MIAA Division I cross-country: PHS sends Apple out on a high note

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GARDNER — There was more purple on the sidelines at the MIAA state championships than there has been in quite a few years.

Pittsfield High sent an entire girls team, plus Emanuel Brown on the boys side to the Division I meet on Saturday, and it was an emotional afternoon across the board.

Brown, a senior, made his state debut a week after making his Western Massachusetts debut at Northfield Mountain. The Generals star has spent his entire high school career dealing with a slew of injuries, but finally managed to put it all together this season.

"I've been injured, every year. All three years, I had never even made it to Western Mass.," he said after finished in 18 minutes, 6 seconds. "Getting there this year and then reaching states my senior year is pretty special."

Brown placed 141st, the top local finisher in a D-I race that also featured Taconic's Jake Paris and Wahconah's Hayden Kendall. Brown credited his new coaching staff with getting him right for the first time.

"It's been a process of learning how to take care of myself," he said. "It also has a lot to do with coaching. We had two really great new coaches this year who've taken time with everybody, making sure we're healthy and putting us in the right position."

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Pittsfield boys head coach Joe Albano's first trip to states doubled as the final meet in the coaching career of girls coach Theresa Apple.

All that purple on the sideline was accented by the longtime Generals head coach, who promised her senior-laden squad she would dye her hair if they made states.

Her team returned the favor with a gesture she didn't see coming. The team rented a coach bus for the two-hour drive to Gardner, and decked it out, all without Apple knowing.

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"It got a little complicated," said senior Megan Francoeur. "We tried to keep it a secret until this morning, but it was really hard because our coach kept on calling the school bus company and asking why we weren't on their schedule. Then we were telling the athletic director to cancel that bus."

Apple said she showed up at PHS this morning and went to tell the driver of the coach bus he had to move it because her girls had a meet to get to.

The sweet wheels dubbed "Coach Apple's last ride" wasn't all though.

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"We all wrote her letters and she read them on the bus," said Cami Diehl.

"She was super surprised, she had no idea. She got emotional," added fellow senior Emelyn Theriault. "All during the regular season she'll write us mail. So we decided we'd all write her mail on the last meet for all of us."

As for the race itself, Pittsfield narrowly missed out on an All-State nod for freshman Kellie Harrington, who placed 18th overall in 19:55. Diehl, making her second straight state appearance, was next in 67th. Francoeur followed, with Theriault and another senior Abby Kittler rounding out the scoring.

"I'm really excited that this happened our senior year" said Franceour. "Lots of miles, tears, hard work and dedication. I'm happy to walk away with this in the books."

In the girls Division I race, Wahconah also submitted a pair of runners, with state meet regular Haley Crosier laying down an impressive 20:30 for 40th place. Olivia Gamberoni finished in 22:36. Taconic's Ahliya Phillips also reached states and clocked in at 22:39.

Paris finished in 18:31, four seconds in front of Wahconah's Kendall (18:35).


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