DURHAM– Oyster River Girls’ and Boys’ Cross Country start off the 2017 season with two of the biggest teams in Oyster River cross country history.
Both teams are looking at bringing home state titles, with the two scoring varsity teams, consisting of mostly underclassmen, training to compete against some of the best in the state. The boys’, who were seeded first in the Runner’s Alley 2017 Boys Season Preview, are hoping for a state title. While the girls’, though wishing for first place, are realistically aiming for the runners up title. With the largest numbers they’ve had in years, and eight weeks of preseason trainingunder their belts as well as a successful season opener. Both teams have what it takes to be considered for one of the leading contenders in the division two top five.
“We ought to be in the top two. [And] if we’re going to be competing for the top two, we may as well compete for the championship.” states Fergus Cullen who has been the girls’ coach for the past 7 years. Cullen believes that the girls’ strength comes from two things: size and culture.
The girls team includes 38 runners this season, making it the biggest cross country team in ORHS’s history. The boys almost hit 30, one of the bigger teams they’ve had in the past couple of years as well. Having both teams reach these sizes has allowed for a bigger pool of participants, meaning there is a higher chance of having talented runners.
“The more kids you have on a team, the more likely that 1 in 3 of them is going to end up being a pretty good runner. Although, I’m happy to have the other two,” stated Cullen.
Scott McGrath, who has been the boys coach for the past two years, also has high hopes for both teams, especially due to the previously mentioned Runner’s Alley ranking.
“We have some new senior leadership that I think is bringing the team in a really good direction. We also have a few very strong freshman runners that will contribute to the varsity team. In general, I would say that we have a team that performs above average [when] compared to other teams that I have experienced,” states McGrath.
This statement was proved true in the team’s first pre-season race against Portsmouth and Merrimack Valley last Friday. A home opener at Tibbetts Field, in Madbury, NH, both teams swept the competition and snagged first place.
Olivia Lenk, both a sophomore and star varsity runner, contributes this win to the dedicated and hard working mindsets the teams have had with their workouts and runs. “Everyone is really working hard together and we are all pushing each other. It’s a really good environment…everyone is helping each other,” she said.
Other runners on the team also agreed with both Cullen and Lenk, that the good pre-season rankings and amazing first race couldn’t have happened without a determined team mindset and inclusive culture.
“The culture is really important, keeping traditions alive and keeping everyone happy with the team atmosphere. It helps to keep us together.” states Max Stenslie, a senior captain on the team.
Even with possible state titles in their future, both teams are continuing to put in the miles in hopes of making these championships a reality. As Coach Cullen puts it, nothing is for certain, though the odds are good for both teams. “We have to keep everyone healthy, but I do think we may have the best team that Oyster River [has] ever had, including past teams that have won championships.”
Coach Cullen and McGrath’s certainties will be tested Saturday the 9th, when Oyster River takes on the Hollis Invitational at Hollis Brookline High school. The Boys’ Varsity team runs at 10 am, and the Girls’ Varsity team at 10:40 am.
Written by Sophia Graff