Lynnfield’s Mitchell runs with the pack in Falmouth

Kate Mitchell, third from right in the back row, poses with the other high school girls who competed in the Tommy Cochary High School Mile race in Falmouth. (COURTESY PHOTO)

FALMOUTH — Lynnfield High School senior Kate Mitchell finished sixth at the Tommy Cochary High School Mile race at Falmouth High School’s James T. Kalperis Track this past Saturday, finishing in a time of 5:12.09.

The race featured some of the fastest high school milers in the state, led by the 1-2 punch of Newton’s Claire Martin (Newton South HS) and Rachel Sessa of Tewksbury (Tewksbury Memorial High).  Martin won both the 800 (2:10.80) and mile (4:48.88) titles at 2017 MIAA All-State meet, while Sessa finished second to Martin in both races, running the 800 in 2:12.26 and the mile in 4:56.45.

The race turned into a 3-way battle among Sessa, Grace Connolly and Martin, who pulled away from the pack at the quarter mile mark.  Martin led the entire way until faltering on the bell lap.  Connolly snuck past Sessa on the inside with about 50 meters to go to win with a meet record 4:56.33, nipping Sessa (4:56.84) by only a quarter of a second.  Martin took the bronze medal in 4:59.84.

Mitchell said she knew the lead runners would go out fast,  but she stuck to her pre-race game plan.

“I was more nervous than usual, but the other girls were calm, so that helped me calm down,” she said.  “We ran more as team, and I knew that Claire especially would go out fast and the other girls would go with her, so my plan was to stay in the middle and not get stuck in the back, and I did that for the most part.  It was just a phenomenal race and such an incredible finish for those girls.”

Mitchell said she prepared for the race this summer by training with Fernando Braz’ “Going the Distance” program in Peabody. She also knew, going into the event, that Martin and Sessa would be formidable foes.

“Both are very strong, but they also train for cross country, so they may be training higher mileage than I am,” she said.  “It’s hard in the summer because I don’t have a training party, but it helps working with coach Braz when I am up here, but I have done a lot of training as well in Falmouth.”

The high school mile, which debuted in 2010, was renamed six years ago in honor of Tommy Cochary, a young Falmouth runner who was killed in a drunk-driving accident in 1990.

Getting an invitation to compete in the race is the hard part, as athletes are chosen to compete not only because they are among the best high school milers in Massachusetts, but also because they embody Cochary’s spirit and have shown evidence of making smart choices in their lives.

Winners of both the boys’ and girls’ miles receive a grant of $2,500, which is awarded to their schools to help  implement changes in athletics or wellness, such as new equipment, team uniforms, or after school wellness activities.

For Mitchell, competing in the elite race had a down-home feel to it as her father Michael ran track at Falmouth High.

“My father was a sprinter at Falmouth High and ran on this same track, so we have a lot of history with it,” said Mitchell.  “My father is very involved and supportive with my running, he attends every race, even the league dual meets and he is always at the 200 line calling out my splits.  We still have a summer home in Falmouth, the home my father grew up in. It’s just two minutes from the track, so Falmouth is like home to me.  It was great to be able to have a lot of family here this weekend.”

That’s putting it mildly as the Mitchell name is well known in Falmouth and Race Week has always been special for another reason.

Mitchell’s grandmother, Ellen Mitchell, founded the Ellen T. Mitchell Scholarship, a scholarship program for town lifeguards and beach workers attending institutions of higher education or trade schools.

The scholarship is one of several charities supported by Saturday’s 3.2 mile Falmouth Walk, which was celebrating its 27th year and raised more than $32,000 in 2016.

Scholarship winners are chosen on the basis of an essay on how working for the beaches has made a positive impact in their lives.

“My grandmother was a member of the town’s beach committee and she set up a scholarship fund for lifeguards and anyone connected with the beach, for that matter,” said Mitchell.  “She always spoke up for beach employees, trying to get them higher wages and things like that.”

Mitchell said her grandmother served for more than 25 years and also was a strong advocate for coastline enhancements and other projects.

Mitchell plans to run track in college but is undecided where.

“I’ve been talking with several schools, and will be making official visits, but, right now, it’s all up in the air,” she said.  “I’m happy to be in the position I’m in, talking to some great schools, but I am still not sure about anything right now.”

Except soccer that is.

This morning, bright and early at 6:15, Mitchell and fellow Pioneer girls soccer captains Hannah Filipe, Lizzie Shaievitz and Sydney Santosuosso hit the pavement for the traditional 2-mile run on the first day of tryouts.

Mitchell said she plans to run the Cochary again next summer with an expanded family presence.

“Everyone was asking me after the race if I would run again next year and I can’t wait to do that, hopefully with my twin sisters, Ashley and Lauren, who are in the ninth grade.” she said.  “It was such a great experience this year not just in terms of running, but of being two feet away from the elite milers, who raced after us.  To see some of them coming here to Falmouth after coming off  the London World’s was just awesome.  It was so cool to see world class athletes up close in person.”

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