Hudson cross country succeeds at state tournament

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Hudson cross country succeeds at state tournament
Coach Bill Gaudere, Olivia Downin, Mia Graffeo, Rachael Korowski, Julia Klinedinst, and Marina Salem. (Photo/Courtesy)

HUDSON – In Hudson, there wasn’t anyone questioning whether the girls cross country team would find success.

The question was whether Hudson would be able to field a team at all. Districts need at least five runners to register as an official team, and Hudson was left scrambling after seven of last year’s eight cross-country athletes did not return.

The one athlete to return to the team, senior Rachael Korowski, is an incredible talent. Korowski, who has been running since eighth grade, is the school record holder in one-mile and two-mile races, has qualified for all-state meets every non-COVID-19 year, and will continue to run at Stonehill College next year.

Although Korowski’s accomplishments are impressive, she couldn’t account for the five people Hudson needed.

So, Bill Gaudere – who has been involved with Hudson athletics for the last 12 years, including coaching girls track for the last six – started to recruit. Gaudere turned to Julia Klinedinst and Mia Graffeo, two eighth-grade athletes who recently graduated from David J. Quinn Middle School, as the second and third runners on the team. Gaudere described having to convince Graffeo, who also considered playing soccer, to join the team. 

Marina Salem decided to join the team one week before the start of the season, bringing the team to four athletes.

As the season started, Hudson remained at four, one short of becoming an official team. 

However, three days into the season, Olivia Downin decided to try cross country during her senior season, becoming the final member of the girls cross country quintet. The team was finally eligible to compete.

“We had a team. Good. But, the possibility of someone getting injured or sick throughout the season – it’s pretty high. We made it the entire season where everyone showed up to the meets, everyone ran, and the rest is history. Everyone did well, and everyone kept getting better and better every meet,” said Gaudere.

While the team was quite inexperienced – Korowski was the only athlete who had ever run an official cross country race entering the season – the team took five of the top six spots when Hudson faced Quabbin for the season’s first meeting.

“From that point on they kept winning and winning,” said Gaudere.

The Hudson cross country team on Nov. 11 became the Division 3A qualifier runner-up, earning the opportunity to compete in the state championship on Nov. 18. After entering the season as the 18th-ranked team, the Hawks finished the season as the second-ranked squad.

“When they got the trophy, they were ecstatic. It was awesome to see that,” Gaudere told the Community Advocate. “This is a group of tough, tough girls. They show up to practice every day, they give it their best effort when it comes to racing, and they all support each other.”

Gaudere also mentioned that Hudson had found success in arguably the hardest sport.  

“It’s the toughest sport the school has to offer. There aren’t any benches. There’s no timeouts. There aren’t any substitutions…  They say ‘anyone can run,’ but not everyone can run fast and hard,” he said. 

The praise is also rolling in for Gaudere, who led the group of five – the “Fab 5” – to the trophy.

“I’m very grateful for what [Gaudere] has established in our community over the decades,” said Jeannie Graffeo, the mother of Mia Graffeo. “[He] has brought the sport and excitement of running to the students and even to our staff at Hudson High School. He is a true inspiration and role model of health and fitness and… a champion at building community.”

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