By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – St. John’s High School cross country head coach Mark Murray knows he has an assemblage of the region’s top runners who have dominated opponents all season and in some cases, on the very biggest of stages. That’s why Murray and team supporters had high hopes of carrying off a Division 1 state title when he and his runners took to the Gardner Municipal Golf Course in All-State competition Nov. 19.
But it wasn’t to be as Wellesley High took top honors on the day while the Pioneers clocked in at fourth overall. Despite a top-five placement, Murray and his team were not reticent to share their dissatisfaction of the performance post-race.
“We were disappointed. We were looking for a state championship but it wasn’t our day,” admitted Murray. “Our runners have been used to the bigger fields. We compete in invitationals all season long. We went to New York this past October for the Manhattan College Invitational and came out on top competing against 10,000 runners. So we’re used to this [crowded field]. Sometimes you have bad days and unfortunately it was the day of the state meet. What we need to do is accentuate the positive moving forward.”
“After all the hills, Ben (Kovacs) and I were running with each other and there were two Lowell kids in front of us so I just stuck with them as best I could,” explained junior Patrick Craemer, who recorded the top finish for St. John’s coming in fifth overall at 16:05. “It was helpful having run here before because I know all the hills, where they are and how to utilize the uphills and downhills. This last stretch is really, really long so you get to know when to make your move.”
“We went out like we were going to win the race but we should have been more conservative, or at least I should have been,” said teammate Kovacs, who finished 16th overall at 16:41 and is committed to attend and run for Northeastern University in 2017. “We had a lot of success this season but it’s hard to sustain that for so many weeks.
“Knowing the course helps a lot. It helps a lot to know what to expect, but it still feels different every time with the pain levels on this course because it’s so hilly.”
The team now moves on to compete in the Nike Northeast Regionals in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. Nov. 26-27.
Other All-State top finishers for St. John’s were Joshua Rahn (35th, 17:01), Joe Walsh (74th, 17:31), Tyler Griffin (86th, 17:39), Mitchell Witt (99th, 17:49) and Domenic Mastromatteo (104th, 17:52).
One week prior, at the same course, it was the Pioneers finishing in first, third and fourth places to cruise to the Central Mass. Division 1 Championship. Kovacs led all runners with a time of 16:02 while Craemer completed the course in third (16:09) and Joshua Rahn (16:32) fourth.
Other top finishers for St. John’s were Joe Walsh (17:10), Mitchell Witt (17:22), Tyler Griffin (17:32) and Domenic Mastromatteo (17:43).
The Pioneers dominance across Central Mass. in 2016 included victories over Wachusett Regional (27-29), St. Peter-Marian (15-53), Holy Name (15-78), Doherty (16-43) and Shrewsbury (27-30).
Members of the 2016 St. John’s High All-State cross-country team are seniors Michael Joe, Ben Kovacs, Cole Walling; juniors Patrick Craemer, Thomas Goodhue, Tyler Griffin, Joshua Rahn, Joe Walsh, Mitchell Witt and sophomore Domenic Mastromatteo.