Zalov ’11 Takes Second

Andover Boys Cross Country won the 2010 NEPSTA Cross Country Championship Saturday, taking home its first championship trophy since 2006. The team scored a phenomenal 33 points, demolishing 2nd place Deerfield by a full 20 points, meanwhile placing its top six runners in the top fifteen. Renat Zalov ’11 led the Andover pack to victory, challenged every step of the race by Sam Belcher, Deerfield’s best runner, and Arjun Nukal, Exeter’s top runner. These three battled all they way to the finish line, as the three ran neck and neck until the final 200 metere sprint. Zalov fell slightly behind Nukal and Belcher, but in the final moments, he boosted forward with an impressive kick to beat out Nukal. He fell short of Belcher by a mere 2 seconds, finishing in an incredibly 15:54. Zalov commented on his final kick against Nukal, saying, “I did my best, and it just happened that on that day I had more of a kick than he did.” Zalov also displayed great sportsmanship against his rival from Exeter, saying, “Despite the fact he [Nukal] is from Exeter and is one of my biggest competitors, we’re still good friends.” Although Zalov put forward an unbelievable performance, Captain Patrick Wolber ’11 stole the show, running one of the most amazing races in Andover Cross Country history, as in the first mile he lost his shoe. The start of the Varsity race could have been compared to a rampage, as 77 racers burst off the line, sprinting forward with immense energy. Tension filled the air, as by the 800 meter mark the entirety of the Andover pack was at the front, jockeying for position with top runners from Deerfield, Choate, and Exeter. Right at the first turn, however, another racer spiked his shoe and it flew off, forcing Wolber to wait until the mob passed by so he could put his shoe back on and continue the race. Despite the disaster, Wolber maintained his focus and flew past almost all of the runners in order to make up for the twenty seconds he lost in the accident. Within approximately a mile, Wolber was back in the top 15, running the race of his life. He finished 12th overall, a phenomenal result considering the pandemonium. Wolber’s teammates ran with more intensity and perseverance after seeing their captain lose his shoe. Wolber said, “When I lost my shoe I didn’t know how the boys would react to running without me there, but their minds were in the right place and I think they all ran harder.” The members of the varsity seven all ran incredible races. Following Zalov, Nick Kearns ’11 finished 4th, Matt Appleby ‘11 finished 7th, Tim McLaughlin ’11 finished 9th, and James Hamilton ’12 finished 11th, closely followed by Wolber and Chris Batchelder ’11, who finished 31st. The JV team finished 4th after Exeter, Choate, and Deerfield. Kian Ivey ’12 and Ben Ho ’11 led the Andover JV, finishing 12th and 13th respectively. 10 of the 12 JV runners finished under 19 minutes, many of them achieving personal bests. Coach Jeff Domina earning his first Championship win in his first year as head coach, said, “I’m so proud of this team. They did everything right, from the preseason through the championship. Everyone made progress as an individual runner, and the team developed beautifully as a whole. I’ll miss them, particularly the seniors.” Emotional about the win and the success of his fellow Andover runners, Wolber commented, “I’ve rarely been happier than when I held that first place plaque in my hands.” He continued, “I’ve never been on a team this unified, and thinking about the end of the Cross Country season makes my tummy hurt.” Fortunately for Wolber, Boys Cross Country will be competing again in two weeks at the Nike Regional Championships in Wappingers Falls, NY on November 27th, where they will race against the top teams in the Northeast to earn a spot at the National Championships in Oregon. The team has continued training and after the last win, it is prepared for any team that stands in its way.