Head Coach Julie Bravin has been thoroughly impressed with the girls’ work ethic and ability to push each other in practice, calling them the closest team she’s ever coached.
“They’ve worked hard for each other and for the team,” said the coach.
The self-imposed sisterhood has had a very successful season, faring well in every meet, even those against some of the largest schools in the area. On Saturday, Oct. 11, the girls continued their success against larger schools with a seventh-place finish out of the 26 that were able to finish during the Glory Days Invitational Meet.
Freshman Natalie Young was once again the top finisher for the Mustangs, placing fifth overall out of over 150 runners. She completed the more than three-mile race in 18:46, averaging just over six-minute miles throughout.
“[Natalie] has always worked hard; her off-season work has paid off a lot,” said Coach Bravin of the freshman sensation. “She’s a great athlete and a great competitor.”
Fellow Freshman Eva Estrada had a career day at the Glory Days Invitational, shaving a full minute off of her previous clips. The astounding improvement propelled her to a 16th overall finish, second best for Mason behind only Young.
Two other freshman – Michele De Mars and Leah Roth – accompanied Estrada and Young in Bravin’s top seven at the invitational, finishing 80th and 88th respectively. Sophomore Mollie Breen, with juniors Courtney Ready and Brandy Arredondo, rounded out the top seven for Mason. Their times alone reveal perhaps just how tight the girls are as a bunch. Ready and De Mars finished with the same times on the dot, with Roth just ten seconds ahead of them.
“[Michele and I] were working together throughout the race, and pushing each other to run faster,” said Ready on their simultaneous finish.
As the season is winding down, Coach Bravin is still yet to find a consistent group of runners who make it in the top seven to use for official scoring. While the uncertainty has been frustrating at times due to fluctuating performances across the board, with the exception of Young and Estrada, Coach Bravin looks at the tough decision with a positive outlook. She has enjoyed the task of picking groups that run well together regardless of age or experience.
“It’s really hard to pick a top seven,” said the coach. “We have 14 runners that I could easily pick, but I have to decide on seven to go with.”
The top seven has been shuffled meet to meet, and more girls have gotten a chance to contribute than most years as their training has landed many of them in the same tier of times. Breen and freshman Claire Constance have also been in the mix with some consistent contributions, along with juniors Kelley Frank and Karen Hamill. Senior Captains Taylor Moot and Maggie Fortenberry have provided the team with a steady leadership presence as well.
The team participated in the Bull Run district finals in Rappahannock County on Wednesday, but results were too late for press time. Mason fared very well in previous district meets this year, and hoped for more of the same as they entered the final meeting of the season against Bull Run opponents. However, while there is reason for optimism, Coach Bravin acknowledged that she and her team would not be taking anything for granted, admitting anything can happen in the race.
After the district final comes the regional final, in which Mason is almost guaranteed a spot barring a catastrophe at districts. Coach Bravin said that she will continue to mix and match lineups that she feels will be the most successful on a given day.