By Tim Morris |
RED BANK – Students in the borough are on their feet and running fast, thanks to the introduction of cross country to the middle school’s sports program.
“There was a lot of excitement within the student body for the sport,” said head coach Pat Hanson. “We were very surprised by the enrollment.”
The boys and girls teams have a combined total of 37 participants and Hanson said the teams aren’t suffering from attrition. “The people who started are still here.”
The middle school’s cross country teams are an offshoot of the popular after school program, Girls On The Run. The success of that program led the school district to start the cross country program this fall. The school previously only offered soccer as a fall sport.
Assistant coach Krystyn Wykoff said many of the students didn’t understand the particulars of the sport but were attracted to the idea of running someplace other than around a track.
The harriers – runners, in cross country parlance – have since learned that cross country is a team sport.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of the sport for coaches Hanson and Wykoff has been watching their runners steadily improve. They’ve seen the dedication of the beginners who had never run before build up their strength and stamina to the point where they are finishing races. Wykoff recalled the excitement those runners had when finishing a 1.5-mile race for the first time.
The middle school teams, which draw from grades six through eight, have a mixture of experienced runners from the Girls On The Run program and those who had never run a mile prior to the start of the season. “We’ve made so much progress,” said Hanson.
Both the boys and girls teams have already won a dual meet in their initial season, against Ranney.
Hanson and Wykoff received coaching assistance from Red Bank Regional High School (RBR) boys cross country coach Brendan McGoldrick and girls cross country coach Christopher Desiere, who have given them work out tips and attended some practices. RBR students have been assisting the team at meets. The middle school teams hold their home dual meets at the high school as well.
For the high school coaches, the middle school teams are a win-win, good for the students and the high school programs.
“Cross country is a fantastic way to build confidence and the belief in your abilities for people of all ages,” said McGoldrick. “We at RBR are really excited to see what this could do for our program.”
Local donors helped fund the programs and purchased running shoes for the harriers.
Rob DeFilippis, head coach of the Red Bank Catholic cross country teams and owner of Runner’s High, is one of several donors who have made the cross country teams possible.
“It’s a very positive thing,” DeFilippis said of the programs. “Anything you can do get kids excited about running is great. They’re doing well.”
In addition to DeFilippis, donors who have supported the program include Dana Mauro of ReMaxx; Michael Marks; Tim McLoone, the head coach at Rumson-Fair Haven; Jeremy Grunin; and state Sen. Jennifer Beck.
The middle school’s inaugural season ended on Oct. 25 with an all-star race at Bucks Mill Park in Colts Neck.
This article was first published in the Oct. 26-Nov. 2, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.
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