The Wellesley girls’ track and field team won the All-State title last winter — and last spring.
In February, paced by the Globe All-Scholastic 4x400 relay team that set a meet record (4:00.16), the Raiders did it again.
And after opening their 2019 outdoor season with a 119-16 win over Framingham Wednesday, the Raiders appear poised and ready to defend their success in their quest for their fourth-straight state title.
Abby Comella, Charlotte Freniere, Zoe Geiger, and Anna Jordahl-Henry, who made up the 4x400 relay during the indoor season, and senior captain Maggie Donahue, an individual All-Scholastic, return to boost the Raiders’ case this spring. Seniors Caroline Rogers and Annie Ward join Donahue and six other upperclassmen to captain the Raiders, who are once again under the command of 12-year coach and 2019 D2 indoor Coach of the Year John Griffith.
“When you win three All-State titles in a row, everyone is gunning for you,” Griffith said. “We can’t rest on our laurels and be satisfied.”
Here are five things to know about Wellesley girls’ track and field:
A new legacy
Donahue remembers winning the divisional meet during her freshman year, citing the strong performances of Ally Isley, a junior now on the Williams College track team.
“That was the biggest thing we’d had in so long,” Donahue said. “It was just a really cool experience.”
It’s difficult for the Georgetown-bound Donahue to consider herself as the 2019 team’s Isley — the face of a new era and a new expectation for Wellesley track. But Griffith knows his senior class has undoubtly left its mark on the team.
“They really take a lot of hard work and dedication of the program to heart,” he said. “They lay the groundwork for our program and for our school.”
There’s talent throughout the Wellesley athletic department — the girls’ hockey team won the D2 state title this season, and the girls’ lacrosse team was crowned the 2018 D1 champion.
“We come from a very successful athletics program, and that makes it much more special,” Donahue said. “Everyone is supporting all the other programs, and to have all those sports be successful is really interesting.”
But after winning their first-ever All-State title in the winter of 2018, then going on to win two more, the Raiders believe there’s more to be said about the girls’ track team.
“We’re still definitely not as recognized as most people think we should be,” Rogers said. “Because we have been so dominant recently, it is helping us be recognized more within the school and within the Wellesley community.”
Ward, a throwing captain, is only in her second season on the squad. She played lacrosse before swapping to track and field as a junior.
The 5-foot-10-inch senior, who was also a forward on the basketball team, felt right at home. And it shows in her results — Ward won the discus (75 feet 11 inches) and javelin (74’ 5”) in last week’s opening meet.
“Everyone is very welcoming,” Ward said. “Everyone is very dedicated and everyone wants to be better.”
The boys help out
At practices, the boys’ and girls’ teams often practice together. Donahue said the joint sessions offer a new perspective for the girls and give them the opportunity to develop their skills.
“That part is really cool,” she said. “We get to overlap with them, and they get to push us to be so much better than we ever thought we could.”
Ward offers a unique perspective, since the Wellesley girls’ and boys’ throwers practice together every day. She, too, sees the benefits of double-duty workouts.
“They may jump higher, they might run faster,” she said. “But that’s what gets me going. I really want to be that good, too.”
According to Griffith, there are more than 100 girls on the Wellesley track team. Strength in numbers rings true for the Raiders, and the captains attribute the squad’s success to the constant encouragement everyone receives from those around them.
The distance runners adopted “secret Raiders” and anonymously gifted candy to their teammates. Pasta dinners and post-practice breakfasts are staples of the Wellesley girls’ program.
The relationships are evident on the track, too. During their season-opening meet, the Raiders lined the infield, following their teammates along the track and shouting their names as they competed.
“Whether it’s sprinters, hurdlers, throwers, people will be cheering for you most of the way around,” Donahue said. “I think that’s just a really special aspect of this team. That’s the part of our team that has really grown over the years, and I hope it continues.”
The Raiders follow the acronym T.E.A.M. — together, everyone achieves more.
“When you’re running your race, you’re running it for the team,” Rogers said. “You’re not running it for yourself. You’re running it for that one point to get the win. You’re running it to continue on the Wellesley girls’ track legacy.”Jenna Ciccotelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.