Young Warriors came close to securing a fourth straight M.L. Freedom division title
By JIM SOUTHMAYD
WAKEFIELD — Even though the Wakefield Memorial High boys’ cross country team team was unable to win a fourth consecutive Middlesex League Freedom division championship, the 2014 season was still a success for the Warriors.
Wakefield posted a 5-2 overall record and was 4-1 in the M.L. Freedom division. Also the Warriors had strong a showing at the Middlesex League meet and Div. 4 Eastern Mass. Meet. Wakefield also had two runners qualify and run in the All-State meet.
The Warriors defeated Woburn (25-31) but lost to Lexington 15-50, in its two crossover meets against M.L. Liberty division teams. Wakefield then posted victories over Watertown (24-36), Stoneham (19-43), Wilmington (15-49) and Burlington (27-30). The lone Freedom division loss came against newly crowned league champion Melrose by a score of 19-36.
“The Wakefield boys’ cross country team had won three consecutive Freedom Division titles going into this season with hopes of winning a fourth,” said Coach Perry Pappas. “However, a much improved Melrose team had other ideas. With a young talented squad Melrose was able to defeat Wakefield this season before going on to place third in the Div. 4 state meet, earning them a trip to all-states.
“Although they did not accomplish all their goals they had one of their best seasons in years,” continued Pappas. “They finished the season with an overall record of 5-2 and Freedom Division record of 4-1. The Warriors defeated Woburn and lost to powerhouse Lexington in the crossovers. They defeated Watertown, Stoneham, Wilmington and Burlington with their one loss to Melrose (in the Freedom division).”
The good news is that the Warrior boys have plenty of young talent themselves and have much more depth than most of the teams in the Div. 4 rankings. The boys will lose one varsity runner to graduation from their tight pack of seven. In fact, there was only one senior in the top 14.
The boys performed well at the Frank Kelley Invitational at the end of September. At the Middlesex League Championship Meet, the varsity placed fifth behind an outstanding eighth place finish by senior Jackson Gallagher. The JV placed fifth (first among Freedom Division schools), while the freshmen placed second behind Lexington thanks to top 10 finishes by Matt Greatorex (fourth), Robert Shaw (eighth) and Tommy Lucey (10th).
At the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association Invitational meet, the freshman boys placed third, the sophomores placed second and the juniors placed eighth out of 29 teams.
Wakefield’s result at the Div. 4 Eastern Mass. State Championship showed a lot of promise for next year. The boys placed sixth with all seven boys under the 18 minute mark. Sophomore Jack Stevens had the race of his short career placing 23rd in 17:11 and qualified for all-states. Gallagher placed 29th and also qualified for all-states. Junior Richie Custodio placed 36th, junior Alec Rodgers placed 48th, Shaw placed 52nd, sophomore Ryan Sullivan placed 53rd and Greatorex came in 57th. There were only 44 seconds separating the first to seventh runner.
The All-State Championship Meet was held at Franklin Park. Gallagher placed 81st in 17:30 and Stevens was 162nd with a time of 18:48.
Throughout the season four separate runners were able to lead the team. Those individuals included Custodio, Rodgers, Gallagher and Stevens. Gallagher and Custodio were named Middlesex League Freedom Division All-Stars.
“It’s good to know we didn’t rely on one sole individual and it was truly a team effort from one week to the next,” said Pappas.
Gallagher also has signed a commitment letter to run track and field for UMass Lowell, a Div. 1 program.
In addition to the varsity boys, the Warriors had big contributions from Chris Skeldon, Alex Guerriero, Jeremy Keegan, Tyler Whipple, Jackson Kehoe, John Stanfield, Lucey and Adam D’Ambrosio to name a few.
Wakefield also had great leadership from its captains Gallagher, Eddie Massabni, Jared Matos and Nick Hill.
At the Warriors’ recent award banquet, the captains chosen for 2015 were announced. They are Rodgers, Whipple and Keegan. All three are juniors this year.
“Things are going in the right direction for the next few years of this program,” said Pappas. “It means good things not only for cross country but for the Warriors’ Track and Field upcoming seasons.”
Wakefield also finished the season ranked 18th in Massachusetts for the small school division said Pappas.