Coming off of an undefeated season and a New England Interscholastic Championship win last season, the Andover Boys Cross Country returned to campus early for a week of preseason training. The team is already showing potential, especially in new runners, according to Coach Jeff Domina.
“The preseason runners made good progress individually, and, more important, they also came together as a cohesive group and, since then, have done well to welcome and integrate the rest of the team,” Domina wrote in an email to The Phillipian.
According to captain Alex Fleury ’20 and Domina, some of the team’s important point-scorers are not on the team this year, but they are hopeful for this season’s talent.
“We lost four Seniors from the top seven last year, and we won Interschols last year, so our goal this year is to win Interschols again this year, and we have a very strong group of runners this year,” said Fleury.
Fleury continued, “As a captain, I was giving a little extra effort to incorporate these guys onto the team and introduce them to the [Andover] community. I think that they have established themselves well on the team, and I am glad that they have because they will contribute to the team’s success later this season.”
Domina wrote, “We had a great group back for preseason: some returning strength and three experienced cross-country runners new to the school. We missed the Class of ’18, of course, but everyone ran well and gave us a lot of reasons for optimism.”
On Saturday, the team competed in a time trial to gauge current training and goal times, according to Fleury and Domina.
“The time trial… was just an early-season race of the course, just friendly competition, just us, no other schools, and it is just to get an early time down, see where we’re at, so Coach [Domina] can take that information from the time trial, how we did, and plan workouts accordingly to best set us up for the championship at the end of the season,” said Fleury.
Fleury continued, “One of the runners, Michael Turner [’20]… came about 30 seconds away from his personal best at the very beginning of the season, which is very good. It’s showing a lot of promise for the season. The two new Lowers, Ellerman Mateo [’21] and Sam Capobianco [’21], both of them had very good times in the time trial, as well, and there’s a lot of promise for them going forward in the season.”
The team will also benefit from the return of Jacob Buehler ’19. After an injury that left him unable to compete for nearly a year and a half, as well as a subsequent knee surgery, Buehler, who competed for the varsity cross-country and track teams during his Junior and Lower years, participated in the team’s preseason, including last Saturday’s time trial.
Returning runner Anthony Minickiello ’20 believes that the team still has time to improve, but its first week of preseason training was beneficial to the team culture.
Minickiello said, “It is too early in the season to say whether or not the team has improved in only a week of preseason training, but I think the team has grown closer. XC training is especially challenging during demanding workouts, but since the other guys with whom I train can empathize with others if they are struggling, we push and support each other in practice.”
The team has six regular-season meets and the Interschols meet in November. Its first competition is the Northfield Mount Hermon (NMH) invitational at the end of the month, which gives the team time to train with the large group this year, according to Fleury.
“This year, we have about 48 kids on the team, which is a pretty big number, especially in comparison to the past couple years. One of the goals that I definitely have for the season is to, because we have a lot of new runners on the team, make a team community in which everybody knows each other,” said Fleury.
“[Cross country] is a no-cut sport, so everybody who signs up for the sport will stay on the team and the goal is to get everybody to love the sport, to listen to their bodies, and to progress individually as best as they can. That success is just as important as winning the championship,” said Fleury.
Editor’s Note: Jacob Buehler ’19 is a Sports Editor for The Phillipian