NEWPORT–After a fantastic season last year that saw boys senior captain Josef Bourgeois pick up a second place finish at the state meet, the North Country Cross-Country team will be looking to fill his, as well as some other key positions on the 2011 roster.
"On the girls side we lost Genna Primeau and Martha Petzoltd to graduation and Steph Fontaine decided not to return, and on the boys side we lost Josef and Andy Decelles to graduation, and Brian DeLaBruere is now playing soccer," says 2nd year Head Coach Chris Schaffer.
Now Schaffer will look to fill these holes with a combination of veteran runners and fresh faces.
For the girls Schaffer has some road-tested upper class man leading the pack.
"Steph Watson has really stepped up. She has done some serious training as well as Haley-Jo (Tetreault), and both of those girls are the captains this year.
"Caitlin Smith will also be another strong girl, and then we have a lot of freshman, sophomores, and newbies who are just coming up the ranks. It depends on who is going to take to the training and really jump at it."
Amber Lampris-Tremba, a senior from New Mexico, could also be a key contributor if she is able to stay healthy in 2011.
With the boys it will be a bit tougher to regain that top level form with such a high bench mark set by Bourgeois and company in 2010, but the coach knows he has some aces up his sleeve.
"Dave Durivage has really come on strong this year. He wasn't able to compete in states last year, or for the end of last year, because a foot injury basically ended his season. He is really flying right now and he could be our Joe this year just because he is showing good potential, but he still new to the sport. Last year was his first year, so basically he has had half a season so far."
The coach also cites Trevor Roberts, Trevor Howell (the boys co-captains), and Ross DeLaBruere, who were all top seven runners for the team last season, as some of the guys that will round out the top four slots for competition.
The fifth spot is still up in the air, but with a great deal of depth on the boys side, the coach will have several options to choose from.
When the team did time trials last week, they had eight guys finish within two minutes of each other, so the decision to fill that fifth spot may come down to who has the hot feet at that particular time.
As has always been his philosophy, Schaffer is not looking to have a race by race strategy, but to focus on continual growth and improvement that results in his runners being in peak form by the time states roll around next month.
"My goal is the same, my focus is on states to really show a strong performance there. Our league is not set up where wins and losses really matter. It doesn't matter for play-offs, it doesn't matter for states. You can be whooping up everyone and then you come to states flat and then you trickle down in the results, so the goal is do well enough to get some people to qualify for New Englands, and maybe a (whole) team."
The season opens up today for the Cross Country crew, as they will play host eight teams at the Primeau farm, which thanks to the hard work of Dr. Primeau, the course is in good shape for the meet.
"Luckily Dr. Primeau has been on that course all summer running a Tuesday night series and that has helped tremendously cause the course is so well marked already and so well groomed, and is in better shape than last year and that is really going to save our bacon because a lot of the back breaking work has already been done."
Today's meet starts at 4:00 and will feature teams from St. J, Lyndon Institute, Oxbow, Cannan, Enosburg, Lake Region, Hazen, and Lamoille as well as the host team, the Falcons.