GARDNER – The Algonquin Titans boys cross country team ran away with the state championship – literally.
The Titans on Nov. 11 traveled to Gardner Municipal Golf Course, winning the Division 1C state title convincingly.
According to Nathaniel Uttaro, who has coached cross-country for the last 18 years, the team of 35 runners had fairly high expectations entering the season.
“Last year, we made the state meet for the first time,” Uttaro told the Community Advocate. “That was a big achievement… [and] we had everybody coming back. So these guys were motivated; they had high expectations for themselves. We definitely wanted to make the state meet again and improve our position.”
Algonquin started slow at the Ocean State Invitational, but the team took it in stride, building on the “disappointing” performance, he said. The team went undefeated in all dual meets, was strong in other invitational meets and won the league meet.
“Once they got going, they got going,” Uttaro said. “Once they got it, they got it.”
The team’s six senior captains – Stephen White, Chris Kardos, Aiden Ruiz, Joe Lamburn, Matthew Zhang and Jonathan Meschisen – were the leaders of the team.
“They really held everybody accountable. When your top guys are committed to being the best they can be, doing everything the right way… they really did a great job of managing themselves, managing each other, and bringing the young guys in – getting them acclimated,” said Uttaro.
“The great thing about this team is that they can lean on each other,” he said. “If one guy isn’t having a great day, another guy can step up… It’s been a huge asset this season.”
Algonquin’s team chemistry, talented athletes, and leadership from the senior captains propelled the team to the Division 1C state championship. The Titans won the race by 50 points over second-place Reading. Algonquin’s White (2nd place, 16:24), Kardos (4th place, 16:31), and Ruiz (7th place, 16:37) all placed within the top 10 runners.
Uttaro described when the team realized it had won the meet.
“It was a really great moment… It was awesome. I didn’t believe it until I saw the number on the screen, and when I saw it pop up on the screen I went crazy. It was great. Everyone was so excited. It really represented what they had worked so hard for,” he said.
Uttaro also noted the team has been involved in several initiatives outside of the races, including collecting old pairs of sneakers for charity fundraisers.
“They do things the right way,” he said.
The team competed in the all-state meet on Nov. 18, placing sixth out of all Division 1 teams. The team finished last season as the 18th-place team.