By Tori Kitchens
This past Saturday, Oak Hall athletes brought home three Regional Championship titles. Both the girls and boys cross country teams and the volleyball program added another trophy to the trophy case.
Girls Cross Country
Over the last decade, the Oak Hall girls cross country team has been dominant in regional play. Having won eight of the last 10 Regional Championships, this team had high hopes for another victorious race.
The Lady Eagles were faced with rough conditions on Saturday: lower than 50-degree weather, cold winds, light rain, and a muddy course. Regardless, the team gave it their all.
Senior Lauren Jones led the race from the very beginning. The start of the race was difficult for her because her body had not warmed up in the cold, but she was quickly able to find her stride. “It was an adjustment, I guess,” Jones said. She continued to look strong throughout the race through the finish. The girls number one runner was able to pull off another regional victory with a time of 19:40.
All of Oak Hall’s girls finished in the top 15. Junior Sydney Miller and freshman Alivia Dragstedt stuck together for the entire race. They finished third and fourth with times of 20:12.3 and 20:12.7, respectively. Sophomore Mackenzie Klein finished in 12th with a strong time of 21:08. The girls’ two seventh grade runners both stepped up in big ways when the Eagle’s number five runner, sophomore Eli Eisner, got hurt during practice. Valeria Beaver took that five spot to clinch the Eagles a victory placing 13th with a time of 21:09. Lola Murfee came in not too far after Beaver coming in 14th in 21:15.
The Eagles came out on top with 29 points over Circle Christian’s 81. The Centurions are one of the top contenders for a state title this year. Circle Christian, however, went out slowly during the race to save up for this week’s State Championship Meet.
Regardless, Oak Hall’s girls team is looking forward to defending its title and become State Champions for the third year in a row and for the fifth time in program history. “I’m looking forward to, I’d say kind of soaking everything in because it is my last one, so I’m just looking forward to really just focusing on running for a team title with the girls,” Jones added.
Boys Cross Country
Unlike the girls, the Eagles’ boys cross country has not been as dominant at regional meets. The team has only ever won the regionals three times in program history with two being in the last two seasons.
Although the rain had stopped by the time the boys’ race began, the mud and cold was still a big challenge for the Eagles to face, but they appreciated the conditions. “The warmup was horrible, but once we started going, it was really, really nice,” junior Caden Montini said.
The boys’ race was quite different than the girls’, as the team had a slightly different strategy. Montini went out and stayed behind the leader, St. Francis’s Julian Bautista. Senior Asher Dobrin wasn’t too far behind. Coming out of the woods on the second and final lap, Montini and Dobrin were leading the race with Foundation Academy’s Mehari van der Riet and Bautista fair behind them. As they came across the finish line, Montini finished as the Regional Champion in 16:56 and Dobrin finished as the Regional Runner-Up with a time of 17:06.
The rest of the team finished in top 30 with the top six Eagles running under 18 minutes. Senior Jake Ciocca moved up in the race to finish sixth with a time of 17:32. Junior Gabe Collante finished as the Eagles’ fourth runner in ninth in 17:38. Freshman Peter Peloso clinched Oak Hall’s team title in 11th with a time of 17:55. Oak Hall’s sixth and seventh runners, senior Ryland Kane and sophomore Quinten Dragstedt, finished in 13th and 30th with times of 17:57 and 18:21, respectively.
Oak Hall came in first with 29 points over Circle Christian’s 85. Once again, Circle Christian is one of the Eagles’ top competitors for the state title, and they took it easy on the boys’ side as well.
Heading into the state meet, Dobrin and Montini are looking ahead. “I’m just excited to have fun because it’s my last state meet, so I just want to enjoy it,” Dobrin explained. Montini is looking forward to getting the first boys cross country state title in the program’s history and breaking the streak of runner-up finishes.
Oak Hall’s volleyball program was looking to do what no team has done since 2010: win a Regional Championship and make it to the Final Four. The team won the district title for the first time since 2010 in October to continue its impressive post season run.
Harvest Community School’s girls’ volleyball team traveled to the Eagle’s Oxborough Gym bringing a busload of fans with them. When combined with Oak Hall’s fans, the match was sold out, and the gym was packed full of people there to cheer for their team’s victory. “The student body was our seventh man or seventh woman for this match,” head coach Perry McDonald exclaimed. “They were tremendous and absolutely priceless.”
The Lady Eagles did not have the greatest start to Saturday’s match, as the team was down 19-24 in the first set. They battled all the way back to 23-24 but were not able to take the set. “From that point on, they really played fundamentally sound, intelligent, and aggressive volleyball,” McDonald pointed out. The team was able to take the title in the following three sets with scores of 25-15, 25-15, and 25-16.
There were several girls that stood out during the match’s four sets. Senior Sophia Aulisio had the most kills on either team with a career high of 25. “I think today was one of my best games, so I’m proud of it,” Aulisio said. Fellow senior Cate Cannon led her team with six blocks. “I did what I needed to do at the net. I got a lot of blocks, so I’m proud of what I was able to contribute overall,” Cannon stated. The Eagles’ success in serving solidified the regional win. Sophomore Sydney Jurecko served nine straight points in the second set and freshman Cassidy McDonald served six straight points with four aces to finish the third. Eighth grader Amelia Chen led the team in serving with 18 total service points and seven aces. Chen finished off the match with five straight service points and clinched the Oak Hall volleyball program its first regional finals win since 2010.
Being in the Final Four for the first time in 11 years is something the athletes having been working toward. “We’ve spent hours outside of school-oriented practices putting in the work, and I think it’s really paid off,” Cannon declared. The Lady Eagles take on Seacrest Country Day at 2 p.m. Saturday in Naples.
Good luck to our athletes this weekend!