Short Strides & Odd Thoughts: Here’s to Cross Country Season!

By Mike Smith

For us here at Mascenic, the kick off to cross country season tends to be the same every year.  Returnees find themselves at Monday’s practice, at 10am, facing the Ten Lap Time Trial, a ritual we began probably more than ten years ago.  The athletes are supposed to circle the track ten times, switching between 3 minutes of effort and 3 minutes of recovery until they’ve completed 10 laps.  And while it’s really simply a tempo style run (or it could be considered fartlek I suppose), it reveals both to us as coaches, and to the athletes what they did right or what they did wrong with their summer training.  Some of the individual results looked promising, but the overall results left us with some big question marks going into the beginning of the season.

We then get together in full at 2pm, with an easy group run where all the kids can run together (as teammates) especially seeing as the returnees have already done a workout.  Squeezed in between these two runs it seems it’s also become customary for the Smith’s to host a healthy lunch experience for the team to try to nudge them towards some healthy eating habits.

Wednesday is our introductory hills, a 700 meter circuit with a 160 meter low grade ascent intended to stimulate the cardiovascular system without putting those that lack summer mileage too far into the hurt locker.  The target for everyone is 8 reps, with the big dogs getting stopped after 20 (which equals 14km).  Thursday is the week’s long run, keeping the lid on (especially after the effort the day before) by maxing out at 65 minutes.  Tuesday was an easy run which leads us to Friday.

Again, for the last ten or so years, our Friday afternoon sees us in Hinsdale, Coach Glenn Hammett’s hamlet, sitting right on the Connecticut River.  As close to Vermont as it is to Massachusetts, Hinsdale High School along with its cross country course, sit on an outwash plain from the last ice age meaning that it’s super flat.  Think Meet of Champions without the climb up to the canal.  Their one mile loop works great for an early season rust buster and a great way for the kids to get started without the ability to match their last season’s best against where they are so far this season.

The meet goes off at 6:45pm, partially to avoid the warmer temperatures of mid day, but also to ensure that the namesake Avians are out on their 6,000 mile migration route to the Amazon Rain Forests.  This year saw the boys go first, with Monadnock’s Peyton Joslyn jumping out to an early lead, followed by a big group of Mascenic boys and Peyton’s brother Jace shadowing the pack.  Peyton would lead through the first lap in 5:17, with the Mascenic pack rolling through just under 6 minute pace.  But once clear of the start/finish area the Mascenic pack started accelerating.  While Peyton would hold on to finish in 10:44, Mascenic’s Ryan O’Shea would break up the pack, running the fastest second mile to finish in 11:22.  Jace would follow right behind with Drew Traffie coasting into fourth. Dylan Buttrick would round out the top five.

In the girls race a similar scene unfolded.  The Monadnock crew would leap out to the early lead, with Summer Bently, Allyssa Hall, Sadie Gibson and Anna Bently, getting a good jump on the Mascenic crew which was rolling as a pack.  The Huskies led by almost 30 seconds through the mile before the Mascenic girls were allowed to open it up for lap two.  The Huskies, for the most part, would stay out but the Mascenic crew was definitely rolling from behind.  In the end the Vikings ran out of real estate, with Summer, Alyssa and Sadie able to stay out to secure the top 3 spots, with Mascenic putting in the next three and six in the top ten, led by freshman Erin O’Shea.

Stepping back and assessing the results, I’m happy to say we’re headed in the right direction.  The boys, having lost three of the top five, need to reload quickly  this season with members of last year’s freshman class stepping up.  And we saw the start of that.  The girls, buoyed by two great acquisitions from the middle school in the O’Shea twins, were solid coming off of last season and having trained well over the summer definitively took a big step forward.  And while we’re only one week into the season, I’d say we’re on track to be competitive come October.  For the guys, it might take all season and that’s OK.  

Nothing should be sure in cross country season.

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