By Mike Smith
When I initially anticipated writing this recap I was looking to highlight the Route 124 rivalry we have with Conant. This long standing rivalry, the product mostly from long time matchups in basketball and other sports, has blossomed of late as the Conant boys team has been knocking on the door of the D3 state championship. Coincidently, Mascenic has been fortunate to be sitting in that position during coach Bill Edson’s tenure at the helm of the Orioles, making us the obvious choice as the team to dethrone.
Unfortunately due to circumstances out of our control, Friday afternoon saw us without our “closest competitor” with 13 miles separating the two teams. While I lamented having that one last competitive opportunity in the run up to D3s I also took comfort that as the rain poured down I didn’t have to set the course for a rain soaked dual meet on a Friday afternoon.
Fittingly this week I put a quote I came across up on my white board from NAU coach Mike Smith recognizing “one of the greatest adversaries for a team like us is comfort.” I believe what he meant when he said it was that being comfortable at the top is not the best way to achieve greatness, rather that to embrace the struggle is where the most growth happens. Well, discomfort was the name of the game for this afternoon. Without another team to race, it seems we’d just have to race ourselves.
Using the alternating 1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7 method to create teams, we ended up with two 9 person teams headed up by Landen Vaillancourt and our #2 guy Connor Traffie. My athletes looked over the rosters and a few felt the lineups were skewed in the “Red” team’s favor, with both our top guy and #1 and #2 girls assigned to it. I set the rosters of the last race finishes so we’d find out once the splashing of the puddles settled.
After a pre workout discussion in the dry confines of the classroom, stressing why we needed a workout like this and not to retreat to a more comfortable workout, the kids headed out for an appropriate but expedient warmup with the guidelines of being up at the start, ready to race in 30 minutes. The athletes that were in school had their race gear while those on remote learning for the day may not have, expecting something different for practice.
As the gun went off at 3:25, as expected Vaillancourt moved right to the front. Unexpectedly, #3 man Jethro Somero slid in right behind Vaillancourt, looking to either embark on a breakthrough performance or a wet and miserable second half of the race. #2 man Traffie lurked in the pack, looking to execute over the second half. My top two girls were running just behind my top seven guys and the girls chase pack, as they’ve been closing the gap all season, was doing so once again.
Our two loop course is fantastic for being able to spectate races and for coaches to assess how a race is going for their athletes. Usually by the halfway point you can get a glimpse into what the athlete has going on. Did they go out too hard? Are they in over their head? Are they ready to crank things up over the second half? In a race like this it’s easy for me to communicate with them as well as they come around ready to back out onto the second loop.
As Landen came back into the start/finish area, Somero trailed him by about 30 meters, with Traffie back another 50 meters. The rain soaked course was having an effect on those without spiked shoes, making the tightest turns difficult and throwing athletes off tempo. Drew Traffie was rolling in fourth with Ryan O’Shea in tow, ready to crank things up with just under two miles to go. Dom Cicchetti and Payton Vaillancourt were out in front of Quinn Aldrich, and trying to stay out as Aldrich dug into the second lap. Freshman Skye Lambert, who has been fighting through runner’s knee looked good in ninth, followed by the girls second pack, spearheaded by three more freshmen running phenomenally. Our veteran girls were right in there too, keeping the pack time low. Florrie Schaumloffel, while out on the course by herself, was running a fantastic solo race for her, and even Big Jim Crawford was “having a day.” We would see if the second half of the race would be forgiving.
As the racers come back into view with 500 meters to go, Vaillancourt held a 70 meter lead but Somero still had him in his sights. Somero was in Traffie’s sights and while his final 200 was significantly faster, Somero was able to hold him off, finishing second by three seconds. Drew Traffie would finish in fourth, really working the second half of the race hard, with O’Shea holding on to finish five seconds in arrears. The scoring, so far, playing out as suspected.
Cicchetti and Vaillancourt were able to hold off a hard charging Aldrich, while Lambert led the freshman contingent in as the second girl. Again, scorecard still intact. As the rest of the girls squad rolled the “Red” team then got an unexpected bonus as Amelia Smith came in third, giving the Red team three places in a row. Usual #8 girl Gracie German snuck into the next spot, fourth girl in, followed by Emma Schaumloffel, Maya Callahan, Tori Smith, Sydney Bane, Florrie Schaumloffel and Big Jim.
While the Red team prevailed, the scoring was much closer than it revealed on paper. Red won 27 – 29 through five runners, and 67-69 through eight runners. And while the Red team “won” and the Blue team “lost”, the Mascenic Vikings won, turning a “lost” opportunity into an effective training session that turned out to be a lot of fun. While I might have rather raced the “cross town” rivalry, this wash of an afternoon was pretty darn good too.