On Saturday, November 10, Cushing Cross Country marked their inaugural participation in NEPSTA's Class C by racking up personal bests for virtually every one of the twenty runners who competed. For Boys’ Varsity, this was good enough to lead to a 10th place team finish in a field of 24 schools. Cushing only had four girls compete in their varsity race, one shy of the number needed to score as a team, but they competed fiercely nonetheless and laid waste to their previously-established season best times.
When the Boys’ Varsity seven took to the starting line at the Canterbury School in New Milford, CT., snow was falling from the sky, and a frigid wind buffeted the runners' faces for good measure. A tough course and less than ideal conditions notwithstanding, they did themselves proud. Five of the seven had run the same course six weeks earlier on a beautiful day in September. All five were faster the second time around. As a unit, they averaged a 53-second improvement, with the gains ranging from 10 seconds to 1 minutes and 34 seconds. The two runners who had not run the course previously ran 17 seconds and 62 seconds faster than they had run in any race this season.
17 minutes and 56 seconds after the gun started, Michael Bertin ’21 was the first Penguin to cross the finish line. He worked his way up through the field after running in about 25th position for the first half-mile of the race and at the tape he was 13th of 165 runners. His top-twenty finish won him a spot on the All New England team and earned him a berth in the upcoming All-Star race to be held at St. Mark's School this coming Saturday. Cushing's scoring five was rounded out by Shoo Yonekawa ’20 (30th of 165), Stewart DeLeon ’19 (55th), Matthew Bertin ’22 (82nd), and Ray Duan ‘20 (117th). Qi Chang ‘20 and Tenka Abe ’22 were the final two members of the varsity seven. Their team score of 297 placed them 194 points behind the meet champions, Concord Academy. Cushing finished ahead of Wilbraham & Monson, Lawrence, Proctor, Masters, KUA, The Gunnery, St. George’s, Kingswood Oxford, Holderness, Brewster, Gould, Brooks, Kents Hill, and Cheshire.
In Girls’ Varsity, Yukina Hiwaki ’20 ran 1 minute and 37 seconds faster on the same course than she completed on September 22. Shirley Shi ’21 was 50 seconds faster, Diana Gao ’20 was 1 minute and 3 seconds faster, and Shirley Yu ’19 improved by 2 minutes and 7 seconds. Yukina finished 36th in the field of 159 and Shirley Shi was 39th. All four girls also improved significantly upon their finishing places at the New England Championships one year ago.
Nine boys ran in the Junior Varsity race. The first three Penguins were Baxter Streeter ‘20 (40th of 122), Chris Gomperts ’19 (59th), and Guqi Zhang ‘21 (70th). Danny Wang ‘21, James Xu ‘22, Derek Xiang ‘22, Clinton Yu ‘21, Matthew Lyman ’20, and Ethan Dixon ‘21 were Cushing's other JV runners.
Saturday's race was a nice end to a season which saw one of our seven races canceled due to inclement weather, and one course altered to avoid potentially hazardous conditions caused by excessive rain. Challenging weather aside, it was a season full of positive developments. Besides putting a dramatic end to our streak of last place team finishes at the NE Championships, the team witnessed Alix Slayton's start as the head coach of the Girls’ program, and welcomed Karin Valencia-Bedard as assistant coach to both the Girls’ and Boys’ teams. Thanks to the generosity of Mr. Greg O'Connell, a true supporter of Cushing Cross Country, both teams enjoyed the use of a new tent and long-sleeved running shirts. Also thanks to Mr. O'Connell, going forward, more than one team member will be able to attend cross country camp in the summer.
The combined numbers of both teams, while down slightly from last year, were still higher than at any other point in the last decade. Michael Bertin was the first Cushing runner to be named to the All-Star team since Jordan Comeau ‘14 and Spencer Ralston ‘14 finished 9th and 12th of 117 runners at the 2013 Class B New England Championships.
The team would like to thank the families, friends, and other supporters of the program who traveled to various race sites to cheer their runners on all season, as well as all others who helped make this season a successful one!
NE Race Results are here: