PARSIPPANY _ Therese Olshanski couldn't resist.
Olshanski and her Mountain Lakes teammates intended to stay in a tight pack from beginning to end so, when Olshanski and Kyra Velock, Izzi Gengaro and Ally Jin got sight of the finish line, Olshanski challenged everyone.
"We should all sprint," said the soccer player turned runner and the mad dash was on.
Olshanski, a junior, edged out the rest of the Lakers in the second Small Schools Batch Race at Central Park on Wednesday, Sept. 30, triumphing in 21:06.37. Velock was a mere half step behind, clocking in with a time of 21:06.50.
Five days earlier, the same cohesiveness helped Mountain Lakes, led by Velock, take the Group I team title at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational. The Lakers took five of the eight top spots, scoring 22 points. Second-place North Warren, with only one runner in the top 10, had 66.
"I told them to pack it up," Lakers co-coach Vicki Allison said of Saturday's strategy. "I wanted them to run strong and run together."
Apparently, the girls like it so much that they'll continue to stress togetherness.
While running, they talk. The topic is always about the race.
"We decide when to make a move," Olshanski said. "We ask each other how we feel and talk about the pace."
The Lakers stayed behind the Whippany Park contingent for much of the race. After the hills, at about 800 meters, they decided to take charge.
"We did it then because everyone else was tired," Olshanski said.
Last fall, Olshanski, who moved to Mountain Lakes from Sparta in eighth grade, was undecided between soccer and cross country. She ran with the Lakers and continued to play for a club team to keep her options open. Now, she's fully committed to running. In the spring, Olshanski excelled while competing in two-mile events.
"I enjoy running because you can have individual victories but because you're part of a team," she said. "We bring each other up and that's satisfying. I really think it's the hardest sport."
Olshanski would know because in addition to soccer (she played right midfield as a freshman), she played lacrosse and basketball.
"Therese is racing really well," co-coach Sue Bessin said. "She's very dedicated to it and is blooming."
The top four finishers on Wednesday were from Mountain Lakes. Seven of the first 10 were Lakers. Fifth and sixth place, respectively, went to Butler's Melissa Konopinski and Whippany Park's Danielle Buro.
On Saturday, Oct. 3, Mountain Lakes needs another big effort when it travels to the Shore Coaches Invitational at Holmdel Park.
"They work well together and support one another," Bessin said. "This is a really good group."
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