Cross country team ready for next step

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Otis Lyons, Sports Editor

More than a year has passed since star Jeremy Leary ran in green and black. It’s been longer still since 2011 state champion Johnny Lawson, and top 10 finisher Clayton Hutchins graduated.

Although those athletes have vacated the halls here, one might suspect the horizon to be grim without them.

“When you have a leader like (Leary), they can set off a chain reaction throughout the team. Most leaders’ chain reaction begins to wear off after they graduate, but his continues right now,” said Aaron Davidson, a senior beginning his fourth year on the team.

During Davidson’s time with the team, the squad qualified for state championships every year, but the usually lofty expectations of the cross country program has only risen in recent years.

Last year, led by senior Sam Reilly and sophomores Cooper McCarthy and Nicco Pompili, the team managed a third place at the North Coast Section (NCS) regional championships and 11th at the state meet, as one of the more youthful teams there. Of the seven representing the school in Fresno for last year’s climactic meet, five are returning this season, four of whom were underclassmen last year.

Despite the team making the state championships six of the last seven years, their final results have left something to be desired for such a perennial challenger. The best finish in recent memory is an eighth place in 2012, Lawson and Hutchins’ senior year, with other finishes straddling the top 10.

This season, the team is a year older, a year closer, and, most importantly, a year faster. A program record season is not out of the question.

If early season results are any indication, then the team’s hopes should be bright. They took a commanding first win in the Stinson Beach Relays, where the Pirates’ two, five-men teams took first and second overall.

Following up this result was a second place finish at the prominent Lowell Invitational, a vast improvement to the 10th place recorded a year earlier. After a comfortable first league victory versus Novato, Marin Catholic, and Branson, the team traveled to the De La Salle Invitational.

Placing fourth out of 35, they topped reigning MCAL champion and 30 time league winner Redwood. As of publication, the squad is 5-0 in league.

“We have an entire team who knows what can happen, and who is willing to put in the work,” said junior Nicco Pompili, who will join Davidson in the top five.

Bonded together with years of camaraderie under their belt, there is renewed excitement among the group.

“Everyone who’s now in the top five has been on the team for a few years. We all did summer and winter training, and had good track seasons,” said Gabe Reuter, another top runner among the top five.

“It’s always been a very close team, but this year it’s feeling more like a family,” Davidson said.

This has translated to determination and blistering work ethic throughout the offseason, including a summer that saw each of the top 10 log more than 400 miles.

“Everyone has been training hard this offseason, no one’s been slacking off, no shortcuts anymore,” Pompili said.

Although the athletes are self-motivated, Coach Robyn Berry has laid the foundation of a successful program in her five years at the helm. Despite the bold aspirations for this campaign, Berry knows that the team can’t have too much confidence.

“The time for hyping up has past,” said Berry. “Motivation was for July. They are all hyped up now, jumping out of their skins to get on the start line.”

Barring tragic injuries, this year’s team has a reasonable shout at all three major meets come the business end of the season: the MCAL, NCS, and state championships. Even with one or two top runners on the sideline, performing in late November isn’t out of the question due to the depth of the roster.

“Everywhere in the state, coaches are saying ‘I wish I had a good fifth man,’ but this year we have a good eighth or 10th man. That’s a great feeling,” Berry said. “We have enough depth this year that I believe we will surprise a lot of people at the state level.”

The ship of years past may have sailed, taking with it county superstars. However, this year there is a hard working, dedicated crew ready to sail into uncharted waters.

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