Published in the September 14, 2017 edition.


WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield boys’ cross country team begins their 2017 season in a different division with a shiny new target on their back. The Warriors will move up to Division 3 this year, as they look to defend their 2016 state title. Last year’s team won the Division 4 Eastern Mass. state championship and finished second at all-states.

The move up to D3 means that the boys would compete in the large division if they made it back to all-states this year, something that 2016’s Division 4 all-scholastic coach of the year, Perry Pappas, would love to see his team accomplish. While the boys return many members of that historic run last season, this year’s team will have to work on their depth in order to accomplish similar feats.

“We’re comparable on paper to last year,” said Pappas. “We were really deep, so this year we need to improve on that depth. We need some guys to step up and start to take a role as a scorer that maybe they aren’t used to.”

The Warriors will be led by senior co-captain Matt Greatorex, an all-scholastic as a junior last year, and the current record holder for the mile at WMHS. The Warriors will also lean on senior captains Riley Brackett, Tommy Lucey and Ryan Smith.

Pappas reiterates the importance of depth because although cross country might seem like an individual sport, races are often won with how fast a team’s fifth and sixth runner are.

Races are won by tallying up the place of the team’s top five runners. The lowest score wins, meaning it’s often the times of the fifth, sixth and sometimes seventh runners that will determine the fate of the race.

“You can have a phenomenal top four individual athletes, but if you don’t have the depth, you can’t really do anything as a team,” said Pappas.

Every year the team does a time trial in the preseason to get a feel for how individuals have improved over the summer. The times between the top five this year were very similar times to last year’s trial, leading Pappas to believe that his team does in fact sport the same kind of top five that led them to a state championship in 2016. Greatorex led the two-mile trial with a time of 10:23. Junior Rohan Singhvi came in second at 10:32, followed by Lucey at 10:37, Brackett at 10:58, sophomore Tanner Jellison at 10:52 and junior Casey Brackett at 10:58. Smith finished at 11:21. Some more runners that Pappas believes will compete for the top group are sophomore Matt Roberto, juniors Billy Stevens, Derek Scheeler, and Derryn Langlois, as well as seniors David Root, Dom Dennis and David Lee, who Pappas said have all worked very hard over the summer.

All of these runners and more will dictate how successful the Warriors are this year, and will continue to push each other to new heights, like many did during their summer training.

“The season is ten weeks long, but a major part of the season is the summer training,” said Pappas. “We’re fortunate to have kids that are motivated to do that. You might see around town 10-15 guys running as a group during the summer.”

In fact, a large group of runners met everyday at 8 a.m. throughout the summer of 2017 to get ready for the fall season.

“We have some kids that have been running about 50 miles a week and around 500 miles throughout the summer. That’s some pretty heavy duty running.”

Sounds a little different than my summer.

But then again, I’m not a state champion, and this team knows it takes a year-round commitment to stay at the top.

“It’s really a team sport because all the training that they do, they really push each other,” said Pappas. “Sometimes it’s hard to get out there as an individual and do the type of training that they do, but when they do it together, they get better and push themselves, have each other’s back and really rise to the next level. They motivate each other a lot.”

The boys will work hard to win their division and return to all-states, something that Pappas knows his team is more than capable of accomplishing again.

“Our expectation is to repeat,” said Pappas. “I’m confident, it’s just a matter of putting it together.”

If they do make it all-states, the Warriors will be squaring off against some of Massachusetts’ best runners representing schools that might have 1,500 more boys than WMHS. While Pappas will have to wait until invitationals later in the season to really find out how the top group will shake out, the Warriors believe in themselves as a group, even if they get a chance to compete against bigger schools who will have a numbers advantage to affect that all-important factor of depth. In the end, it’s a dedicated group who will have each other to push, and that’s really all they need to raise another banner.