CARIBOU, Maine — Veteran coaches Roy Alden and Thomas Beckum like what they’ve seen of their Viking cross country teams in the early going.
Out-of-season training is always a key to success and many athletes put in plenty of miles heading into the school racing season.
“The larger we can make our base, the tougher we can train later in the season,” Alden said, who said that six or seven of the boys had “a great summer of training.”
Beckum was in a similar situation. He said he instituted a mileage club for the first time and the girls responded. Twelve team members ran at least 100 miles and four topped the 200-mile mark.
Several girls and boys from CHS also attended Acadia Running Camp in Bar Harbor July 20-23 to get a head start to the season.
The Caribou boys have some key runners to replace, including Lucas Kinney, who was the remaining link from the team’s 2010 state champion squad. However, Alden said he has a dedicated group who appear to be growing together as a team and “buy into the hard work it takes to be a champion.”
That has been confirmed as the Vikings were victorious in their first three meets, beating four other teams at Orono Aug. 30, taking first in a 12-team competition at Ellsworth Sept. 6 and topping eight opponents at home Saturday.
The team’s No. 1 runner to begin the season is a freshman. Evan Desmond was last year’s Aroostook League middle school champion who is a hard worker and talented athlete who shows the desire to become an excellent runner.
Junior Chathu Karunasiri was a top junior varsity runner last year and has put in a great summer to make the most of his talent, according to Alden. Two other juniors, Caleb Hunter and Lukas Lagasse, were varsity runners last year. Tsion MacLeod was the No. 2 runner a year ago and is coming off an excellent track season, which saw him get his 1,600-meter time to 4:52.
Mitchell St. Peter, a senior captain, is one of the state’s best race walkers in track and field and has worked hard this summer, according to the coach. He was a solid JV runner a year ago.
Junior Elijah Verhoff is the Vikings’ most improved runner and could battle Desmond for the top spot on the team. Freshman Daniel Randolph is talented and possesses a lot of natural speed.
Others who could be in the mix to compete in varsity races this fall are Bryce Coffin, Nick Alfaro, Gabe Massey and Riley McDuffie. Junior varsity runners are Emerson Duplissie-Cyr, Alex Cyr, Matt Nadeau, Josh Quist, Chris Adams, Seth Beidelman, Dylan Cote, Dustin Cote and David Hunter.
“A 21-man roster gives us lots of depth and creates a competitive spirit among the athletes on the team,” Alden said. “Early on, they have demonstrated that they are willing to work very hard. The key to success will be how well they develop, but this is a special group with a great deal of potential.”
The Viking girls also have high hopes. Beckum is pleased with the hard work and positive attitudes team members have demonstrated so far.
“When you have that combination, you are going to have good teams,” he said. “This is one of the best groups of runners we have had for a few years and they are all coachable.”
Caribou’s top seven, which was established at the first meet at the University of Maine at Orono Aug. 30, includes, in order of finish, sophomore Madeline Gudde, senior Robyn Larrabee, senior Chelsea Haney, freshman Anya O’Meara, senior Nerissa Larrabee, sophomore Emma Belyea and freshman Adessa Judd. But Beckum said that is fluid as team members are challenging each other every day.
The Larrabee twins were the Vikings’ top runners a year ago and their experience will be helpful heading into this season.
Also on the team and hoping to break through and compete in varsity meets are seniors Lauren Chapman, Elise Gudde and Kaitlyn Ring; sophomores Reagan Michaud and Julia Page and freshmen Sarae Greenier, JoJo Fields, Sheridan Blackstone, Ciara Richards, Rachel Ring and Bridget St. Pierre.
Caribou has fared well so far, coming in second at the Maine Open at UMaine to open the season and then grabbing third place out of nine teams Sept. 7 at the Ellsworth Invitational before winning Saturday’s Caribou Invitational, which included seven other schools.
The cross country managers are Chris Michaud, Josh Verhoff, Sam Fortin and Johnna Grant.