The Salem News
---- — The St. Mary’s boys and girls cross country teams had a very successful season led by former Swampscott High coach Dom Finelli. The boys posted a perfect 10-0 record overall, 8-0 in the league) and won the CCL championship meet last week while the girls were 7-3 overall and 5-3 in the league.
This is the third year of the program after an eight or nine year hiatus, and both squads are loaded with young talent from across the North Shore.
“I expected it to take about five years to turn the program around, but this surprised me,” said Finelli. “They trained hard over the summer and had an excellent year. We have 41 kids out between the girls and the boys.”
The Spartans won the league meet by two points ahead of runner up Cardinal Spellman and had three runners named all-stars (top 14). Senior co-captain Thomas Macklin (Lynn) was the top finisher, taking 3rd in 18:02 while Sophomore Cody Murtagh of Peabody placed 6th in 18:38, and sophomore Liam Foley of Salem ran a strong race to finish 14th (19:11).
Other contributors to the team’s success were Matt McManus (8th), Mike Cerulli (9th), Malek Colayat (30th), and Cullen Coyle, a junior from Swampscott 31st. Dmietri Finelli and Jackson Porter are both from Swampscott while sixth grader Finn Lacey lives in Salem.
Freshman Sarah Ryan of Nahant was the top runner for the girls all year and 19th at the league meet while senior Melissa LeFave of Peabody was 25th. Both received medals. Other local girls include senior Elizabeth Weisse (Swampscott), senior co-captain Jen Grimes (Swampscott), freshman Hannah Walker (Marblehead), freshman Kelli Powers (Peabody) , sixth grader Erin Powers (Peabody), and senior Stephanie Skouras (Peabody).
Robert Smith has been sidelined with some serious injuries throughout his soccer career at Peabody High, but the senior goalie is healthy now and on top of his game. Smith has a 0.88 goals against average which is lowest in the NEC and eight shutouts. The league champion Tanners were unbeaten in NEC play.
Smith missed his freshman year after ACL surgery and most of last season after breaking his leg during tryouts. He has come back stronger and better than ever.
“He was able to play most of his sophomore season, but last year that injury during tryouts kept him out,” said Tanner coach Stan McKeen. “Knock on wood, he’s fine now and doing an outstanding job. He was able to come back to play in the last two games of his junior season including the tournament loss to Acton-Boxborough. We lost, 2-1 in spite of a strong performance by him.
“Smith is a huge weapon because he’s a very quick for a big guy. He’s our QB in the rear and can punt the ball a mile. He sees the whole field well and communicates well with his defense. It’s been great having him back healthy all season, and we’re going to count heavily on him in the tournament.”
The stars of the future competed in the NEC Middle School cross country championship at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester recently, and three girls from Briscoe in Beverly took top honors. Julia Curtin (9:47), Anna Edson, and Ashley Foley grabbed the top spots followed by Grace McGuire of Marblehead with Alexandra Barrett of Peabody’s Higgins taking sixth. The course and meet record belongs to Catarina Rocha of Peabody, who ran a very fast 9:33 in 2008.
For the boys, Connor Ohlson of Marblehead was the winner in 9:30 followed by Marc Alperen of Peabody, Kai Marcos (Briscoe), Jack Laganas (Briscoe), and Foster Smallman (Briscoe). The girls and boys from Beverly won the team titles.
What better way to improve those skills needed for success in a tough obstacle course race than to learn from the best in the world? CoachUp winner Matt Shahzade, whose father Ed won the Ambassador prize package that included a private coaching session with two time World Tough Mudder champ Junyong Pak of Beverly, will be well prepared for his next obstacle course adventure.
Pak spent time giving the Gordon College student and his friend lots of good tips and put them through their paces last Saturday at Lynch Park. The demanding series of exercises included a dive into the chilly Atlantic Ocean, flowed by dragging tires along the beach, and then another dip. Then there was work with ropes that involved climbing and crawling underneath. Pak, who wants to earn his third straight World Tough Mudder championship next month, gave the pair a very strenuous workout along with plenty of helpful tips.
Pak is an ambassador of the sport and finished second in this year’s grueling Fuego y Agua 70K Survival Run, one of only two finishers. The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem which Pak designated as his favorite charity, received all proceeds from the contest which amounted to almost $800.
Jean DePlacido is a longtime correspondent for The Salem News. You can contact her at JMDeplacido@aol.com.