When Maggie Maier was a freshman at Sacred Heart Academy, she won her first CHSAA league championship and came up with a plan for the rest of her cross country career: Keep winning.
On Sunday morning, with rain falling at Sunken Meadow Park, the now senior made good on her goal, capturing her fourth straight title with a 15:37.01 finish in the 2.5-mile race.
St. John the Baptist senior John O’Connell placed first in the boys race, finishing in 13:29.65 for his first league championship.
“I really can’t believe it,” said Maier, who finished nearly 28 seconds ahead of the next closest runner. “There are so many great girls in this league and they all make it so fun to race against them. It’s just such an honor to be able to have my name there four years in a row.”
Maier credited “a lot of consistency and training” for her success, and, this year, she said she embraced the weather, doing her best to take everything in stride, even on a shorter course.
In past championships, the race was 3.1 miles, but according to Sacred Heart coach Allison Waka, it was changed this fall to stay in line with the distance at the CHSAA Intersectional championships.
“We’ve run [this distance] at dual meets, so I’m familiar with the course,” Maier said. “I like the rain a little bit. It distracted me from the actual pain of running and it just brings out whoever can be the toughest on that day.”
Maier added that she stayed patient throughout the race, waiting for the perfect moment to start separating herself from the rest of the pack.
“I used to shoot out almost right from the gun, but now I’ve learned to be a little more conservative,” Maier said. “I pushed on the downhills and that’s what helped me get ahead.”
Waka lauded Maier for her approach, saying: “Every day, she puts in 110-percent effort. I think she knows what she’s capable of and that helps an athlete reach their true potential.”
Other top finishers on the girls side included St. Anthony's junior Kelly Parker, who finished second in 16:05.86, and St. John the Baptist senior Madison Isnardi, who took third (16:07.11). Sacred Heart junior Marie Naudus was fourth (16:09.99).
As for O’Connell, he also came into the race with a strategy, pacing himself with other top runners, but said he “decided to speed it up” earlier than expected to give himself a late cushion.
“I didn’t really know I was pulling away because I could hear them all up behind me,” O’Connell said. “It was kind of a quick burst and I knew they were coming up, so it was mostly trying to get ahead.”
Still, O’Connell was thrilled with the championship and one of his best times all season.
“It means a lot,” O’Connell said. “It was just a great day.”
Chaminade's boys team captured its first team title since 2013 with 37 points, led by Frank Naudus’ second-place finish in 13:38.64. St. John the Baptist finished second with 42 points and St. Anthony’s third with 49.
Sacred Heart clinched the girls title with 27 points, while St. Anthony’s (59) and St. John the Baptist (66) rounded out the top three.
For Maier, her fourth championship meant just as much as her first, but she’s far from finished. Now she’s got her sights set on Intersectionals at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx Nov. 9, going for her third straight title.
“I want to take this momentum and go out there because I know I can run with any of those girls,” Maier said. “I want to have a good race and no matter what the outcome is, I want to be proud of how I ran.”
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Other top finishers on the boys side were St. Anthony's senior Solar Jonathan (13:47.94), who was third. St. John the Baptist junior Fernando Sanchez was fourth (13:49.19).