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BL cross country championships worth savoring

POSTED October 20, 2013
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                   BL Cross Country Championships worth savoring



            WATERTOWN – It was one of those days Friday at Black Rock State Park that leaves you with a little hop in your step, a little more pop in your pep.

            The Berkshire League held its cross country championships at Black Rock State Park and let’s not cheat Mother Nature out of her contribution to the festivities. The weather was perfect, a huge dose of sunshine smiling over the park and temperatures that still allowed for shorts and tee-shirts belying the mid-October date on the calendar.

            Throw in the park itself, an outdoor wonderland on a day still bright from the rapidly disappearing foliage. There are rumblings that the site may be moved in the future for a variety of reasons better discussed on another day, but should that be the case the good folks in the BL will be hard pressed to find a better venue.

            If was a fall day, the kind with apples and cinnamon in the air that makes you want to keep taking deep breaths and freeze frame the smells, sights and sounds.

            And that was all just a wonderful backdrop. Then the Thomaston girls and a Thomaston girl along a pair of rapid and respectful rivals named Jackson Morrow and Vincent Pistritto added the high quality substance to the scenario.

            The Thomaston girls cross country team and coach Mark Olsen are a rather amazing story. The school houses all of 132 girls. The number is significant.

Thomaston is not a school of choice. Their students and runners don’t come from five different towns or two different states or different countries. The Bears are of the public school breeding. They come from places with community names like Main Street, Walnut Hill Road and Old Northfield Road. At no point do any of them live more than four miles from the school.

It is all home grown. Think about that when you think about this. Friday the Bears won their 7th straight title.  And this isn’t just BL in a bottle. Two state titles in the last three years. Two appearances in the New England Regionals, a feat only accomplished three times in state history by a Class S school – twice by Thomaston.

And, they do it the way a small school isn’t supposed to be able to do it – with depth. Rarely has Thomaston had the best runner (we will get to Sabrina Olsen in a second here). What they have had is a wealth of very good runners that answer to names like Olsen, Becky Perugini, Cam Chaplen, Sammi Breier, MacKenzie Blair, Lizzie Eberhardt and the list goes on.

This time around it was Olsen, followed by Perugini a senior and two sophomores, Breier and Charlotte Eberhardt. Much improved senior Bryttnie Thomas came in a short time later and followed by sophomore Haley Pinho.

One more time the golden-clad runners overwhelmed the finish line and dominated another running day, this one with championship attached to it.

Okay back to Olsen. She has been the anomaly in this recipe for success. Outside of Chaplen’s memorable run to the Class S title a year ago, the Bears have saturated opponents with dramatic depth, one gold runner after another. A stable of All-BL and All-Staters.  

Olsen however is part of the pack and has emerged from the pack. She is the unquestioned leader of the pack. She won the Class S title as a freshman but in the BL has had to chase. Her freshman year it was the All-time great Jackie Nicholas from Nonnewaug.

Then it was Northwestern’s outstanding runner AnneMarie Tuxbury. Last year, it was Olsen’s turn to reach the top with an impressive victory over the favorite, Stephanie Deccy of Lewis Mills.

This time around, Olsen put an exclamation on her fast-moving career. You want generous, let’s say she outdistanced the field. You want maybe more of an accurate thought – let’s put it this way. She had nearly enough time to do her nails before her closest competitor came in.

Olsen won the race by 1:03. That is eternity plus 20 in cross country circles. There was nobody in site when she crossed the finish line. She ran for her team, but she ran alone.

Another amazing day for the Bears.  One last thought here. The Thomaston High seniors never lost a BL meet. The last time the Bears did not win the BL title they were nine or 10 years old. Sophomores Breier and Pinho were eight or nine.  Think about it – 132 girls in the school.

Before the Bears were Morrow and Pistritto. You run to win but it is almost too bad somebody had to lose or more accurately, finish second.

Both runners survived a feverish first mile pace (5:10) to enter the stretch run ready to force each other to find the well of victory. Pistritto led entering the final 100 yards but Morrow, second a year ago, knew it was his time. He knew there was something left.

With about 50 yards left he caught Pistritto and has the lead step at the tape. It was mesmerizing, it was gritty. It was great.

In a dazzling dual in the sunlight that left both gasping for air, it was an effort and a show that matched and in large part made the magic of the day. Pisitritto was magnanimous in defeat, Morrow, humble in victory. Both were brilliant in performance.

You’ve got to love days like this. You put them away to savor and smile for another time.

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