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Shepaug runners find redemption

POSTED October 27, 2014
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

            MANCHESTER – Tom Scarola is the kind of guy you root for. And not just because he plays a pretty nice acoustic guitar. A positive persona, he is a died-in-the-wool glass half full guy. You talk to Tom and you hear a lot about promise, potential and accomplishment. Not about what could have been. You walk away feeling good. 

            So you had to like what happened Saturday for Scarola and Shepaug boys cross country team at the Class S Championships.  The last couple of weeks haven’t been real good for the running Spartans from Washington way.

            A preseason favorite for the Berkshire League title buoyed by a terrific turnout of 28 boys at the school that flirts with just 300 students or so, the Spartans ran through the regular season schedule and were the odds on pick to win the crown.

            It didn’t’ quite work out that way. Some practice hijinks that got out of hand led to the suspension of six of the top seven runners. And let’s be clear here because you know how rumors go.  This was not a drinking issue. This was a bunch of players fooling around and it got out of hand.

            And it very well could have cost the Spartans the Berkshire League title won by Nonnewaug. Nothing is a given but as runner Ed Wolfe said Saturday, the Spartans felt the title was theirs.

            Saturday was a second chance. It wasn’t the BL title, but my guess is that if had to make a choice you might take a state title over a league title. If not, you will take a least one of them as opposed to none.

            And this wasn’t about just running fast. The suspensions took their toll on the head as well as the feet.

            “After the suspensions a couple of kids wanted to quit,” admitted Wolfe. “It was pretty demoralizing but a couple of seniors said (the Class S meet) is our last race and we want to win. That was part of our rallying cry.”

            So the Spartans spent the week and Saturday morning as they rolled into Wickham Park thinking about what could be not what wasn’t. Then they let some pretty quick feet do the talking.

            Wolfe finished second, Erik Quist was seventh, Sean Parker was ninth followed by Clayton Firmender (14) and Joe Freeland (17).  The resulting 50 points resulting in a resounding win over a couple of BL foes.

            Thomaston and Litchfield also had good days and made it an impressive day for the BL with second and third place finishes respectively. But, there wasn’t much drama here, Shepaug was too good.

            “We had to grow a lot, I’m so proud of them,’ said Scarola. “We had to move forward and focus on doing the best we could on the most important day.’

            Scarola was effusive in his praise of the preparation gives BL teams for the class championships. – “The Berkshire League creates great runners. Programs have developed with teams like Mark Olsen’s Thomaston teams, Arleigh Duff’s Nonnewaug teams and Tom Giorgetti’s Lewis Mills teams help us be able to compete.”

            From the physical point of view this title, Shepaug’s first boys title since 1997 according to Scarola, was a lot about talented feet and being pushed by a good league.  However, it isn’t that simple.

            Frankly, the Spartans could have packed their running shoes. Whether they thought the punishments were justified or not, they could have turned a sunny season into a very rainy day and a bad memory.

            They chose not to. The lemons? On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon they became lemonade. From suspended to sensational. Looking at the BL Championships you couldn’t find the Spartans.

            At the Class S Championships, nobody could catch the Spartans. Now that’s a nice ending for a team and a coach whose glass is always half full.      

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