Both the Kingswood Oxford varsity girls and boys cross country teams have had a very successful season with a lot to look forward to before the season comes to an end.
Led by Head Coach Tricia Watson, the girls have competed in six meets and two invitationals. Their first invitational of the season kicked off at the 50th Canterbury Invitational. The girls came in second place with a team score of 62. Headlined by junior Claire Palmer, winning the entirety of the girls’ division with an outstanding 18 minutes, 48 seconds, she was able to beat opponents by an entire minute. Senior Captain Kami Tarantino earned eighth place with a time of 22:30 and junior Sasha Dausey placed 19th, running 24:10. Other notable runners included sophomores Leilani Moyano and Ava Bonsignore.
The team’s success all begins with the hard work and dedication that they put in during practice sessions. “I try to emphasize to the players what it means to be a varsity athlete, and all of that happens in practice because we are very strict,” Coach Watson said. “ You’re not going to feel well every time you work out. Nobody does. And so we just teach them how to be tough. We teach them how to be committed to a varsity sport.”
All season long, Palmer has been the difference as she has found a way to consistently place in the top 10 or top five every single meet, which has been a key factor for the team. But, in cross country, five scores count, and teams will win races based on their fourth and fifth runners. “While I talk about Claire and her accomplishments of running 18:48 twice, which is phenomenal, we also have runners that have come down from 22 minutes to 20 and 26 to 24,” Coach Watson said. “That progression is really what I’m looking for because we’re small and mighty.”
As the girls continued on their season, they won a vital race against Williston Northampton School and rival Westminster School. This race took place on what the girls call their home soil, the West Hartford reservoir. The girls raced hard with each of the six runners either setting their respective personal bests or getting very close. In the end, each runner finished in the top half of the 28 competitors. Their efforts were highlighted by Tarantino and Palmer. They sustained a wide lead early and didn’t give it back. Tarantino’s swift 24:20 allowed her a fourth-place finish, and Palmer’s outstanding 18:48 was a full three minutes faster than the second-place finisher.
On the boys side, they too have had their fair share of success. Head Coach Fritz Goodman continues to instill a competitive spirit into his runners after numerous years at the helm.
Starting off the year with the Canterbury Invitational, the boys finished fourth out of 11 teams. Outlined with three runners inside the top 15, the Wyverns prevailed during the windy and wet September afternoon. Senior Oskar Ruser finished in seventh place out of the group of 77. His time of 18:49 earned him the low runner for the Wyverns and the best solo finish in the field for a boy in over ten years. Alongside Ruser were sophomore Leo Ladewig and senior Captain Sam Auclair who finished in 11th and 15th, respectively.
Coach Goodman credits his team’s recent success to a quick adjustment he has had to make to show his players how to compete. “The boys team needed to develop a spirit of competition, what we refer to as fire in the belly,” Coach Goodman said. “For example, in some of the finishes and our races, some of our runners would get beaten in the last 100 meters of a race because they just did not have the courage to really run with that last extra gear.”
Coach Goodman admits that this year’s team is one of the more talented hands he has been dealt, but that does not excuse having a top-of-the-line work ethic. He finds who can and who can’t compete in the high-intensity practices he runs. Oftentimes, runners at the high school level will refuse to do a full sprint in warmups or not give their full effort during the race because they choose to “save” it for other things. According to Coach Goodman, taking that leap of faith and understanding that you will always have more in you if you continue to run is hard, but it is essential and something that all true champions do. This all relates back to the practices he holds, and the very high level of standards he holds for his players.
To kick off Hewett Day, the Wyverns had the opportunity to host their own meet in and around our very own campus against Wilbraham and Munson. A thrilling finish was capped off by Ladewig winning the entirety of the race by just two single inches. “It was fun because I saw a lot of people I knew, and they were cheering me on,” Ladewig said. “Especially on our course, because as you can tell it’s very open on campus, so people were all over, it’s something I’m just not used to. We mostly race on trails, so it’s just kind of you out there. But it was a fun change.” His final time of 18:13 was a new personal best for him and the lowest time the school has seen on our course.
Coach Goodman highlighted the success of the entire team on Hewett Day. “Our runners were inspired and ran with courage and trusted that they could go as fast as they wanted and their body could guide them without them running out of energy,” he said. Ladewig was able to come from behind in the final 50 meters, and the team hopes that they can ride that winning feeling into the postseason.
They conclude the year with a trifecta of races, all happening across New England. Circled on their calendars are the New England Championship, set to take place on Saturday, Nov. 11, at the Roxbury Latin school in Attleboro, Mass.