Updated Nov. 18
The Vineyarder boys varsity cross-country team made history on Saturday at the Gardner Municipal Golf Course, winning the Division 2 state championship for the first time in Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) track annals.
An ecstatic Joe Schroeder, coach of the squad that last week won the EMass D5 title, also for the first time, was informed of his win 10 minutes after the race while walking several hundred yards from the Vineyarder tent. He spun, raised his arms, and whooped his way back to his team at a dead run. His video interview on baystaterunning.com is a happy classic.
Joyful pandemonium ensued at the Vineyarder tent as a couple of dozen parents, grandparents, players, classmates, and coaches hugged and high-fived before the cellphone cams came out on a sunny but freezing day on a difficult cross-country course.
Senior captain Peter Burke led the team with a sixth-place finish in a field of 178 runners. Zach Utz at 37th, senior captain Vito Aiello at 52nd, Isaac Richards (56), Borja Tolay (80), Nate Porterfield (106), and Kieran Karabees (126) provided the winning margin as MVRHS, with a score of 148, nipped Parker Charter Essential of Worcester (161) in the 20-team field.
The Vineyarder girl harriers joined the celebra-thon earlier in the day, finishing 10th in the state after qualifying as a wild card in the divisionals last week in Wrentham. The girls top ten state finish was led by Wren Christy at 23rd, Eloise Christy at 42nd, Yala DiChiara (75), Catherine Cherry (87), Amber Cuthbert (144), Kaitlyn Freeman (160), and Margaret Sykes (168) in a 176-runner field.
After the meet, a pumped-up MVRHS harrier Margaret Sykes was digesting the enormity of the boys’ performance. “I mean, we’re this small team from a small island surrounded by water, and we just won the state championship. That’s really inspiring. I’m calling for fire engines,” she enthused, referencing an Island tradition in which winning teams are met at the returning ferry in Vineyard Haven by fire engines, honking and spinning lights.
Sykes was part of the 2018 girls team that won the divisionals for the first time in school history before finishing fifth in the D2 state. Word of their win spread fast. MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy email-flashed MVRHS staff. Sykes got her wish, as fire trucks from all six towns (and a host of police cars) and several hundred teachers, parents, and classmates were hootin’ and hollerin’ at the ferry exit ramp in Vineyard Haven on their return Saturday night.
That Hallmark moment resulted from five to six months of hard work, Schroeder pointed out this week. “What we saw on Saturday was the effect of summer miles run every day by these kids. Those miles showed up on Saturday. I mean, we have studs, like most teams, but it’s the whole team, the third, fourth, fifth and on runners who make the difference,” he said.
“I am so happy for the seniors. Vito [Aiello], for example, has been reliable throughout his career, but found something extra the last two weeks [divisional and state meets]. And Borja [Tolay] was disappointed on Saturday, but I showed him that we were tied with Parker Charter based on first-two-runners finishes. Borja beat their third runner by 13 seconds, and that was the [winning] difference.
“And that’s how it went all season. Kids pushing each other, alternates pushing the starters, Ashley Biggs, Jonathon Norton, Owen Atkins, Daniel DaSilva, always working, always in uniform and read to roll every meet,” he said.
New England cross-country championships were also held on Saturday, so this season is in the books. But wait, there’s more. Practice begins Dec. 2 for the indoor track season, with many of the cross-country cast joining track and field teammates under the lights.
Updated to include quotes from coach Joe Schroeder. — Ed.