Joe Schroeder and Megan Dreyer
Coach Joe Schroeder gives some last-minute instructions to Megan Dreyer as she prepares for her race.

Run and raft

By Ralph Stewart - September 27, 2007

Eight years ago Martha's Vineyard Regional High School cross country coach Joe Schroeder first heard of the New England Outdoor Center (NEOC) in Caratunk, Maine. A colleague of Coach Schroeder's in the school system had worked as a NEOC guide over the summer.

Coach Schroeder was looking for a way to get a Vineyard team up to the NEOC for a day of rafting.

"I thought of the cross-country team because of the time of the season and we run a lot of Saturday meets," Coach Schroeder said, "The key was I needed to find a meet somewhere near there (the NEOC)."

That meet turned out to be the Manchester Invitational run at Derryfield Park in Manchester, N.H. The event, now in its 33rd year, attracts over 3,500 student-athletes from seven states - all of New England, plus New York.

Emily Carter
Emily Carter at last weekend's meet.

Now the plan for an action-packed weekend was complete. In 2000, the Vineyard entered the Invitational for the first time and booked a day of rafting at NEOC.

Seven years later, the weekend of run and fun has become a team tradition. It serves as a great way for the cross-country team to bond and to rejuvenate its energy for the rest of the season.

This year, the team headed for Manchester last Friday afternoon, arriving in time to walk through the course before dark.

The Derryfield Park course is one of the more challenging in New England. The first two miles of the 5K route is mostly uphill and the course contains four steeplechase jumps (two for the freshmen), a rather sharp downhill descent, and a final uphill swing to the finish.

After the six-hour meet on Saturday (for results see Sports, page 12) the team headed for Sterling Inn in Caratunk, Maine, dead center between Portland and Quebec City along Route 201, and a four and a half hour drive from Manchester.

The NEOC, established in 1982, is a full-service commercial outfitter, and the Caratunk location contains a lodge, cabins, dining hall, and recreational facilities.

Taylor Smith, Sarah Flanders, Eliza Gowell, and Kim Carlomagno
(From left) Taylor Smith, Sarah Flanders, Eliza Gowell, and Kim Carlomagno work on s'mores over the campfire last weekend.

The remainder of Saturday night was spent making s'mores by the campfire and playing charades back at the Inn.

Sunday morning was as perfect as anyone could have hoped for. There were clear blue skies, a light breeze, and the temperature was headed toward 70 degrees. The team filled up three large rubber boats and took off on their 12-mile rafting journey down the Kennebec River, snaking through four class-three rapids and a couple of body-engulfing class fours, before drifting to the finish through the pristine scenery just beginning to show its fall colors.

After a farewell barbeque on Sunday afternoon at the Center, it was back on the bus for the arduous 386 school bus miles back to Woods Hole.