CONWAY - After four weeks of preseason training, the Kennett High boys and girls cross-country teams got their racing season off and running on Saturday. The Eagles faced plenty of quality competition when they toed the starting line at Great Glen Trials for the Paul LeTarte Memorial Invitational.
At Great Glen, the Eagles competed in four races (boys and girls varsity and girls and boys junior varsity).
"Great Glen is one of my favorite cross country courses, " Livingston said. 'It a very difficult, but fair course. The second mile can be a real bear, if you're not prepared. Hopefully, everyone will do well. I like to take the kid's mile run times and give them predictions on how I think they'll do, based on what they've done. It just give them an idea of what I think they can do."
Coach Bernie Livingston had a record 40 athletes out for the sport (up from last year's previous record of 37), but two boys and a girl left the squad last week. Another reason for Coach Livingston to smile is the calendar. He's had time to prep his harriers for race action.
"We've had a great preseason," Livingston said. "We've had four weeks of training to get ready for our first meet (at Great Glen Trails). If ever there was a year to have some time this was it especially with so many kids coming out for the team.
"Sometimes in the past we'd have already run two meets going into Great Glen," he added. "Plymouth has already run twice and so have several other schools. This schedule works for us, it's perfect from my perspective. It gives us an opportunity to get ready to race. Some sports, you're ready for competition almost immediately, but for us a 5K is a 5K, you can't just run part of it. I have quite a few kids who weren't quite prepared because they're new to this sport. Four weeks is an awesome amount of time to be able to prepare."
Livingston has a young team this season, but it could be a talented one.
"This is the most athletes I've had out collectively at one time and we're looking at our largest boys squad ever," he said. "It's a huge team consisting, perfectly evenly split. We only have five seniors total, two boys and three girls."
There are 19 girls out for the squad and returning senior Emmaline Ashe has been named team captain.
Junior Hannah Benson should be one of the top three runners for the Lady Eagles. She and fellow junior Sarah Hernandez have been impressive in preseason.
They'll be joined by fellow veterans Sianna Stretter, Gillian Wilcox, Ke Cawley and Hannah Miller, Gigi Miller and Dakota Esmay while Heidi Jenis and Marissa Anderson have been dealing with nagging injuries.
"We have a relatively young team in we don't have the race experience of previous teams," Livingston said. "We do have several athletes who ran every day over the summer and it's paid off for the, I think we look pretty solid. We only have three seniors and just two or three freshmen, but very deep junior and sophomore classes.
"I think our girls team will get better as the season goes on provided we can stay healthy," he continued. "We have good depth with about nine girls capable of being in our top five."
Seniors Peter Haine and Brian Behr have been selected as the captains of the boys. They'll be joined by fellow veterans Ryan Kenny, Andrew Casella, Alex Brown and Matt Wales while newcomers David Mays and Ben Zimmer have had solid preseasons.
"The boys team took quite a hit from last year," Livingston said. "We lost Dalton L'Heureux, Nick Jenis and Brian Fox. We've got some good young people out, a lot of sophomores, remember we had a huge freshman class last year. We'll have to do what we can, we play with the cards we're dealt."
In Saturday's race, the KHS boys finished 10th out of 18 schools in the varsity race. Haine led the Eagles, finishing 26th in 18:51. He was followed by Kenny, 53, 20:07; freshman Cody Leahy, 64th, 20:41; Mays, 69th, 21:14; Casella, 92nd, 22:54; and Brown, 96th, 23:28.
In the JV race, KHS placed eighth out of 10 schools with Wales leading the way in 22nd, 21:54 followed by Tucker Furnbach, 56th, 23:58; Josh Hill, 63rd, 24:20; Tim Allen, 64th, 24:21; Jon Brady, 75th, 24:59; and Mitchell Evans, 94th, 27:20.
For the girls, in the varsity race, KHS was fifth out of eight schools. Benson set a new personal record in leading Kennett. she placed 10th in 22:19 followed by Streeter, 25th, 23:34; Wilcox, 38th, 24:30; Gigi Miller, 71st, 27:07; Ashe, 72nd, 27:15; Hannah miller, 80th, 28:11; and Hernandez did not finish due to an injury.
In the JV race, which the Eagles placed fourth overall as a team, senior Amanda Folsom, who came out for the squad last week, led the girls from Conway, finishing ninth in 26:18. She was followed by junior Caleigh Daigle, 12th, 26:59; Ke Cawley, 16th, 27:32; Emilie Santuccio, 27th, 29:46; Grace Townsend, 31st, 30:07; Dakota Esmay, 34th, 31:21; and Lyric Montgomery, who is recovering from injury, 37th, 32:15.
As for goals, Livingston would like to see continued improvement with the Eagles peaking in the big meets at the end of the season.
"We've also got some young kids, but you never know how they'll run until they get into an actual competition," Livingston said. "I think they're a nice cooperative group on both sides."
Livingston likes the team's race schedule.
"The cycle is really looking pretty good," he said. "It's spread out so I can train 'em and can rest 'em. With so many newer kids out I like the schedule we have set up. Our goal is to get better as the season progresses."
Kennett's lone home meet is Oct. 6 at the middle school at 4 p.m.
"Even if we one day get a course at the high school I don't think I'd move our home meet from the middle school," Livingston said. "It's such a great course there, it's so visual for spectators and the kids really like it because it's flat. It's not a super fast course, it's actually a kind of slow level course, but schools still love coming here. We'll have seven or eight schools with over 100 runners competing."
Coe-Brown Academy, Plymouth, Kingswood, Oyster River and Berlin are planning to return along with new schools Gorham and St. Thomas.