GREAT BARRINGTON — The last time Lenox’s Grace Elliot and Dennis Love lined up for a cross-country race, it was the 2019 MIAA state championships. The last time Pittsfield’s Jack Archey or Mount Greylock’s Grace Malone heard the starting gun for XC, they were wearing masks and and flanked by only teammates.

Thursday afternoon marked the return to full cross-country running in Berkshire County, with all 18 teams from nine competing schools participating in a mass start for boys and then girls at Monument Mountain. There were 138 finishers in the girls race and 119 in the boys.

“I was so nervous, but I was also so excited all day long. Start the season, get back to running,” said Elliot of her feelings at the starting line. “It’s been a long time.”

The course was a weather-shortened 2.6 miles, but competition was fierce. Particularly in a girls race that saw the top three finishers separated by a mere 1.75 seconds.

Elliot (15:39.27), who last competed in the sport while helping the Millionaires to their first ever state crown her sophomore year, held off the Mounties’ Malone (15:40.56) in second, with Kellie Harrington (15:41.02) of Pittsfield hot on their heels. Another Mountie, Kate Swann, was a couple seconds back in fourth at 15:53.66. Monument Mountain’s Madeleine Rocheleau-Holmes finished fifth on her home course in 17:04.14.

Harrington went out quick at the start, before settling into a pack with Elliot and the two Mounties. The top trio rounded the back fields at Monument together, and as they approached the track, Harrington pulled ahead slightly. Malone and Elliot reeled her back in and once they hit rubber, it was an all-out sprint with Malone stuck to Elliot’s shoulder right into the finishing corral.

“There’s definitely a lot of races where it’s not like that. I had a plan going in to stay at the back of the front pack for as long as I can, and then try to kick it in on the track,” said Elliot. “To be honest, I was hoping to kick at the 800, but everyone was already going really fast, so I just wanted to stay smooth and see if I could out-sprint all of them.

“I could definitely feel them on my shoulder, it was very motivational. Once you get to the track, you know you’re almost done, so it’s just fun. You don’t get that kind of adrenaline outside of racing.”

On the boys side, Lenox shook off two years worth of rust and deposited the top three finishers in Dennis Love, Harry Touloukian and Maxwell Adam. Love and Adam were freshmen on the 2019 Millionaires that earned a Division II Western Massachusetts championship. Now a junior, Love scorched the south county course in 13:42.44, good for a 5:16 pace. Touloukian was 17 seconds back in second. Adam was third in 14:09.12.

While Lenox remained sidelined, some cross-country teams did partake in the regular fall or “Fall II” spring season during the 2020-21 school year. That was where Archey and Justin Levesque dueled over a handful of masked meets, competing against one another mostly via times which were run amongst teammates. Now seniors, those two went at it once again, with Pittsfield’s Archey holding off the Hoosac Valley star by two seconds for fourth place.

Making his return to Berkshire County competition, Greylock’s Ollie Swabey was sixth, followed by the Wahconah pair of Riley Gladu and Peyton Webb. Greylock’s Andrew Petropulos and Pittsfield’s Asa Chard rounded out the top 10.

“I was terrified there waiting for the beginning. We knew the lead was going to be fast with Jack, Ollie, Justin, but we also had the five of us ready to go,” said Love. “First race in two years, though, it was nerve-racking.”

According to Love, He, Adam and Swabey were competing for a lead throughout. Once in the woods, the two Lenox runners got some separation. Meanwhile, Touloukian revved it up late, passing Swabey and then Adam over the course’s final stages.

“Me, Harry and Max, every day we run together. This past summer, we tried to get as many boys out to captain’s practices, the whole team every day running together. It was great,” said Love. “It was a little scary coming into this year without [Ted Yee, Colin Young, Ely Carrol] we knew we had some ground to make up, but we know eventually we can get back to that point. We’re excited to see how the rest of the season is going to.”

Taconic’s top finisher was senior Cam Bencivenga in 15:34.25, good for 16th. Senior Josh Perrier led the Lee Wildcats in 18th with a time of 15:41.65. Monument Mountain was topped by Colby Sweet in 25th in 16:08.68. Mount Everett freshman Matthew Lowe was the Eagles first guy in with a time of 17:25.69, in 41st.

Greylock had a 3-0 day, while Lee and Lenox were both 2-0. PHS went 2-2, Wahconah 1-1, Taconic and Monument were both 1-2. Everett was 0-2 and Hoosac 0-3.

