Pushing the pace

Cross Country focuses on end of season


photo by Nora Godikson

Junior Ryan self races at the Hagerty Invitational. The team placed third overall.

Michael Gibson, Sports editor

After a third and fourth place finish at the Hagerty Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 30, the boys and girls cross country teams are focusing on the last race of the season at Florida State University, the last chance for the runners to qualify for the postseason.

Both teams season began at the Deland Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 26, where the boys finished sixth in a 23 team field led by a 17:10 run by senior Garrett O’Malley, who placed ninth overall. The girls team was led by senior Maria Puccio-Ball who finished seventh and led the team to a third place finish in a 19 team field.

“My goal before we started racing was to get the school record,” O’Malley said. “I need to improve pacing myself during the race because I am [usually] off for the [last] mile.”

The team’s success continued through the Katie Caples Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 23. The girls, led by senior Lauren Tucker, with a time of 21:20, finished eighth in the 17-team elite field, Tucker finished. O’Malley carried the boys team to a tenth place finish and placed 16th with a time of 16:56.

“O’Malley is leading the charge and running very well at this point of the season,” head coach Jay Getty said. “[He] continues to set the tone in workouts, which in turn helps the training of the other team members.”

Both teams have produced consistent results, placing in the top 10 in all races. O’Malley, Puccio-Ball and Tucker are major contributors in each team’s success but they are not the only ones making an impact. Juniors Adam Mastrobuono and Julia Plecsha are often found at the top of the leaderboards. Mastrobuono finished 12th out of 122 runners in the Hagerty Invitational, the second highest on the team, but he is still not satisfied.

“I could’ve done better this past week,” Mastrobuono said. “I feel like Hurricane Irma messed up the way I run but I will do better at FSU.”

A key reason for the success of this team is the practice schedule. The runners go on 12-mile runs a few times per week to improve endurance. They also train on hills and do speed workouts one day a week to help pace themselves for the race.

“[Practice] helps me prepare for the meets because it teaches me how to catch up with someone,” Mastrobuono said. “It reinforces with us how to work as a team during the race.”

The concept of team racing is nothing new to the returners, but it is an adjustment for new members. Running is easier in a pack because the runner feels they cannot get out or fall behind, so the team will often run together to push everyone. That same concept is also utilized during the track season in the spring.

“The [new people] are always asking for ways to improve,” O’Malley said. “I am always willing to help them out and welcome them into the team.”

The girls and boys teams will both conclude their regular season on Saturday, Oct. 7 at FSU, and both teams have the possibility to qualify a runner for the state championships. As for the rest of the team, they will continue to train for track season.

“At this point in time, everyone is progressing as planned,” Getty

said. “As we get stronger in cross country season, it allows us to increase the workout loads and intensities in the track season.”