UNION TWP. | Kelly O’Shea didn’t break stride to pump her fist, hold up four fingers or even acknowledge her older sister Maggie, who was working at the finish line.
She accepted a gauntlet of congratulations from familiar faces at her final home meet and then got on the straightaway to cheer her teammates forward.
In winning her fourth consecutive Greater South Shore Conference individual title Tuesday night, O’Shea simply soaked in the moment.
“I did enjoy it,” O’Shea said. “I love cross country, I love running and I love running for Wheeler High School. I couldn’t run for anyone else.”
The picture-perfect ending belied a not-so-perfect senior season for O’Shea, who had a recurring stress fracture in her left tibia throughout this calendar year and missed about half of the regular season races.
She still managed a 20:20 finish while cruising around the course.
“It’s special to win conference four times in a row,” O’Shea said. “I mostly wanted to win it for this team; we’re a close team. I just knew what I had to do.”
The capper to O’Shea’s final home meet was the team race, where the Bearcats also four-peated, undercutting GSSC newcomer Hanover Central by a single point, 40-41.
Wheeler’s Lauren Fratzke contributed mightily, taking eighth individually after scoring three goals in the first half of the Wheeler soccer team’s sectional victory over Washington Twp. on the adjacent soccer pitch.
The Wheeler boys were on the wrong side of a close race, as North Newton won its first title since 2009 and snapped the Bearcats’ three-year reign on the sixth-man tiebreaker.
Bishop Noll’s Sal Cordova gave the Noll Warriors their first individual champ since Ian O’Boyle in 2008, taking the boys race in a course-record 16:15, beating longtime rival, previous record holder and defending GSSC champ Joel O’Shea of Wheeler.
After dozens of meetings in track and cross country, Tuesday was Cordova’s first win over O’Shea.
“I’ve been thinking about beating O’Shea for a long time,” Cordova said. “I’m just so happy that I’m accomplishing my goals that I set up.
“I consider Joel one of my greatest rivals, and I’ve always really respected him.”
Cordova led the pack just seconds into the race and hustled home 29 seconds ahead of O’Shea and Wheeler teammate Alex Nader.
“I always run my opponent’s race, and I didn’t want to be afraid,” Cordova said. “I wanted to go out and just run my race.”
“It was great,” North Newton coach Tim Loughmiller said. “This and the sectional are the things we work for all year. It was just a great team effort.”
Brothers Leo and Miguel Espino were fourth and eighth, respectively, for the Spartans, with Jesse Anderson ninth.
In its first GSSC cross country meet, Hanover Central was third in the boys competition in addition to the near-title in the girls race.
“We were hoping to get first or really come close because we wanted to show everyone in our first year that we are going to be good competition,” girls runner-up Lindsey Kolanowski said.