Photo: Powering home, Belmont senior Leah Brams wins third Middlesex League Meet title.
Just past the mile mark in the 2.5-mile course, as the runners crest the steepest hill on the course, doubt entered Leah Brams head.
Running from the front in the Middlesex League Meet in Woburn on Monday, Nov. 2, the two-time champion of the race was caught by Melrose senior Elizabeth Hirsh and a Lexington runner, who began pushing the pace.
“For a while in the race, I didn’t think I could hold them off because they were right up with me,” Brams said afterwards.
“There were a couple of times when I was like, ‘I’m gonna stop. I’m OK with third’,” Brams said with a laugh.
“Then I said ‘I don’t want what happened last year’ – referring to her second place finish to Woburn’s ‘I can do it’,” she said.
And she did, taking a five-meter lead after two miles and stretching it out to more than 50 as the Belmont senior sprinted home in a personal best for the race of 14 minutes and 56 seconds on the Woburn Country Club course, followed by Hirsh and junior Tarvis Hintlian of Winchester.
Brams joins a select group of runners who have won the championship three times including Lexington’s Natasha Roetter (who ran for Duke), Diane Connolly of Woburn (who became a miler and relay specialist at BC) and Stoneham’s Kristen Seabury (a two-time All-American at Alabama and twice US Olympic Trials participant).
Brams three crowns is one better than Belmont’s Marian Bihrle, who won twice in 1997-8, although Bihrle still holds the best time by a Belmont runner at the meet with a 14:50.
It is unknown if any of the other women with three victories had finished second in the year they didn’t win. If not, Brams appears to be the most successful runner in Middlesex League Meet history, having lost only once in four years of dual meets.
Brams led Belmont to a solid second place in the team competition (behind powerhouse Lexington with 37 points) as the Marauders finished with 59 points, its best showing in 15 years.
The surprise of the meet was Belmont junior Sara Naumann, who ran a hard solo run behind the lead pack and cruised into 4th in 15:31.1. Freshman Audrey Christo took 15th (16:11.3) followed closely by seniors Meredith Hughes (16:17.3) and Sophia Klimasmith (16:23.9) in 18th and 21st place.
While not scoring, Belmont’s Camilla Carere (16:55.8) and Emma Chambers (17:05.2) ran impressive times, placing 30th and 38th.
“I can’t tell you how impressed I was with the girls this entire season and especially today. They really turned up today, all of them,” said Belmont Head Coach Brian Dunn.
“This was great for the team because we haven’t been this good since the 1990s,” said Brams.
The boys placed 9th with 245 points, led by sophomore Calvin Perkins in 31st, senior Mike Ferrante in 40th, sophomore Zack Tseng 44th, Ian Bowe 61st and junior Wilder Manion coming in 70th.
Looking to the future, Belmont’s Eleanor Amer finished second in the girls’ freshman 1.75-mile race, and Kai Takayama finished 23rd among the boys’ freshmen.
For Brams and the girls, next up will by the Eastern Massachusetts meet next week and then the state championships a week later.
Then Brams will make a quick transition from the spikes to the skis as she heads for the US Senior Nationals in cross country skiing as an under-18 participant.
“I love skiing, and I’ll see where it takes me,” she said.