WESTPORT — It doesn’t matter what the venue is, Grace Lillis usually figures out a way to cross the finish line first.
The Sacred Heart sophomore, who won last year’s race at the FAA Cross Country Championships, added more winning hardware to her collection on Monday.
Ahead from the outset, the speedy Lillis registered a winning time of 19 minutes, 19.8 seconds at Monday’s 3.08-mile race at the league championship meet at Sherwood Island State Park.
Showcasing its depth, Hopkins School won the FAA team title with a score of 57, followed by Sacred Heart (64), Greens Farms Academy (65) and School of the Holy Child (70). Greenwich Academy placed fifth with a team score of 91.
Like the regular-season meet, Lillis raced ahead of the competition.
“I think you have to make due with what you have,” Lillis said. “Everyone on our team did very well, considering the conditions and the different course. I’m happy with my time, I ran faster here than I did the last time I was here.”
Hopkins School, also won the FAA regular-season title with a record of 24-0, while Sacred Heart finished second with a 19-5 mark.
“The season has been great, some new girls joined the team this year and they all did very well,” Lillis said. “Everyone was really happy with the season we had, coming in second was a good accomplishment.”
Maliya Ellis from Hopkins was the race’s runner-up, posting a time of 19:59.7.
“I am pretty proud of myself, I put in 100-percent effort today,” said Ellis, a senior. “I went out a little bit fast and the second mile I slowed down a little bit. But I never gave up and I really pushed it the last straightaway. I’m really happy I broke 20, I have been running here four years and I had never broken 20.”
Greens Farms Academy sophomore Caroline McCall finished third in 20:00.9.
“I am really happy with my time, I was trying to break 19 and I am on the cusp of doing that — I just hit 20 minutes,” McCall said. “Today, I definitely went out hard and tried to stay with Sacred Heart and Hopkins. Running at Waveny was something I was looking forward to, but this is our home course and the additions to it were okay. It’s a spectator-friendly course as well.”
Hopkins sophomore Hannah Szabo was fourth overall in 21:10.3.
“This is my first time running cross country, so it’s exciting,” Szabo said. “The first mile was the toughest, but the second mile is where I used my strategy and thought about the people I wanted to pass.”
Dannie Bell (Holy Child, 21:16.0) was fifth, followed by Haley Nilson (sixth, Greens Farms, 21:27.8), Kira McCreesh (Greens Farms, 21:45.9, seventh), Elena Brennan (eighth, Hopkins, 21:57), Hannah O’Shea (Holy Child, ninth, 22:01) and Ursula Vollmer (Sacred Heart, 22:07 10th).
“I’m excited to come out and run such a great race with a great team,” Vollmer said. “It was so much fun, the girls are so supportive and running with Grace, who finished first is great. This was a collaborative effort.”
Cecilia Duncan, also a Sacred Heart sophomore, finished in 11th place (22:10), while Kate Anderson, a Greenwich Academy senior finished 12th (22.18)
“This is the meet that makes all the morning workouts and practices worth it,” Duncan said. “It went really well for me today, I’m happy about placing 11th. I went out there telling myself not to do it for me, but to do well for the team. I am excited about being a part of the team the next two years.”
Said GA’s Anderson: “Our top five were really close together in this race, which made it fun,” Anderson said. “We had some really good finishes”
Added GA’s Julia Howe, who finished 19th: “This was a pretty tough meet. There was Sacred Heart and Hopkins out there, teams twice our size. But I’m proud of us for pushing today at a mentally challenging course.”
Senior Anji Van Biesen of GA posted a time of 22:34.7 after missing most of the season with a concussion.
“That was my best time for the season, which is not as fast as I ran last year, but I am coming back from an injury,” said Van Biesen, who like senior Cora Creighton (pneumonia) made her return. “It’s taken a while to come back, so it was good to compete today.”
Creighton placed 14th for the Gators, while Gabby Davitch was 17th for Sacred Heart and Elena Tan and Howe were 18th and 19th, respectively for GA. Ranease Brown was 22nd, followed by teammate Kaitlin Forman for Hopkins (23rd)