Published in the September 17, 2019 edition.
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
WAKEFIELD — Nearly all high school sports go through ebbs and flows in regards to participation.
The Wakefield High boys’ cross country team is pretty much at high tide.
With a program record 52 Warriors, head coach Perry Pappas, in his eighth season at the helm, knows how much it can change in one year, but considering the 23 freshmen on the team, it’s safe to say that one of Wakefield’s most successful programs is as strong as ever.
“I’m not really sure,” said Pappas when asked why the uptick. “We have some freshmen who have had older siblings on the team, maybe they told some of their friends.”
Or maybe they want to be a part of a championship run.
The Warriors have won three straight Freedom Division titles. They went 6-0 during the regular season last year.
Winning another Freedom are what Pappas and the Warriors are calling their “baseline goal.”
Their ultimate goal is still taking shape, but as always, Wakefield wants to compete at the state level.
At the Div. 3 state meet, the Warriors were third in 2015, first in 2016 and 2017 and second last year.
The Warriors will need to keep improving throughout the season if they want to be in that mix again this year, but as always, they’ll have a chance.
“I think we have the pieces but time will tell,” said Pappas, who says Walpole might be the team to beat in Div. 3, at least on paper.
As for Wakefield’s primary goal of winning the Freedom, their biggest competition will most likely be a Wildcat. The Warriors travel to Wilmington next week. Wakefield’s first meet is today against the state’s No. 1 ranked team, Lexington.
“I think we have a couple of guys who can challenge for first place, but we really just want to get a race under our belts going into Wilmington on the road in week two,” said Pappas.
Those challengers for first won’t change meet to meet. Wakefield will lean on captains Matt Roberto, Tanner Jellison, Trevor Zupan, Jimmy Crump and Andrew Russell.
Roberto is not just Wakefield’s top returning runner at the state level, he’s the top returning Div. 3 runner in Massachusetts as he finished second last year at the state meet (5K) as a junior with a time of 16:16.11.
Jellison finished 22nd in that meet at 17:09.75. He went on to have strong seasons for both the indoor and outdoor track teams including a new school record in the 1,000 and looks ready to make a big jump in cross country this season.
Zupan is the third fastest returner from last year and will be counted on to push the pace this year. Some key juniors who will need to step up and consistently score in the top seven include Jonathan D’Ambrosio, Colin Rudy and Zack Jellison.
Wakefield will also have three sophomores competing for points: Mike Roberto, Thomas Dowd and Ajay Haridasse.
As for the 23 freshmen, now is the time to learn what it takes to keep up.
The Warriors would also like to send some athletes to All States, but for now, the goal is to consistently improve.
“We’re excited for the season,” said Pappas. “They’ve worked really hard and I’m just excited to see what the future holds for a such a young, hard-working team.”