Padua hoped its cross country team might catch Tatnall this year, but the Pandas never expected to do so without their best runner.
With their leader, all-state junior Emily Paolucci, sidelined with a sore muscle, Padua managed to end Tatnall’s eight-year reign at the Joe O’Neill Invitational, the midseason centerpiece of Delaware cross country.
Erin Spadaccini, Karlee Panella and Angie Spadaccini improved their times by a full minute over last year to pace deep Padua.
Tatnall’s boys won their fourth straight title as Jack Hagood ran the fastest 5,000 ever by a Delaware boy, covering the flat 5,000-meter course in 15:19.57, three seconds faster than the 2005 time on the same course by Mount Pleasant’s Phil Weigel.
Louisa Belk continued her remarkable inaugural season, winning by 20 seconds with energy to spare over a field that included three incumbent first-team all-state runners.
The St. Andrew’s sophomore, who overcame midweek sickness, won before her parents, who traveled from Charlotte, N.C. She is among a cadre of Cardinal soccer players who have joined the cross country team, lifting St. Andrew’s to fourth among the 35 teams yesterday.
“Mentally, it’s not how hard the competition is,” said Belk, who is undefeated among Delaware runners, with victories in the Lake Forest, Middletown and University of Delaware Invitational. “It’s how you push yourself.”
The 15-year-old O’Neill Invitational meet has become the most important of the season’s first two months. The flat course and the promise of balmy weather attract substantially every team in Delaware, all running a single division.
The boys race matched Hagood and Pat Hally of Salesianum, whose late sprint last week at the Manhattan Invitational earned him the best Delaware time ever at Van Courtland Park.
“I tried to keep picking up the tempo in each mile. The effort was getting successively greater with each mile,” said Hagood, who was caught in the stretch last week by Hally.
“I wasn’t upset about that but I knew there was something to work on. Each race throughout the season, you find something you didn’t do to the best of your ability and you can work on.”
“Pat had a great race last week. It was good to see two Delaware guys in the top 10 in Manhattan.”
Padua won on depth. Its top three runners finished eighth, ninth and 14th, backed by freshman Maddie Olivere (21) and Haley Lucey (24).
Caroline Foley of Tatnall, Analise Kaminski of St. Mark’s and Archmere’s Colleen Carney, each with strong final miles, finished in the top four. Adrienne Fraczkowski (5) and Ashlynn Foley (7) gave Delaware Military Academy two top-ten finishers. Rebekah Mills of Caesar Rodney (6) was the top downstate runner.
The Hornets overwhelmed the boys race with six runners in the top 20: Stephen Garrett (5), Ben Boswell, a junior transfer from Chicago (8), Michael Flanagan (10), Henry Paul (15) and sophomore Joey Garrett (20).
Charter’s Kieran Tunitvate nipped Friends’ Thomas Connelly for third. Kevin Murray of Charter was sixth, Brandywine’s Eamon McCoy ninth.