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Standout Northeastern runner commits to compete on NCAA Division I level with Villanova

Northeastern's Margaret Carroll finishes first at 18:26.2 during the YAIAA Girls' Cross Country Championships at Gettysburg Area High School in Gettysburg, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo
  • Margaret Carroll recently committed to run in college for Villanova University.
  • Carroll has won the last two York-Adams League girls' cross country titles.
  • Carroll finished third in the state 3-A girls' cross country run in 2020.

Margaret Carroll’s high school athletic career has certainly had its share of ups and downs.

Injuries forced Carroll to miss her freshman year of track and her sophomore year of cross country.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic cut out her junior year of track.

When Carroll has been able to compete, however, the Northeastern High School standout had made the most of it.

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A two-time York-Adams League champion in cross country as a junior and senior, Carroll capped off her career by placing third overall, and first in her heat, in the PIAA Class 3-A meet this past fall.

That finish is the highest ever by anyone — boy or girl — in school history.

One of the most coveted female runners in the state, Carroll had no shortage of suitors looking to bring her into their programs at the collegiate level. After weighing her options, the Bobcat standout recently made her decision to commit to Villanova and compete on the NCAA Division I level. Villanova has a storied tradition in track and field and cross country.

“I was looking at schools like Bucknell, Princeton and Penn State,” Carroll said. “In the end, it came down to Villanova and Princeton.”

Northeastern runner survives heat, finishes 3rd in state 3-A girls' cross-country meet

Carroll, who is also one of the top academic performers in her class, was drawn to the Philadelphia-area university by her soon-to-be teammates.

“I really like the team and coach,” said Carroll, who intends to major in engineering. “And I met and really liked a lot of the girls on the team.”

Praise from her coach: Pete LoBianco, Carroll’s high school coach at Northeastern, believes his pupil made a wise choice.

“I think it was a good decision,” LoBianco said. “And that’s both academically and for sports. We both liked the program and their coach and we thought it was a very good decision.”

What fascinated LoBianco about Carroll was not necessarily just her considerable talent. The Bobcat coach really enjoyed how coachable she was, how dedicated she was and, sometimes, even how selfless she is.

“She is just that type of kid that puts the work in, keeps her head down and keeps her mouth closed,” he said. “She just does whatever you say and shows up on race day and can throw down with anybody, and you can’t really coach that. It’s just there.”

Nod to sportsmanship: Carroll, who won every race or heat that she competed in during her senior season, could have done that same thing a year ago during the regular season as a junior.

In a nod to sportsmanship, as well as her team, Carroll twice allowed a senior runner — once with her own team and once with another team — to place first in a race, knowing that the team result was not in question.

“She’s helped others out on other teams,” LoBianco said. “Last year at Kennard-Dale, she ran with Delany Barts, who was a senior, and at the end she just kind of backed off and allowed her to win. She knew we were going to win as a team, so it didn’t matter.”

"Once-in-a-lifetime" athlete: While LoBianco is confident that Carroll will be successful at the next level, he is grateful for having the opportunity to be her coach over the past four years.

“Margaret is one of those once-in-lifetime type of athletes that you get to coach,” he said. “I think she has nothing but potential ahead of her.”

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