There surely have been years when crafting an end of season description required dusting off an old end-of-season description and changing the names and places and highlights, reinforcing the same old punch line: Groton’s team was filled with lots of talent, and the team acquitted itself well against ISL competition. From the start of this season, however, it seemed clear that this was going to be what many would describe as a “building year” because more running talent graduated than matriculated, and this team was to be entering into competition with a number of excellent running programs in the ISL. The sea of pre-season data suggested that this team would be doing well to have a .500 season and a top five finish at the New England Championships. In projections, however, the peculiar and wonderful qualities of this group of athletes could not be figured in; this team defied all expectations, improved dramatically, and defined themselves (again) as the best small school team in New England at the close of a wonderful season.
Now that most of the leaves are off of the trees and winter snows threaten, Head Coach Craig Gemmell notes that he looks back at this season as “the singularly most enjoyable of my 20 years of coaching because this particular group of girls is emblematic of all that is good about this school.” After six thousand some-odd collective miles run, dozens of hours spent on busses, grosses of post-race cookies, three defining qualities emerge for him as he tries to encapsulate the season into a few generalizations.
First, to the person, this group loved the simple act of what they were doing, and the enthusiasm they generated around the act of running was palpable. Oddly, they liked to do intervals – a sign of moderate insanity -- and Gemmell notes that “watching a challenging interval workout or accompanying this group on a crisp six mile loop through the Town Forest surely made for some great afternoons because they all were happy to be doing what they were doing together.” Second, this group also knew how to compete regardless of the competition they faced. They were never paralyzed by the unexpected, hamstrung by the unfair, or overwhelmed by particularly severe competition: they raced well at every outing – from their first meet on a hot September Friday at St. Georges’ to the last, at the November New England Championships at Lawrence. Their skill was due in large part to the excellent leadership of seasoned captains Christine Choi ’08 and Hannah Jeton ’08, and they were supported duly by standouts Kerri McKie ’09 and Allie Maykranz ’09 at the front of the Groton pack and Elise Kang ’08 and Katie Nichols ’09, who raced consistently on the varsity squad. As a result of their collective leadership, a number of talented newcomers emerged: Sommer Carroll ’09 progressed toward the end of the season to race alongside Choi at #4 on the roster; Julia Nestler ’10, Julia May ’10, Elizabeth Small ’10, and Molly Belsky ’12 all demonstrated great progress and collectively they give us hope for future success in this sport.
Finally, this group improved perhaps more than any group Gemmell has ever coached. They did so because they were inclined to take care of themselves and each other – working hard when appropriate, resting when fatigued, and managing their multivariate Groton lives with effectiveness. They did so because they were comfortable with being uncomfortable, managing as they did the travails of a sport based in part on pain management. They did so because they were not inclined to keep score among themselves or against their opponents, focusing instead on improving.
As evidence of their progress through the course of this season, one need look no further than the final race at Lawrence Academy. Though this team had won the Class “C” New England Championships a number of times in the past, other coaches assumed that this team would finish well back in the field, but they ran their best races of the fall because all vectors were pointing toward that outcome: each member of the varsity and JV squads improved greatly – some stunningly – through the course of the fall, and both varsity and JV unseated the undefeated Portsmouth Abbey team to win the team title.
Article from the Groton School website.