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Globe North Sports

Solimine should pace the pack in Haverhill

After injury, senior takes role of leader

Haverhill High’s Julie Solimine (right), who excels as a distance runner, edged a Franklin runner in a cross-country race at Franklin Park last fall. Haverhill High’s Julie Solimine (right), who excels as a distance runner, edged a Franklin runner in a cross-country race at Franklin Park last fall. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/File)
By Sapna Pathak
Globe Correspondent / September 2, 2010

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To simply label Julie Solimine a runner is an understatement.

Sidelined almost the entire outdoor track season last spring, rehabbing a stress fracture, she never lost her focus, or her passion for the sport.

“It was so hard. I wanted to cry because I just wanted to run so bad and couldn’t,’’ said the 17-year-old Haverhill High senior. “It was tough because I was hurt my first outdoor season and was looking forward to doing it last spring. Then I got hurt at the end of indoor [last winter] and missed 10 weeks of outdoor. The only thing that got me through it was knowing I had cross-country again.’’

This fall is her last traversing the trails as a Hillie, capping what has been a sterling high school career that has coincided with Haverhill’s run of dominance in the Merrimack Valley Conference.

The Hillies have captured five straight conference titles and are 50-1 in dual-meet competition. They will kick off the regular season a week from Saturday, traveling to Newburyport to compete in the Clipper Relay before starting their conference schedule on Sept. 15 against Dracut.

And Haverhill will follow the lead of Solimine, a returning Globe All-Scholastic and two-time MVC Runner of the Year who paced the Hillies to a 10-0 dual-meet record last fall. She placed fourth at the EMass Division 1 meet last fall and was sixth at the All-States.

One of just three seniors on the squad, Solimine finds herself in the new role of team leader. Though the humble senior shies away from discussing her running resume and how it will shape her as a captain, Hillies head coach Mike Maguire has no doubts about his No. 1 runner.

“This year, Julie’s going to have to be a mother hen and take her teammates under her wing and teach them, encourage them,’’ said Maguire, entering his 19th season at Haverhill. “One thing people take for granted in cross-country is that it’s such a team sport. You can’t hide your weaknesses, so Julie’s going to need to come through as a mentor. There’s no question that she will, though.’’

Solimine is no stranger to setting a good example. She is the eldest of Barbara and Scott Solimine’s three girls: younger sister Jackie, a sophomore, is a middle-distance runner on the outdoor track team. Jenna, a sixth-grader, runs cross-country for the middle school squad and is top competition for her older sister.

“Jenna is always teasing me about how she’s going to get to the high school cross-country team and have better times than me,’’ said Solimine. “It’s nice to get to see her grow and learn her way through the sport and develop her own relationship with running. She comes to most of my races and I watch her in her road races.’’

In the classroom, Solimine also leads the pack. She enters her senior year ranked second in her class, and has hopes of continuing her running career in the Ivy League next year.

In track, she excels as a distance runner, focusing mostly on the 2-mile and occasionally the mile. Last winter, before suffering a stress fracture to her left tibia, she logged her best time in the 2-mile, completing the race in 11 minutes, 24 seconds.

Solimine’s lone focus this fall is to stay healthy.

“She had a great year and it’s hard to say you want to improve on that,’’ said Maguire. “I think a top-five finish at the state meet is doable and incredible considering there are so many good distance runners in the state. If we do a good job of taking care of her and keeping her from getting injured, she’ll be OK and right up there with her peers.’’

Junior Jillian Meserve, who placed 44th at the All-State meet last fall, also returns, along with two other juniors, Bridget Twomey and Samantha Kelleher. Freshman Riley Gilmore should compete with sophomore Kristy Robertson to fill Maguire’s final spot in the top five.

Despite the graduation of six runners, Solimine has a positive outlook on the season.

“Cross-country is always my favorite of the three seasons I run. The team is always a lot closer because we all run the same race,’’ said Solimine. “I love running outside on the different courses, too, but the biggest thing is all the fun I have with my teammates. I love being able to goof and joke with them before a race, then just turn it on and focus all that energy into running my course.’’

Sapna Pathak can be reached at sportsgalsp@gmail.com.