By Jean DePlacido
---- — When this incredible streak began for the Hamilton-Wenham girls’ cross country team Emily Horgan was in the third grade. Now Horgan is a senior captain of for the Generals and has played a big part in keeping the winning ways going.
The last time coach Steve Sawyer’s Lady Generals lost a meet came back in 2004 when Masconomet beat them. They bounced back to win the last four meets that season and have been on a roll ever since, winning their 100th consecutive cross country dual meet yesterday.
“Emily has been a part of our success for four years now, and her younger sister Olivia is a freshman, who is doing good things for us,” said Sawyer, who has been at the helm for 35 years. “Some of my young girls didn’t realize we were closing in on 100, but the older ones did. I never thought it could happen back in 2004; nobody could predict something like this.”
Going into yesterday’s tri-meet with Amesbury and Ipswich the streak was at 98 and counting. Hitting the century mark is a first for the program, and the girls did it in a convincing manner, winning 15-50 in both meets by sweeping the top seven spots.
Somehow, year after year Sawyer keeps the program in tip top shape, and winning helps attract new young talent.
“Doing it is really important; it’s not just about winning but for the tradition of our program,” said Horgan, who captains the team along with fellow seniors Sarah Herlihy, Kelsey Kenny, and Hannah Farnham. “Time and time again average high school girls have trained hard and competed hard to keep it going.
“It’s really amazing when you think about it. Back when it all started I never dreamed I would be running for a team like this and doing everything I can to keep it going. Now my sister is starting her career, and I hope she will know the same feeling I have. We have a handful of really good freshmen, who have stepped up to the plate to help us keep the win streak alive.”
Horgan said the team didn’t realize how much young talent they were adding this year when the new girls came out for the team. Horgan set the tone yesterday, winning in 20:12 followed closely by sophomores Jeanine Zheng (20:12), Meghan Stone (20:20). Freshmen Olivia Horgan (20:27), Amanda Burnett (20:29), and Mazey Loomis (21:12) came in fourth through sixth with junior Meg McWhirter in seventh (21:17).
“We had no idea the new girls were going to be so good,” she said. “In practice we started noticing that the freshmen were keeping up with the older girls. At one point in our first meet against Newburyport I looked over my shoulder and saw three or four freshmen and sophomores right up with our top group. They are tough and competitive in a good way. Coach Sawyer does a great job; he’s been around a long time and really knows what he’s doing.”
Junior Emily Weigand has played a big role in the team’s success, but couldn’t compete in the milestone event because of tendonitis in her foot. Sawyer is resting her while she recovers.
“We lost a lot of girls this year so it’s great to see so many freshmen coming into the pack,” said Weigand. “Hamilton-Wenham is such a small school it makes this even more unbelievable. Everyone is so excited to be part of it. This is so special because how many other teams can say they’ve won 100 in a row? It gives us confidence, and we all want to be part of keeping the streak going. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there today, but I got constant updates from my friends about what was happening.”