TOWNSEND -- The weather may have been abysmal, but that didn't stop the North Middlesex cross-country runners from their Sept. 18 race against Wachusett or their mission behind it.
Chris Skelly and Chapel Guarnieri, both of North Middlesex, clenched the victories for their teams, but at the end of the race, it wasn't about who won or lost. As each runner crossed the finish line, drenched from the downpour, all that mattered was the cause they were running for.
The team held their Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser on Tuesday, kicking off the first of several similar events held by sports teams during the school year and raising $450 in donations from spectators. The amount doesn't include what their opponents were able to collect. The money will be donated to the American Cancer Society and go towards leukemia research.
The race was dedicated to former teammate Joe Recco, who was diagnosed with leukemia a few months after graduating this past May. He is currently battling the disease and was unable to attend the race due to treatment.
Guarnieri, who organized the event and her mom, Lorri, who collected donations, were pleased with the success of the fundraiser.
"Especially with the rain, I wasn't expecting it to be as much as it was," said Lorri.
Although donations were not required, spectators were compelled to offer what they could.
"It's always a good thing to help a friend," said Jennifer Koulopoulos. "I just wish he didn't have cancer and we didn't have to do it."
Her son, Nicholas Koulopoulos, who ran with Recco in the past, said he was happy to be able to do something for his former running mate.
"He's a friend of ours," he said. "We just want to do whatever we can."
Although other North Middlesex sports teams have held similar fundraiser before, this was the cross-country team's first time holding such an event.
"Other teams had done this kind of thing at school, so it was nice that we got a chance," said Taylor Templeton.
"A lot of them do pink games (for breast-cancer research), so I thought it was good to focus on another kind of cancer that doesn't get as much attention," said Marissa Amichetti.
Recco's diagnosis came as a shock to his former teammates.
"It was hard to believe," said Amichetti, one of several runners sporting a Race for Recco T-shirt. "He is a really positive person and really funny."
It wasn't just Recco's former teammates who felt compassion for the cause; when Guarnieri contacted the Wachusett cross country team, they were drawn to the idea immediately.
"I think it's fantastic," said Colleen Sands from Wachusett. "It brings more meaning to it. It takes a competition that usually pits two teams against each other and brings them together for something bigger."