The Kingswood Oxford varsity cross country team started their season with success as they competed in their first meets.
The boys, led by senior captains Samuel Auclair and Bassil Chughtai and Head Coach Fritz Goodman in his 35th year coaching the sport, look to improve upon their growing season last year. After only losing one senior, they look for experienced runners to take more responsibility this year. The girls, led by senior captain Kami Tarantino and Head Coach Tricia Watson, look to continue their great success from last year. Assistant Coach Graham Hegeman and Assistant Coach Rachel Heffner-Burns provide support to the team as well.
The teams, which started the season with more runners last year, practice together on campus and at the West Hartford Reservoir. Coach Goodman described the first part of their season as a period to help runners get back into the sport and bond as a team. Coach Watson echoed this. “Our goals are to grow as a team,” Coach Watson said. Some of the workouts the team did were long runs, intervals, stairs in Roberts (when it was raining), hills, and continuous threshold which is a shorter run at a faster pace. All of these have been getting more difficult as the season is going. Tarantino has been focused on helping the new runners adjust to the difficulty of practices. “I have been as supportive and encouraging as possible,” she said.
The team started their season by participating in the 10th annual “Jog Your Memory 5K” on Sept. 10. The “Jog Your Memory 5K” is a fundraiser for Alzheimer’s research started by former KO teachers Dick and Carol Caley. “It is one of the most rewarding things we have done in many years,” Coach Goodman said.
The race was an overall positive experience for everyone and it was the first race for new members to the team. Junior Claire Palmer ran the fastest out of any girl in the race with a time of 19 minutes, 4 seconds. Senior Oskar Ruser also placed first in his division. Overall, the road race was a great way to start the season for the team.
Next, the team participated in a scrimmage meet at Loomis Chaffee on Sept. 15. Normally, they participate in a meet at Choate but that was canceled due to the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Several runners ran well that day, including senior Oskar Ruser who ran a sub-19 for the first time. “I truly haven’t felt better during a race,” he said. Additionally, junior Jack Krieble, a new runner to the team, had a strong race after dealing with some injuries.
For the girls, Palmer ran another good race, and there were some standout performances by new members to the team including junior Abigail Craig and sophomore Leilani Moyano. Many other runners ran personal bests during this meet. “I could tell that everyone was trying their hardest,” Chughtai said, “and most importantly, everyone was having fun running.” This meet was the first real meet other than the road race for the team. “The meet was a time trial for our team,” Coach Goodman said, as the Loomis meet times determined the roster for the next battle they would face, the Canterbury Invitational.
Practices after these first few meets were focused on improvement. “The season has been really fun and productive so far,” Tarantino said. “The improvement from day one to now has already been tremendous!” Coach Goodman refers to three things that he believes make a successful cross country runner and team: physical strength, mental toughness, and team spirit. Coach Watson emphasized the importance of practices. “Workouts are tremendously important to help build our endurance,” she said.
The biggest meet so far of the season was the Canterbury Invitational on Sept. 23. The importance was outlined as this was the 50th anniversary of the meet, and KO has participated in this meet for a long time. The invitational features over 20 schools, allowing the team to showcase their hard work. Even though the meet was a varsity meet only with seven runners and two alternates, to build team spirit, all of the KO runners came.
There were many impressive performances during the invitational, and it was an overall great experience. Palmer finished first overall in the Division II girls in a PR run with a time of 18:46. Tarantino also finished in eighth place with a time of 22:30. Overall, the girls team received second place in a great performance. For the boys, Ruser came in seventh place overall, running a time of 18:49. Sophomore Leo Ladewig also had a great PR run with a time of 19:20, just missing the top 10. Auclair also finished in the top 15. The boys finished in fourth place overall.
The season for KO cross country has had many highlights, and they look very strong heading into their next few meets. Both teams competed in the Marianapolis Invitational on September 27. The boys team competed against Kent School on September 30, unfortunately losing in a close race. We wish the cross country teams luck in the rest of their season!