The top three finishers of the girls race approach the finish line

The top three finishers of the girls cross country race at Monument Mountain on Thursday are Grace Elliot of Lenox, Grace Malone of Greylock and Kellie Harrington of Pittsfield.

For the girls, Lenox got its second in with Alice Culver in sixth, but Greylock packed in two more after that with the return of Josie Smith for her senior season and junior Ainsley Abel in seventh and eighth, respectively. PHS grabbed three top-10 spots with Sydney Ferris and Grace Ungewitter stacking in ninth and 10th.

Taconic senior Ahliya Phillips was her squad’s top finisher in 13th with a time of 18:23.74. Representing Lee, Anna Martin was right behind her in 18:33.38. Madison McCarthy and Jocelyn Sommers were back-to-back for Wahconah in 24th and 25th, both finishing inside 19:18. Hannah Walsh was the first Hoosac Valley runner across in 45th with a time of 20:19.73. Mount Everett sophomore Lucia Cicerchia paced the Eagles in 26:03.83.

The Greylock girls also had a 3-0 day, while Lenox and Lee were also 2-0. The PHS girls were 3-1, Wahconah was 1-1 and Monument 1-2. Hoosac and Taconic were 0-3 and Everett 0-2.

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Boys
Team Results — Mount Greylock def. Hoosac Valley 15-N/S; Greylock def. Pittsfield 23-37; Greylock def. Taconic 16-46; Lenox def. Monument Mountain 15-41; Lenox def. Wahconah 21-35; Wahconah def. Mount Everett 15-50; Pittsfield def. Hoosac 15-N/S; Pittsfield def. Monument 27-30; Lee def. Everett 16-44; Lee def. Taconic 27-30; Taconic def. Pittsfield 28-28(tie-breaker); Monument def. Hoosac 15-N/S.
Top 25 — 1. Love (LX) 13:42; 2. Touloukian (LX) 13:59; 3. Adam (LX) 14:09; 4. Archey (P) 14:15; 5. Levesque (HV) 14:17; 6. Swabey (MG) 14:32; 7. Gladu (W) 15:00; 8. Webb (W) 15:08; 9. Petropulos (MG) 15:10; 10. Chard (P) 15:11; 11. Mathews (LX) 15:11; 12. Garcia (W) 15:13; 13. Wildrick (W) 15:16; 14. Keating (MG) 15:16; 15. Bakija (MG) 15:25; 16. Bencivenga (T) 15:34; 17. Holzapfel (MG) 15:35; 18. Perrier (L) 15:41; 19. McCormack (LX) 15:42; 20. Winters (MG) 15:43; 21. Mercier (T) 15:44; 22. Gladu (W) 15:55; 23. Brennan (P) 15:59; 24. Calvert (W) 16:04; 25. Sweet (MM) 16:08.
Girls
Team Results — Mount Greylock def. Hoosac Valley 15-50; Greylock def. Pittsfield 20-41; Greylock def. Taconic 15-48; Monument Mountain def. Hoosac 15-48; Lenox def. Monument 19-43; Lenox def. Wahconah 15-48; Wahconah def. Mount Everett 15-N/S; Pittsfield def. Hoosac 15-46; Pittsfield def. Taconic 19-39; Pittsfield def. Monument 21-36; Lee def. Everett 15-N/S; Lee def. Taconic 27-29.
Top 25 — 1. Elliot (LX) 15:39; 2. Malone (MG) 15:40; 3. Harrington (P) 15:41; 4. Swann (MG) 15:53; 5. Rocheleau-Holmes (MM) 17:04; 6. Culver (LX) 17:17; 7. Smith (MG) 17:29; 8. Abel (MG) 17:45; 9. Ferris (P) 17:48; 10. Ungewitter (P) 18:06; 11. Harwood (LX) 18:10; 12. Keating (MG) 18:16; 13. Phillips (T) 18:23; 14. Martin (L) 18:33; 15. Kelly (L) 18:35; 16. Scrimo (LX) 18:37; 17. Polumbo (MG) 18:41; 18. Miller (MG) 18:46; 19. Touloukian (LX) 18:50; 20. Art (MG) 18:56; 21. Scrimo (LX) 19:06; 22. Low (MG) 19:07; 23. Tournas-Hardt (MM) 19:14; 24. McCarthy (W) 19:18; 25. Sommers (W) 19:18.

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6240. On Twitter: @WalshWrites89.

Sports Editor

Mike Walsh is sports editor at The Berkshire Eagle. He's been with The Eagle since 2017. Walsh also authors the NENPA-winning Powder Report column. He's an avid snowboarder, runner, homebrewer, and he used to play a pretty mean sousaphone.