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Boys XC: A Young Team Works to Rebuild and Succeed

Joe Lennon-Phillips, Staff Writer

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It isn’t surprising that cross country lacks the following that other sports at Barnstable have, it is simply a different beast altogether than most sports. Perhaps something lies in the sway of that brisk autumn air, or in the crunch of that crisp grass during an early morning race, that makes cross country stand out so much from other sports.

For senior varsity runner Nick O’Toole, nothing makes it stand out more than the unique team atmosphere, “when I was in eighth grade, the team took me in and helped me grow, teaching me discipline and perseverance.” Nick added that, “part of what makes it so unique is that I’m able to put it all out there and drain my energy. It feels great,” he said.

But people are often turned away from the sport, and running in general, as it is a very challenging and demanding activity that requires work ethic and endurance; but after some training, it quickly becomes rewarding, and easier.

“I enjoy it,” said co-head coach Dave Faszewski, “when I’m having a bad day it eases my mind and brings me a sense of peace.”

Coach Mike Merrill says that it gives him a sense of balance and helped him grow up.

So, how’s the team doing this year? Well, it’s new. Coach Merrill said that 50 percent of the team is made up of eighth and ninth graders, and that the freshmen and sophomores of the team are really stepping up to the plate. In fact, there is only one senior Red Raider on the varsity team, and this year the team has the first ever sophomore varsity captain, who is also currently fighting for the number one spot, Ben O’Toole. Other captains include Ben’s brother Nick and junior Brian judge.

“It’s a rebuilding year” Faszewski said, “but in some ways, because we have so many talented young runners, the team is doing very well.”

“We have a really strong group core group of Freshmen and Sophomores that are very reliable and trained together over the summer, Sean Cole, Connor Brewster, Ben O’Toole, Ethan Weiner, and Owen Fournier” said Merrill.

Junior Ian Wojtowicz has also come a long way, and in the past two years he has dropped over seven minutes from his 5K time, he is constantly persisting and working hard to get a new personal best. Junior captain Brian Judge’s efforts are also noteworthy.

Coach said Senior Nick O’Toole is also having a great fifth season, though sometimes he gets beaten by his younger brother, Nick is a prime example of dedication on the team, who puts his heart into every workout, and puts his time and effort into every summer training.

This team means a lot to each runner and coach, and for those who have long ago graduated, like 2016 graduates  Nathan Ryan and Ray Todoroff, cross country still holds a special place in their hearts.

“It’s very difficult to watch students graduate, and for us get a whole new team every so often. I thought that as I went on it would get easier to say goodbye, but it’s gotten harder. I build great connections with this team and it’s very difficult to watch them move on.” Merrill has been head coach for six years.

“It’s my way of giving back to the community that I came from,” said Merrill. “I wanted to create a program that kids could enjoy, and that one day my son and daughter could appreciate.”

Faszewski said that it’s “seeing young athletes progress, and achieve some of the goals they set for themselves” that pushes him to keep his hand in.

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Boys XC: A Young Team Works to Rebuild and Succeed