By Meredith Church
TOWNSEND -- Despite being the smallest fall sports team at North Middlesex, the cross-country team does an outstanding job at holding its own.
Coaching the team will be former North Middlesex Middle School coach, Heidi Delaney.
"This is my first season coaching at the high school. It's good to see familiar faces that I coached in middle school.
"For my goals, I would like to recruit more kids in the program," she said. "I am hoping to recruit more freshmen," said Delaney. "The girls team is on the small side with only four members, which include captain and senior Chapel Guarnieri; Marissa Amichetti, a junior; Nina Vogelsang, a sophomore; and Taylor Templeton, also a sophomore."
Managing and coaching a team that has different skill levels and experience is a challenge for Delaney. "I want to set up practices so everybody is challenged," said Delaney. "I still want the top runners to be challenged, but yet I still want the bottom runners to feel that they are still included, and have it so they can still participate in practice without being too challenged."
As far as coaching the boys and girls team together, that doesn't present a problem for Delaney. "Having the boys and girls practice isn't a problem," said Delaney. "They challenge each other. There are some girl runners that can run just as well as the boys."
Helping her with the team on and off the cross-country course this season
Like any cross-country runner, Johnston, a four-year veteran of the team, is hoping to achieve the ultimate goal of making it to districts and states. "I want to place well at districts, not just for myself, but I want the team to place well, too. If we place fairly high in districts, then we could gain more respect at North Middlesex," said Johnston. "Cross-country is the most important season to get in shape. It helps you get ready for winter and spring track seasons."
Getting a new coach definitely creates an obstacle for the team to overcome. "Our old coach, Coach Pancoast was very experienced and very helpful," said Johnston. "If we work well together with Coach Delaney, we should overcome the challenge of having a new coach."
Being a small team, the cross-country team doesn't receive as much attention that some of the bigger fall sports get. "The cross-country team doesn't get enough recognition and respect. If more people join the team, then they could get more respect," said Johnston. "There is a 5k race in Pepperell coming up. If more people ran in the race, then they could see what cross-country runners go through."
Leading the girls team of only four runners, Guarnieri is overlooking the size of their team and looking ahead to the goals they will achieve throughout the season.
"We have a really small team, but I'd like to win as many meets as possible," said Guarnieri. "In order to win a meet, you need to sweep the meets, meaning to place first, second and third at the meets." With having only four girls on the team, achieving the goal of winning meets will be a hard task to accomplish. "For myself, the challenges for me will be to find individual motivation. There were definitely courses last year where I could have gotten better times," said Guarnieri. "We are a really small team and we did lose two seniors last year."
Even though the team lost two seniors last year, this year's team is showing potential talent. "There was a freshman last year, Nina Vogelsang, who stepped up and showed a lot of potential," said Guarnieri. "This year she will be a sophomore, so I'm hoping she will step it up even more and show more potential than last year."
With fresh talent on the team, there are other things that Guarnieri is looking forward to as well. "The new coach is awesome. She is really nice, and since she is a runner herself, she knows what she is talking about," said Guarnieri. "She is really good at transitioning runners from the middle school to high school."
Like Johnston, Guarnieri would like the team to gain more respect at North Middlesex. "There is the cliché of all we do is run," said Guarnieri. "We are definitely the smallest fall sports team at North Middlesex, but I would like to see the team get bigger."