TOPSFIELD — Danvers High junior Catalina Dominick and her teammates wore pink ribbons in their hair and painted their nails with pink accents before Saturday’s Northeastern Conference Cross Country Championships at Bradley Palmer State Park.
Like all their Falcon brother and sisters playing sports this weekend, Danvers was running to remember their fallen math teacher, Colleen Ritzer.
“That’s her favorite color and she was the favorite teacher for a lot of us,” said Dominick. “We said we were running for Ms. Ritzer. All the other school and teams have been really supportive of us, and we really appreciate that.”
Dominick was the girls NEC champion, clearing the 5K course in an outstanding time of 18:20, believed to be the fifth-fastest ever at an NEC league meet. Swampscott’s Matt Mahoney won the boys race in 15:38, while Peabody came out on top of the team standings in both the boys and girls events.
It was the first NEC title in cross country for Dominick, who has a handful of league gold medals in indoor and outdoor track. She looked strong and confident on the chilly fields, opening up a sizable lead around the second mile and never relenting.
“I’m so happy. Last year I ran 19:54 and I was sick before a lot of races,” said Dominick. “This has been a bit of a shock to me. I’ve never felt this good when I run before, so I’m excited to see how much more I can improve.”
Mahoney also didn’t leave much room for drama, pulling away from the field fairly early and running what coach Jeff Bartlett believes is a record for this configuration of the Bradley Palmer 5K. The Big Blue’s ace was third a year ago and improved his time by an eye-popping 52 seconds.