Louisa Belk, the St. Andrew’s sophomore who has dominated the state in her first year of competitive running, ran away with the New Castle County championship on a course she had never seen before.
All seven Padua runners finished in the top 28 for the Pandas’ first team title since 2004.
Coming from a flat campus, Belk was not intimidated by the long, repeated hills of Winterthur, even though an aching hip kept her from practicing all week.
“I set out to conquer the hills today,” said Belk, whose week consisted of cycling, stretching, massage therapy and workouts in the Saints’ swimming pool.
She bolted to an immediate lead on Delaware’s most scenic and fan-friendly course, opening a 20-second lead by the second mile. She finished with a time of 18:26.37, more than 20 seconds ahead of second place.
“It felt really good to renew myself and come out again,” said Belk. “I was really aiming to shoot for the moon today.”
Still showing effects of a midseason injury, junior Emily Paolucci (sixth) led the Pandas. Karlee Panella (eighth), Erin Spadaccini (15th), Angie Spadaccini (16th), Haley Lucey (20th), Maddie Olivere (21st) and Regan Robertson (28th) gave the Pandas depth.
“I had confidence in them,” said Paolucci.
Erin Spadaccini called Paolucci the Pandas’ “leader.”
“Emily goes by herself. The rest of us buddy up together,” said Lucey, the state intermediate hurdles champion who earned a midseason promotion from a junior varsity team that took seven of the top-15 places Saturday.
Freshman Caroline Foley (second) and Kieran Hanrahan (third) led runner-up Tatnall. Hanrahan, a junior who has already been all-state three times, showed remarkable recovery from early-year mononucleosis and other ailments that held her to 11th in last week’s Independent Conference meet.
Adrienne Fraczkowski (fourth) and Ashlynn Foley (seventh) carried Delaware Military Academy to third, the Seahawks’ highest finish ever at the meet.
Colleen Carney of Archmere advanced from 10th at midrace to finish fifth. Kennedy Wong of Ursuline (11th) made all-county for the fifth time. Katie Macturk (ninth) and Grace Slate (13th) lifted Concord, 16th last year, to eighth place.
Piper Freed of Appoquinimink (10th), Analise Kaminski of St. Mark’s (12th), Gabby Brown of Middletown (14th), Drew Sanclemente of Appoquinimink, Rachel Beston of Newark (18th) and Sofia Alfieri (19th) joined the top 20.