Like a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, the MVRHS cross-country team materialized from the early morning mist and took shape. Staring in wonder at this miraculous occurrence, the reporter thought, “If this team has the same impact on its opponents as it just had on me, they’re in for a very good season.”
Joe Schroeder, entering his 24th year as head coach, is relying on more earthly elements to build a successful 2018 season. Like other MVRHS fall coaches, he has scheduled a series of 6:30 am preseason practices, usually shrouded in murky haze. “It’s a way of establishing a sense of routine for our kids, which is important,“ he said. “It also allows those kids who work to get to their jobs … plus it beats the heat.”
Schroeder anticipates a team of about 30 runners this year, 25 of whom were in attendance. “We’re a sophomore/junior dominated team,” he said. ”We have one senior.”
That senior is Owen Porterfield who, along with junior Catherine Cherry, is team co-captain. The coach will be relying on both.
“I like my captains to lead by example,” said Schroeder, “and I’ve already seen excellent leadership from Owen and Catherine. They’re great kids who not only have a strong work ethic but also encourage others when they think it’s needed.”
Juniors Daniel Rivard and Peter Burke, along with sophomores Amber Cuthbert, Nate Porterfield, Owen Atkins, and Isaac Richards, are among a group of returning veterans who will be key contributors.
“We have seven freshmen and two eighth graders to round out the team,” said Schroeder. ”They’re learning the ropes and working hard.”
As the mist lifted, the practice began to unfold. Thirty minutes of warmup were followed by a drill combining short sprints on the track and zigzag dashes on the infield. Throughout the activity the coach was vigilant and vocal. A sampling: “Run tall. Quiet feet on the track. Eyes up. Find somebody to catch. Work on your form. Throw some bows.” (Elbows, that is.)
The daily practice runs vary in length and location: A Land Bank trail, a local beach, or the track itself are possibilities. Today the runners would head to the team’s official home course in the State Forest.
The cross-country team opens its season at home on Sept. 4 against Cape and Islands League rival Monomoy Regional High School. On Sept. 8, they will host the 12th annual Vineyard Invitational, which Coach Schroeder expects will have more than 25 schools competing.
“For dual meets like Monomoy, all our kids will be running as the varsity team,” Schroeder explained. “Other meets might involve a separate JV competition. The invitational will include varsity, JV, and freshmen races; everyone who is ready will run.”
Coach Schroeder has definite goals for his team and program. For one, he hopes the boys can improve on last year’s ninth-place finish in the gender-divided state tourney. More long-term, he’d like to re-establish a viable girls’ cross-country team. “We have only six girls,” he said. “If they stay healthy and get some real experience, they could be a factor next year in the new Cape and Islands League.”
Finally, Schroeder wants his runners to be nothing less than the best student athletes in the school. A tall order, but once back in the classroom, they may not have to look far for motivation. Just run tall, keep yours eyes up, find somebody to catch, work on your form, and throw some bows!