All eyes were on Anna McElhinney as she paced Billerica to the MSTCA Division 3 State Relays crown, while Burlington boys’ dominance continued

With nearly 1,000 athletes, hundreds of heats, and swarms of spectators lining the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center at Sunday’s MSTCA Division 3 State Relays, standing

out amid the chaos is no small feat. But as Billerica’s Anna McElhinney and Oliver Ames’ Katie Sobieraj galloped stride for stride, lap after lap, in the final leg of the

girls’ long distance medley relay, their turbulent surroundings felt frozen in time. When McElhinney and Sobieraj were handed their batons at roughly the 7:25 mark, the four

leading teams were within two seconds of each other. By the time they crossed the finish line five minutes later, McElhinney and Sobieraj remained two seconds apart from each

other — but the third place team, Wakefield, was 36 seconds behind. In the loudest moment all afternoon, McElhinney passed Sobieraj on the final lap to secure a first-place

time of 12:29, 21 seconds faster than the Indians’ previous best mark in the event. The thrilling victory was just enough for Billerica (46 points) to squeak past second-place

Milton (40.31 points) for the D3 girls’ crown. “I knew after the first lap that I had slowed down a bit for [Soberaj],” McElhinney said. “She was out ahead a little, but I

was just waiting for the right time to take over. Thankfully, I picked it right.” McElhinney and Sobieraj last squared off in the cross-country state championships in

November (McElhinney finished 14 seconds ahead), and having another top runner to pace the Tigers’ senior was key. “We didn’t really know if she’d have anyone else with her

at the end,” coach Cullen Hagan said. “She’s usually asked to push the pace, but the way it worked out was just perfect for her to get the personal best.”