METHUEN — Haverhill senior Riley Gilmore is enjoying, as she showed again yesterday afternoon, a banner season. But it’s also a season of adjustment for her.
Gilmore, who had never placed first before this year, took top honors in a tri-meet with Andover and Methuen, giving her four first places in five meets, finishing in 19:07 on Methuen’s 3-mile course, nine seconds ahead of Andover standout Leila Aruri.
Gilmore and Aruri have battled a lot over the last few years, with Gilmore usually coming out on top. They ran together for more than half the race before Gilmore pulled away.
“My plan was to stick with her the first mile because I’m usually best with my second mile, but I couldn’t make a move,” said Aruri, who was slowed for much of her junior season with a muscle abnormality. “She (Gilmore) is a tough runner.”
For her part, Gilmore likes to focus on her own running rather than worrying about the competition. She’s been one of the top runners in the Merrimack Valley Conference — in cross country and track — for years, but she’s been in the background behind some other standout Hillies, most recently Jackie Solimine, who is now running well at UMass Lowell.
“It felt good to finish first that first time (earlier in the year), but I miss Jackie,” said Gilmore, an outstanding student who is ranked fifth in her class. “It’s been a transition because we paced each other and she helped me a lot.
“But I’ve gotten good support from my teammates and I think I’m in really good shape. Plus, I’m confident in myself. This is my senior year and I think I know how to race better.”
Gilmore has also had to adjust as the team has enjoyed less success than in past years. After beating Methuen 24-34 yesterday but losing to Andover 25-30, the Hillies stood at just 4-4.