By Katharine Morgan CONTRIBUTING WRITER
---- — The Cooperstown cross country team is in the middle of a good season, especially on the girls side.
“If you are going to run a hard race, you have to be able to think hard,” coach Jessie Ravage said. “It’s a sport that attracts the independent thinker. But make no mistake, cross country is the quintessential team sport. Everyone has the same job. Team first, then individual.”
Nowhere was that more apparent than at Saturday’s 71st E. J. Herrmann Cross Country Invitational in Utica, one of the oldest high school races in the region.
Cooperstown’s girls finished fifth out of 62 teams.
The young members on the team have done well, especially freshman, Samantha Fanion, winner of 2011 modified race, 1.5 miles, and newcomer sophomore Kristin Ratliff.
Although the team finished fifth, Ravitch said she hoped for a better performance. She said the distraction of homecoming and a lingering cold that hobbled Fanion leading up to the race, were possible causes for the team not reaching its full potential. Nonetheless, Radliff finished third overall in the 3.1-mile varsity course with a time of 20:48.6, while Fanion placed eighth at 21:09.1. The course included grass and trails, as well as three bridge crossings.
Now in her 22nd year of coaching, Ravage has an appreciation of the sport that is noticeable. A former competitor herself, she said she made it to the Massachusetts State Championship two years in a row after switching from field hockey to cross country her junior year.
When asked about the current state of cross country running, Ravage laments the fact that it is a relatively invisible sport.
“It’s our own fault, in a way. We manage ourselves without much outside interference,” she said.
By the same token, she hinted that cross country may lack the broad appeal of such traditional fall sports as football and soccer, thus garnering less attention and support for the team.
Cross country meets demand a bit more of the spectators as well. There are no bleachers. The “players” are not always in eyesight. Truthfully, in order to really watch it, the onlookers are going to have to walk it.
The girls are having a particularly good season but Ravage admits they would have to dramatically improve with a strong showing in the sectionals in order to compete in the state championships as a team.
“We’re lacking some depth”, she said.
Since each team enters seven scoring runners in every race, with the first five runners’ places totaled for the team score, spacing of the team’s runners has kept their point totals higher than Ravage would like, particularly given that CCS competes in Section 3, one of the “most ferociously competitive in New York State, if not the nation,” Ravage said.
Notwithstanding the team’s chances, Ravage believes that both Ratliff and Fanion have the potential to make states as individuals. Currently, according to the well respected website, www.Tullyrunners.com, Ratliff is ranked 14th and Fanion 17th in Section 3, Class D.
Ravage said she is hopeful that everyone on the team has the potential to run cross country at a college level.
Cooperstown hosted New York Mills and Adirondack yesterday after deadline. They will compete at Herkimer on Oct. 9.