Cuthbertson Lives Up To Hype & Wins Team Southeast Regional

Pictured: Cuthbertson's team photo for Team Nationals.

Don't poke the bear. The story of the Cuthbertson Cavaliers journey to Portland for Team Nationals cannot be told in just this season. The Lady Cavaliers have now won five straight NCHSAA XC State Championships, on top of winning the NCHSAA Indoor Track state meet every year since 2017, and back-to-back outdoor team state titles. Some of these titles were before these varsity girls were even at the high school level. 

"The group is incredibly well connected, which leads to a different level of accountability," Coach Kirk Walsh said, "It is one thing to hold yourself accountable, but being accountable for your sisters helps you roll with the punches on a bad day."

This past weekend at the Team Southeast Regional at WakeMed in Cary, North Carolina, Cuthbertson (running as a club) proved why they have had all eyes on them this season. With a dominating 53 points, the Cavaliers left no doubt they were the best team in the region. However, we already knew that. What this 53-point outing proves however, is that they just may be the best team in the country.

Based on personal bests, they are the No. 5 team (5000m) and No. 3 team (3-mile) in the country. In fact, they've only had one 3-mile race on the season, in a trip out west to California. 

Stella Kermes once again led the way for Cuthbertson. With individual winner Irene Riggs (who ran high school No. 2 All-Time 16:02) out far ahead, Kermes was the leader of the chase pack. Kermes powered up the final hill at WakeMed and took 2nd overall in the race, running 17:26. 

"Leading up to the race, I made sure to keep a positive mindset. I knew that we were prepared as a team, and that all of our training had led us to this moment," Kermes said, "I put trust in myself and the girls."

And prepared they were. Their top five had less than a 60-second 1-5 split and placed their entire top five in the top 22 overall. 

Alyssa Preisano was 11th in 17:58, Charlotte Bell was 13th in 18:03, Justine Preisano was 18th in 18:16 and Lily Nasta was 22nd in 18:21.

In fact, only one team had two runners ahead of Nasta. 

"Our focus is on our team, not us as individuals. For us seniors we have been dreaming of this opportunity for four years, so we are taking it all in this week." Alyssa Preisano added. 

Now, the journey out west begins once more for the Cavaliers. 

"They've had a lot of reps against national competition," Walsh added, "I don't think it phases them anymore. They faced a bunch of the top teams and individuals at Woodbridge, RunningLane, Track Nationals, and Penn Relays."

The Cavaliers made the trip earlier this fall to the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic where they took 3rd in a national-level field. 

"I think the trip definitely helped us prepare for this moment because of the competition and just the overall experience." junior Justine Preisano said. 

Cuthbertson's has consistently been the best team in the state, winning five straight cross country state titles, on top of multiple state title streaks for indoor and outdoor track & field. 

When asked about their continued success over the years, the girls all echoed what they're coach preaches, accountability. 

"Having the opportunity to train with the girls not only pushes us during practice, but gives us a different level of confidence. It allows us to hold each other accountable for our goals and have fun while doing it," Alyssa said. Justine mentioned the biggest factor is "staying consistent with training and holding each other accountable."

"We show up to practice every day no matter what and hold each other accountable for getting the workout done right," Kermes added, "Besides our work ethic, the team aspect also allows us to be successful. We are all so close with each other, and really enjoy the time we spend together."

It is more than just the running, and that has been preached from top to bottom in the program. Freshman Josie Schihl preached "I think our dedication plays a huge role in our success. From workouts, to easy runs, to sleep, and nutrition, everything we do contributes to our performance."