Cambridge’s Aoife Shovlin repeats as Div. 1 champion

DEVENS — Halfway through the cross country season it looked as though Cambridge’s Aoife Shovlin may not regain her strength for strong showings in the championship race.

Shovlin proved any naysayers wrong with a big smile across the finish line in the Div. 1 race at Saturday’s Meet of Champions.

Racing in chilly conditions on the challenging course, Shovlin assumed the lead early and turned it into a runaway. Shovlin was never challenged as she danced across the finish line in 18 minutes, 6.29 seconds to easily defend her title. Oliver Ames’ Katie Sobieraj was a distant second to Shovlin in 18:29.21 and Westfield’s Megan Moran grabbed the bronze in 18:29.69.

Shovlin was far more aggressive this go around than last year.

“I wanted to run from the front and see just how fast I could go,” she said. “This definitely boosted my confidence. A year ago I tried to stay at the front and wanted to outkick people.”

There was probably no happier winner on the day than Kaylie Dalgar. The Pentucket harrier has flown under the radar for most of the season, but came up big in the Div. 3 race.

Dalgar switched gears with 200 meters left and stormed around the final corner for the win in 18:57.12, edging out West Bridgewater’s Ella Dunbury (18:59.62). Cameron Davis of Oxford was third in 19:02.92.

Dalgar, who will attend UMass Amherst and was second in last weekend’s divisional race, considered herself an underdog just trying to make some noise in the biggest meet on the fall schedule.

“I knew I still had a good chance to finish well,”  said Dalgar, who finished 14th last year. “We pulled away on the hill and I used the last downhill to push. I saw Ella out of the corner of my eye and I just went.”

The Cape Ann Conference champion had to nurse a shin injury after finishing fourth at the Twilight Invitational, which slowed her in the middle of the season.

“It was kind of a chill season because my injuy took me out,’ said Dalgar. “I was seeded sixth today. I was hoping for top five, maybe top three. I never thought I was going to win.”

Two-time Div. 2 champion Carmen Luisi shared the lead with Holliston teammate Maggie Kuchman before a persistent sickness forced her to drop out at 2-1/2 miles. Kuchman took up the slack and outdueled Marblehead’s Marri O’Connell to the finish in 18:38.8. O’Connell was second in 18:43.9 and Emily Flagg of Whitinsville Christian took third in 18:54.7.

Wakefield had a huge day in capturing the team competition with 127 points. Dover-Sherborn was second with 151 points.

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