Swampscott High senior Peter Hale has a fairly modest goal heading into cross country’s championship season: his aim is to finish better than he did as a junior.
When you realize that he was the runner-up at both the Northeastern Conference championship and the Eastern Mass. Division 5 meet, those goals become a bit loftier.
Hale, who won the league’s 2-mile title in both indoor and outdoor track last year, has the look of a favorite in tomorrow NEC championships being run at Bradley Palmer State Park (1 p.m.).
“I look at how I finished as a junior and want to try to improve. So for NEC’s, I’m hoping I can get the win,” said Hale, who plans to continue running in college but is keeping his options open in terms of schools.
A tall runner at 6-foot-1, Hale built quite a bit of strength between focusing on the longer distances last spring and his summer training. His top 5K time this fall is 15:59 at the Frank Kelley Invitational in September, a mark that was third best in the entire state that weekend.
“Peter is physically matured and has confidence from having been through so many big races. He knows how to be mentally focused,” said Swampscott head coach Jeff Bartlett. “He’s realized that everything we do in training has a purpose — making sure easy runs are easy so we can run hard when we want to, doing extra stretching, things like that.”
Championships cross country meets have large fields on a long course, with the initial pack at the conference meet typically around 50 runners and the EMass divisional meets numbering as many as 200. It’s a different race mentality — and one Hale thrives on.
“There’s nowhere to hide; you can’t tuck behind somebody like you might be able to on a track,” said Bartlett. “I think Peter enjoys that atmosphere and that primal aspect of it.”