PDS Girls XC Makes History Winning Prep B Championship


Arun Patel

Girls Team after their historic victory (Photo/Arun Patel ’24)

Arun Patel, Print Copy Editor

On November 1st 2022, PDS girls varsity cross country made history becoming the first team in school history to win the Prep B championship. While the win was certainly unexpected, it perfectly summarized the past few seasons for the girls. 

Fall 2020, COVID-19 restrictions were still at large and the girls XC team managed to put together a full team. Although they had only a handful of meets, they managed to go undefeated, marking a new era for PDS girls cross country. Head coach at the time John Woodside stated,“The girls did something special…not only were they undefeated but they established this team from being a ‘fun activity’ to being a full fledged XC program.” 

Fall 2021, the schedule was back in full force, and the team looked even better then the year before. They managed to put up a record of 6-2 only falling to a strong Wilberforce team, and nationally ranked Lawrenceville. When it came time for championship season, the girls stepped up. They finished 3rd overall at the Prep championship, and then sophomore Emily McCann set school history by becoming the first ever PDS girl to win the Prep Championship and make the NJSIAA Meet of Champions. Woodside stated, “They were out here every day working hard, putting in the effort not because I told them, but because they truly wanted to win. They wanted to be great, and look at the results–they were even better than great.” Sadly, coach Woodside retired after this season, and the program began to look for new coaches. 

In spring 2022, PDS named Micheal Mazzei head cross country and distance coach. Mazzei came from coaching two successful years at St. Thomas Aquinas, and running division 1 at Rider University. After coaching a stellar track season, Mazzei looked towards the fall. He created a robust summer training plan, to get the runners ready for the season. The girls entered the season, with a few fresh faces, primed for the best season yet. They proved their speed at early invitationals such as the New Balance Shore Coaches Invitational, the Cherokee Challenge, and the George School Invitational. They worked to improve all season, and got faster and faster with each race. When it came time for Preps, they wanted to improve on last year’s efforts. Junior co-captain Harleen Sandhu stated, “Finishing 3rd last year was good, but we knew our talent and wanted to race hard.” When it came time for race day, the girls were ready to race their hearts out. Junior Emily McCann finished second overall, after taking a nasty fall down the hill and falling behind the leader. Junior Jesse Hollander took 4th, followed by junior Harleen Sandhu at 6th. Junior Brooke Law, freshman Riya Mani, sophomore Natalia Soffer, and senior Maddie Weinstien took 16th, 20th, 25th, 31th respectively. This earned the girls a score of 37, beating 2nd place Rutgers Prep by 43 points. Head Coach Mazzei had this to say about the girl’s win, “The girls stepped up to the challenge at Preps. It took a team effort and everyone firing on all cylinders, and that’s what we got.” Assistant coach Christopher Devlin stated, “I’ve been coaching at PDS since 2003 and I’ve never seen a better team effort. This team fought through so much and so hard. They really showed that if you want something and work hard for it–you can achieve your goals. They will forever be champions and I could not be more proud.” Assistant coach Kelly Clark added, “We are so proud of the XC Girls for winning the Prep B Championships. This is certainly a day I will never forget and what an honor it is for our Girls to be part of the first Prep B win for PDS in school history…I am most proud though of this team’s perseverance and grit this season through sickness and injury.” 

The girls not only set history this season, but they created strong bonds together. Junior co-captain Emily McCann stated, “I think this season as a team was a turning point in both the culture and the results. This season we focused on team culture and bonding through various activities including apple picking and pumpkin carving. During practices we ran in separate groups but always made sure to catch up all together at the end. To say this contributed to the Prep B victory is an understatement. Everyone ran a perfect race despite the wet conditions. We were running for each other, not for ourselves. And that paid off, when we got back from the cooldown and found out we won!”