Burke leads harrier boys to C&I title

Both XC squads prep for Divisional playoffs: Could lightning strike again?

Senior captain Peter Burke (17:08.3) won the Cape and Islands (C&I) League cross-country race in South Yarmouth on Saturday, leading the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) boys team to the C&I league championship.

Emerging sophomore star Daniel da Silva (12:23.6) won the boys combined junior varsity 2.1-mile race on a day when 11 of the 30-odd Vineyarder boys and girls runners had top 10 finishes, and virtually all Vineyarders were in the top half of competitors. More than 300 runners from a dozen schools competed in the league season finale.

In addition to the two boys’ division-winning times, Ren (third at 20:33.2) and Eloise Christy (sixth at 20:59.5) led a platoon of Purple runners with top times in the varsity division, including Margaret Sykes (24th), Amber Cuthbert (25th) and Ashley Biggs (28th), to a fourth-place league finish in a field of 169 runners.

Sarah Creato, the sole Vineyarder in the girls 2.1-mile junior varsity race, finished 10th (17:03.2) among 28 runners.

Vineyarder runners showed they are peaking at the right time, and turned in starry performances on Saturday. On Monday, Coach Joe Schroeder provided a backstory on the boys’ varsity win.

Noting that Peter Burke has won six times this season — all but one race — Schroeder said, “I think this one meant a lot more to him. He was caught in the last 50 meters last year, and I think he wanted to erase that memory.”

Pushing Burke along were Zach Utz, battling injuries this season but running to fourth place (17:24.5), and soph phenom Borja Tolay, who’s figured out cross-country enroute to a seventh-place (17:34.6) time, just ahead of relentlessly reliable Isaac Richards’ 17:40.7 eighth-place finish.

Schroeder also said the boys varsity race had other attached drama. “Barnstable was gunning for us, we knew that, and they gave us a terrific battle. The runners in the middle, who don’t get enough credit, make critical contributions to a winning team.

“Kids like Keiran Karabees [14th], Owen Atkins [15th], and Nate Porterfield [16th] on Saturday did a lot of the hard work that creates wins,” in a field of several hundred runners, he said. 

Schroeder likes what he sees from the boys squad, including the noteworthy JV squad, which featured 12 runners in top finishes in a field of 268 runners. In addition to da Silva’s first-ever win, check out these performances: Matthew D’Andrea (3rd), Tom Sykes (4th), Duncan Brown (5th), Sam Fetters (7th), Nathan Cuthbert (13th), Dash Christy (17th), JoJo Bonneau (24th), Ethan Creato (25th), Jack Crawford (27th), Calvin Brooks (30th), Linus Munn (33rd), Carlos Burgo (51st), and Owen Steenkamp (63rd).

Now, after a tuneup race next weekend at the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association Invitational, eyes will turn to Wrentham on Nov. 9 for the EMass Divisional Finals, the site of a storied 2018 finish in which both boys and girls qualified for the all-state meet, the girls by way of a stunning first-ever regional first-place win.

“The girls squad has been battling sickness and injury all season, but we’ll have our seven best on the track. The boys will be interesting to watch, because they watched the girls win last year, and want it also,” Schroeder said, pointing to the improvements by da Silva, Utz, et al. this season.

“The boys are actually deeper this year than last year [fifth in divisionals].The girls caught lightning in a bottle last year, so we’ll see what happens,” Schroeder said.

Depending on the divisional outcome, Vineyarder teams could be heading to Gardner for the All-State meet on Nov. 16.