expect her to be my strongest runner all season.”
During early season competition, Bethel Flanagan, Abby Flanagan and Bridgid Cavanaugh were among the top runners for Hopkinton.
“We are fairly deep, we are about 10 deep, so it’s a good spot to be in,” Cann said. “I expect our top seven to change a little bit during the season.”
Sophomore Chloe Tumbleton, junior Malia Grant, senior Sophie Weeden and junior Norah Heling got off to strong starts. Hopkinton also is looking for good things from junior Ava Carboni and freshman Jillian Toran as the season progresses.
“They are both very new to the sport, but I think they will move up during the season,” Cann said. “A lot of our runners worked very hard over the summer; we will look to see what they can do.”
Hopkinton finished second in the Tri-Valley League last year behind Holliston, which also gave the Hillers their only loss during the dual meet campaign. Cann said Holliston is expected to be strong again this fall.
“We always want to win the TVL, and we always want to make it to the Meet of Champions,” Cann said.
Hopkinton will be in a new division this year, moving from 1B to 1C. Cann said the competition still should be strong. While the Hillers will not compete against teams like Wellesley and Concord-Carlisle, they will have to take on talented programs like Oliver Ames and Milton.
Cann added that there are broader goals beyond racking up victories.
“I always want to get everyone to enjoy running,” Cann said. “I have athletes who graduate and don’t compete in college, but they are still out there running most days. I like to see that we are fostering a love of running, whether or not you are going to continue it beyond high school.”