Heading into his third year of Andover Boys Cross Country, Captain Ralph Skinner ’16 looks to lead his team to success as it heads into its first race of the season on Saturday, October 3.
Skinner, who has made considerable progress during his time at Andover, started out on Junior Varsity (JV) as a Lower after kindling a passion for the sport during middle school in Lowell, Mass. Skinner, rather than gradually adjusting to the Cross Country program, quickly proved his natural capacity for running. Within just one season, Skinner worked his way from being a newcomer on JV to becoming Andover’s fourth runner on the Varsity team.
After building his confidence during his Lower year, Skinner entered Upper year with a determination to succeed. In just one season, he managed a top 10 finish at the highly competitive Interschols, earned a spot on the All-New England team and finished sixth at the New England Prep School Track Association (NEPSTA) Division I Cross Country All-Star meet with an impressive time of 16:27.
Skinner credits his unique success to his innate tenacity and to the mentors who helped him throughout his years on the team. He wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “My success on the team is a product of the guidance of [former Head Coach Jeffrey Domina and present Head Coach Patrick Rielly] and the support and motivation of my teammates over the years. I’ve also always tried to work hard and do what’s asked of me, and staying optimistic about my progression has been crucial to remaining on the right track.”
Among Skinner’s goals as Captain are to fill the shoes of last year’s Captain Ethan McIntosh ’15 and to inspire his fellow teammates to remain focused, driven and excited to run even on days when energy is low.
“[McIntosh] was a great Captain through leading by example, so hopefully I can emulate his class in this regard,” said Skinner. “I also really want to keep the athletes motivated and happy to go to practice each day. Having run consistently for a few years now, I know that there are days where running is the last thing you want to do. Making sure that runners look forward to cross country each day and checking in on how they are feeling with injuries or otherwise is something worth putting effort in to.”
Coach Rielly is certain that Skinner will live up to his responsibilities as a role model for his younger teammates and said, “[Skinner] represents the best of the cross country program: he’s positive, motivated and encouraging. He’s a Captain for all of our runners –from the Varsity to the Training Group. Despite facing injuries this season, he continues to lead and to motivate his teammates to great effect. I think the runners made a great choice in electing him, and I feel fortunate to work with him this fall,” he wrote in an email to The Phillipian.
Skinner serves as a true leader on the team, consistently inspiring his teammates to persevere.
“[Skinner] is one of the most resilient people I’ve ever met. He’s always experiencing some sort of injury: hamstring, calf, you name it. However, this doesn’t stop him from running like a machine,” wrote Basil Alfaro ’18 in an email to The Phillipian. “He is a leader of example: his excellence and success motivates all the others on the team. In our warm ups, he still shows exceptional leadership through careful teaching of the dynamic and static stretches and form.”
While Skinner continues to battle through an injury, his aspirations for his last season are still lofty.
He said, “Our team has good potential this year. I think we have enough returning talent and fresh faces to be competitive again this year and make a run at the Interschols title.”