The Austin Prep Girls Cross Country team captured the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Division 2 Championship at St. Mark's School in dominating fashion, placing three runners in the top 10 and four runners in the top 15 in the team's first appearance in the championship event. With the transition of Austin Prep's athletics program to the NEPSAC to start the 2022-2023 academic year, the cross country victory brings Austin Prep its first NEPSAC title.
"It was an honor to be the first team to win a NEPSAC championship and hopefully it sets a trend for more to come," Head Cross Country Coach Nicolle Renick said. "It was a historical moment that we probably won't realize the magnitude of until many years down the road."
Anya Budzinski '26 led Austin Prep in the 5,000-meter race finishing fourth individually in 20:46. She was followed by teammates Madi Valade '25 in sixth (20:49), Sophia Dinanno '23 in ninth (21:29) and Victoria Tenreiro '25 in 15th (21:53). All four runners earned All-NEPSAC Honors in the race. They were joined by Sydney Pilla '23 in 22nd (22:40), Cailin Fennessy '24 in 26th (22:48) and Colleen Simmons '25 in 53rd (24:12). The race was won by Sadie Millett of Middlesex in 20:11.
Austin Prep finished with a low score of 55 points. The top five teams were rounded out by Middlesex (80), Hopkins (115), Governor's Academy (138), and Buckingham, Browne & Nichols (145).
Anya – who won five races during the course of the fall, leading Austin Prep to an undefeated dual meet season – pressed the pace from the beginning of the race and finished in her customary top team spot. Expecting a challenge from Middlesex, Austin Prep needed strong efforts from their two through five (scoring) runners, which is exactly what they got as Madi, Sophia, Victoria and Sydney all closed quickly in the final stretch to gain placing and disrupt the top runners from Middlesex.
"We knew going into the race we had to beat as many Middlesex runners as possible." Anya said. "So our plan was to work together in the race and focus on a strong finish, making sure we didn't get passed by any runners at the end, especially Middlesex runners."
"We went and did a course preview run the weekend before the race which was really helpful," Renick said. "They knew what to expect in terms of the course. It let them focus on being patient in the hills and middle section of the course, and then passing as many jerseys as possible as they approached the finish."
Runners who finished in the top 20 placings earned the right to run as individuals in today's NEPSAC Meet of Champions race, also at St. Mark's. Anya, Madi, Sophia and Victoria will be participating.
The day was further highlighted by the Austin Prep Girls Junior Varsity Cross Country team's victory in the JV NEPSAC Championship race to end the day.
"It was great to win with this team. We worked hard this fall and were able to achieve the goal we had since the beginning of the season," Anya added. "It is awesome to make history with some of your best friends."