Nothing about Northfield Recreation Center changed in one week between the Western Massachusetts and MIAA state cross country meets. The hills didn't get steeper. The course didn't get longer. The weather wasn't worse for states than it was for sectionals.
Just two things changed for most of Berkshire County's best runners in one week: the competition and their finishing times.
Here's a sample of the times that improved in a week:
On the girls side, Mount Greylock's Kat Chenail cut approximately 24 seconds off her time, going from 20 minutes, 56.9 seconds to 20:32.92. Her teammate Emily Kaegi, who finished second individually at Western Mass., went from 20:03.15 to 20:00.29. Hoosac Valley's Kalyn Alibozek went from 20:52.59 to 20:27.02; Monument Mountain's Heather Hassett dropped from 21:00.73 to 20:55.78; and Lenox's Elizabeth Jarck went from 21:31.36 to 21:15.21. In Division I, Pittsfield's Mollie Daly dropped from 22:56.56 to 22:35.58.
Perhaps it was familiarity that made the Berkshires' best a little better at states.
"Since we ran it last week, we are familiar with it," Alibozek said Saturday. "Maybe we know where to push ourselves more, or cut back a little."
Alibozek ran with Chenail, which Chenail said was a big help for her in her final high school race. Chenail finished 46th, while Alibozek was 42nd.
The lower times helped the Greylock girls go from second in Western Mass. as a team to seventh in the Division II state
"There are always people to run for," she said. "At Western Mass., it was just me and Kalyn. You're constantly getting passed, so it makes you want to go faster."
"So many people are around you," Alibozek said, "and you don't know if someone's going to pass you, so it makes you want to go faster."
The lower times at states weren't exclusive to the Berkshires' female runners, though.
While he admittedly ran harder at states than he did a week earlier in winning a second Western Mass. championship, Division II state champion Scott Carpenter cut his time at Northfield from 16:31.44 in sectionals to 15:55.75 at states.
"Last week, I knew I wasn't going to have anyone near me," Carpenter said last weekend. "So this weekend, I threw in a couple of surges to try and break away. The end result was a victory, so I'm happy with it."
Mount Greylock's top runner, Will Kirby, went from 17:44.85 to 17:32.09 to finish 46th; Greylock's Carter Stripp dropped from 17:53.02 to 17:43.91; and Monument Mountain's Kelt Wilska experienced a big drop in time from 18:30.97 to 18:05.31. In Division I, Matt Nesti -- Pittsfield's third-fastest runner on the course -- went from 18:06.88 at Western Mass. to 18:00.66 at states.
Kirby said he went at the hill harder in the state meet, which paid off. At Western Mass., his goal was to ease up the hill.
The competition certainly didn't hurt Kirby, either.
"I think, if we were always racing like this, we'd all be running faster," he said.