In a year marked by the departures of Ty Chandler and George Harwell, both talismans of their respective sports, the Big Red cross country team likewise bid farewell to front runner and team leader Will Peters. While finding a replacement for Peters is an impossible task, the 2017 harriers are committed to a stronger team effort. The plan of attack will be running by committee.
Like the football and tennis programs replacing their stars, the cross country team will demand runners from all four grades to rise to the occasion. Anchored by veterans Joseph Tarquine, Isaac Wills, and Graham Ragsdale, the varsity will feature several new faces.
Juniors William Barton and Parker O’Neal, sophomores John Hyde and Will Crawford, and freshman Luke Mryncza, all of whom having had a strong showing at cross country camp, will make a bid for the top-seven varsity squad. The fact of the matter is that the team will feature more underclassmen than previous years.
On the topic of cross country camp, Coach Russ was impressed by the camaraderie and natural team dynamic the runners held with each other. He believes that this dynamic will lead to strong pack running this season.
Joseph Tarquine pitched-in, “Everyone needs to have a good attitude going into practice. Also, everyone should have the ‘you could be the next guy up’ mentality. Furthermore, we want to have fun with each other and make each other better.”
Graham Ragsdale echoed Coach Russ’s word, saying, “One thing I noticed at camp was the natural bond, and we need to intensify that. It’s a team sport.”
However, it is imperative that strong leadership directs this year’s team, and indeed the team has already seen certain individuals step-up in different places. Jamison Russ, a senior who will miss the entirety of the season, was still a strong presence at camp. Despite being sidelined, Russ is determined to support the team whenever he can.
Although he is not a varsity runner, senior Jack Sullivan, backed by four years of experience and a strong work ethic, looks to lead by example. He will help corral many of the underclassmen on the infamous “bomb squad.”
While the graduation of four varsity runners was a significant blow, the cross country believes it can still improve on last year’s finish. With last year’s champion Brentwood Academy and runner-up Father Ryan also graduating (or transferring) top runners, the Big Red look to take advantage in the absence of a clear-cut powerhouse.
That being said, Coach Russ did not hesitate to specify that a State Championship is not “do-or-die.” He looks forward to seeing a lot of individual improvement, and he wants to stress the importance of giving maximum effort in every race.
Where the cross country team will need the support of MBA students will be at the team’s biggest meets. The Big Red look to defend its Metro Championships title on October 19th, and they will compete once more at the State Championship meet on November 4th. The Big Red look to improve upon a 4th place finish from last season.