Cross country

Olivere leads Padua to solo and team wins at O'Neill girls Invitational

PENNY HILL – Two inches taller than the girl who dominated this race the last two years, Lydia Olivere won the Joe O’Neill Invitational by more than 30 seconds, as she continues her mission to take her statewide dominance to a national level.

Longer legs can be an asset or a distraction. The Padua junior, already twice the state champion, showed mastery and maturity as she became the third fastest Delawarean in the history of the sport, her 17.22 just ahead of the 17:23.2 that her older sister, Lindsey, now a medical student, ran on the same course in this meet in 2010.

Her other older sister, Maddie Olivere, running with unprecedented boldness, finished fourth in the best race of her career as Padua, placing six runners in the top 12, won Friday’s meet for the third time in four years with 29 points, Tatnall was second with 44. The Pandas and the Hornets took 10 of the first 12 positions.

Tatnall sophomore Keelin Hayes, the only Delaware girl ever to finish ahead of Lydia Olivere, was second, 33 seconds behind the leader, 48 seconds ahead of Naomi Bowser of Smyrna.

Charter of Wilmington was third, paced by Naomi Bordrick (13th), who was the state’s best eighth-grader last year at Conrad, and Sydney Kriner (17th). Lilian Peterson (5th) led Newark Charter to fourth place. Caitlin Cobb (14th) paced fifth-place St. Andrew’s.

Eighth graders Maddie  McWatters of Newark Charter (19th) and Alaina McGonigle of Ursuline (20th) crashed the top 20.

Alicia Lenoir (6th), Hannah Apostolico (8th), Katherine Hally (10th) and Victoria Steinhoff (12th) provided the winning cushion for Padua, which finished four points behind Tatnall at last weekend’s Manhattan Invitational.

With Olivia Harden (7th), Lainey Teklits (9th), Eirinn Sykes (11th), Savannah Pankow (15th) Caroline Foley (16th) and Quinn Teklits (18th), Tatnall had the deepest lineup, all seven runners in the top 20, but at every stage, Padua was a pace ahead. One of the two schools has been the state’s best for 13 consecutive seasons.

Friday’s winner is looking to a long horizon. Lydia Olivere set a course record (17:22) at the Carlisle (Pa.) Invitational last month, won the featured heat at the Paul Short Invitational by 17 seconds two weeks ago, and finished second by less than a second at the jockeying field of the crowded Manhattan meet.

“Obviously our main goal obviously is to have a team county and team state championship title,” she said. “For me trying to get top six at regionals to get to nationals.”

Padua's Lydia Olivere interviews with media after winning the girls varsity Joe O'Neill Invitational on Friday at Brandywine Creek State Park in Wilmington.

Padua’s Lydia Olivere interviews with media after winning the girls varsity Joe O’Neill Invitational on Friday at Brandywine Creek State Park in Wilmington.

A distance ace since middle school, she has adjusted her workouts, with more lifting to gain more strength. “The pace has changed obviously, because every season you want to try to get as fast as you can.

“Last year was an adjustment to say the least. I grew a lot more than I expected, so this summer and in spring track I was adjusting to that, but it’s been fine,” said Olivere, who would still be point guard in most pick-up games. “We didn’t have any expectations, we just go out and be as competitive as we could and I couldn’t be prouder.”

“She is separating herself from where she was last year. She knows what she needs to do at practice,” said Padua coach Marnie Giunta. “She’s racing where she should be.”

The Padua girls cross country team takes first place at the Joe O'Neill Invitational on Friday at Bellevue State Park.

The Padua girls cross country team takes first place at the Joe O’Neill Invitational on Friday at Bellevue State Park.

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