Originally published in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette: https://www.telegram.com/story/sports/high-school/2021/09/24/whitinsville-christian-molly-lashley-girls-cross-country-marthas-vineyard-invitational/5849835001/

Steve Farley:Correspondent

Congratulations to Whitinsville Christian senior captain Molly Lashley, who won the girls’ varsity race at the 14th Martha’s Vineyard High School Cross-Country Invitational last Saturday.

Lashley finished the 5K course in 18:47.29, well ahead of Plymouth North freshman Macey Shriner (19:30.81).

Whitinsville Christian's Molly Lashley.

“Yeah, it was a really good race,” Lashley said. “I went into it definitely wanting to win and run a really solid time.

“I was pretty much alone from the first quarter mile to the end,” she added. “Last time I was there was my sophomore year, and I was second. I won it as a freshman. It was kind of cool to start and finish my high school career winning the race.”

Lashley, whose 5K personal best is 18:21, never ceases to amaze Crusaders coach Chris Vander Baan.

“She’s driven to get better every single day,” Vander Baan said. “I’ve worked with a lot of kids, but she’s the most committed runner I have ever worked with. For Molly, it’s not about winning, it’s about improving. She’s really advanced for this point of the season already.”

The plan last weekend, according to Vander Baan, was for Lashley to go out slow and run her regular splits, but all that changed as soon as the gun went off.

“She went out insanely fast,” Vander Baan said. “She was just overzealous. She just took off.”

Vander Baan said Lashley has grown into the complete package.

“Molly has gone from being a shy, quiet kid to a brilliant leader with our girls’ team and that was not the case two years ago,” Vander Baan said. “She is all that. She works really hard, leading by example and by being an encourager on the team.”

In 2019, Lashley, a multiple time T&G Super Teamer, finished second at the CMass Division 2 meet at Gardner Municipal Golf Course in 19:57, 17 seconds behind individual champion Jen Coseno of Sutton. Lashley returned to Gardner a week later for All-States and finished ninth in 19:53.

Lashley, who says she’ll be deciding on a college commitment within the next couple of weeks, is looking forward to the postseason.

“Individually, I’d love to, time-wise, break 18 (minutes) in a 5K and be in the running for the state title in Division 2,” Lashley said. “That would be an incredible way to end my career.”

Whitinsville Christian held off Shepherd Hill at Martha’s Vineyard, 43-61, for the team title.

The Crusaders had five runners place in the top 16, including junior Emily Dill (sixth,  20:29.24), junior Fiona Donnelly (11th, 20:51.12), senior Rebecca Dowling (14th, 21:11.15) and junior Sophia Dill (16th, 21:28.72).

Shepherd Hill junior Emery Mullen was fifth in 20:02.44, while seniors Anna Thomas (20:49.88) and Grace Bateman (20:55.33) were 10th and 12th, respectively.