Unlike the world of professional sports, the concept of a dynasty is not often associated with high school athletics. Because students filter through the system every four years, the success of any high school team changes from year to year as players graduate and underclassmen move up take their place.
But two teams at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School are bucking that trend. Both the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams have put together a run that would make the New England Patriots or Red Sox blush. With first-place finishes at their league meet at Sacred Heart last Monday, the boys wrapped up their seventh straight Mayflower League title while the girls won their second in a row and ninth since 1998.
Under coach Joe Schroeder, both the boys and girls have dominated the Mayflower League over the past decade, and the teams regularly do well in the state meet, which takes place next Saturday, Nov. 10 at Franklin Park in Boston.
But despite their dominance and budding dynasty, the teams largely fly under the radar of Island sports landscape.
“I’d be willing to bet if you stopped 10 people on the street and asked them how the cross country team was doing, a lot of them wouldn’t know [the high school] had a cross country team,” coach Schroeder said.
Not that the coach is complaining. Though his teams do not garner the attention of the football or basketball squads, there is no shortage of talented athletes joining the cross country teams every year. Years ago, the coach said, athletes would join the team just to get in shape for winter and spring sports. Now, however, many of the athletes choose cross country as their primary sport.
The coach attributed the teams’ long success to several factors. Some athletes appreciate that the team travels all over New England during the season and goes on a whitewater rafting trip. Others want to be a part of the winning culture, and most athletes are acutely aware of the program’s high standards.
“Success breeds success, and this concept of winning is handed down each year from team to team,” the coach said. “Having said that, the kids seem to find their own niche every year and build on that. Every team has its own distinctive personality.”
Coach Schroeder said his teams each year intuitively take to the strategic aspect of cross country. While an outsider might think the goal of the sport is to simply outrun your opponents, the coach said a great deal of teamwork and tactics are involved. Final scores are calculated using the team’s top five finishers — as in golf, the lowest score wins — so the goal is not necessarily to have one runner take first but to get as many runners as possible in the top 10.
“Most people don’t think there much of a game plan for [cross country], but in reality it’s a bit like a chess game. You have to play to your strengths while playing off the other team’s weaknesses,” he said.
This year’s girls’ team is smaller then previous squads, which means there is less chance someone will step up if one of the top runners has a bad day. Despite these limitations, coach Schroeder’s team has been dominant in some events, and a model of teamwork and determination.
At their league meet last week, senior Emily Carter — running for the first year — finished second overall with a time of 21:57; followed by teammates Kim Carlomagno who finished fourth with a time of 22:29, Hilary and Megan Dreyer who finished fifth together with a time of 22:30 and Sarah Flanders who finished seventh with a time of 22:35.
On the boys’ side, Evan Kendall finished third overall with a time of 18:32. Lucas Emin finished fourth with a time of 18:34, Max Conley was fifth with a time of 18:39, and Forrest Harcourt finished ninth. Robbie Osmers finished 14th to give the team a total score of 35, good enough to take the Mayflower League Championships.
In what has to be considered an upset, local stand-out Tony Grillo finished with a second-place individual finish at the Division II state championships at the Waubeeka Golf Links in Williams-town on Monday.
Grillo, the defending two-time Massachusetts junior amateur champion, shot a 1-over 73 to give him a share of second place, which ranked first among all finishers from the Cape and Islands. Cam Kneeland of Triton Regional finished at an even par 72 to claim the title, while Holliston’s Matt Lussier matched Grillo’s 73 to take a share of second.
After losing back-to-back conference games, the Vineyarders’ football team bounced back Saturday with a 17-0 win over conference rival South Shore Tech.
For coach Donald Herman, who was clearly frustrated by his team’s efforts in consecutive losses to Blue Hills Tech and Cape Cod Tech, the win over the Vikings showed his team still had a lot of fight left in it. With the two conference losses, the Vineyarders lost their chance to return to the Superbowl for the first time since 2003 (which they won in a game against Manchester Essex), but the team on Saturday showed its Vineyard pride.
The team had to overcome adversity right out of the gate, as two key starters sat out the first quarter for disciplinary reasons. Thankfully, the defense held the Vikings’ attack in check, and neither team scored in the first quarter.
The Vineyarders lit up the scoreboard halfway through the second quarter when Zach Coutinho booted a 30-yard field goal to give his team a 3-0 lead. The Vineyarders scored again in the closing seconds of the second quarter when quarterback Mike McCarthy hit Josh Paulson in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. An extra point by Coutinho made it 10-0 at the half.
On the Vineyarders’ first possession of the second half, Paulson took a punt, found a lane down the right sideline and went virtually untouched for a 60-yard score. The play was set up by a key block from Nick Viera and solid special teams play.
In Saturday’s game, coach Herman used more of a shotgun formation on offense. That led to a big passing game for McCarthy, a junior who likely will play a large role on next year’s team. McCarthy finished the game with more than 100 yards passing and one touchdown.
Coach Herman said he was pleased with his team’s effort, but warned there is still room for improvement.
“We haven’t reached our potential . . . that was obvious with [the losses] the past two weeks. The goal is to still go 9-2 on the season, but to get there we have to stay focused and play smart. We don’t have any easy games left on our schedule,” the coach said.
With the win, the Vineyarders climbed to 6-2 on the season with three shutouts.
The Vineyarders next play tonight at home against Southeastern Regional Tech.
It’s been a frustrating week for the Vineyarders boys’ soccer team, losing a 6-1 blowout to Dennis-Yarmouth and a 2-1 nail-biter to Seekonk at home on Friday. To make matters worse, the team blew a three-goal lead against Fairhaven on Tuesday and had to settle for a 3-3 tie.
Tuesday’s game against Fairhaven was the last game of the regular season.The Vineyarders finished with a record of 9-3-6. They will now play Dighton-Rehoboth at home at 1 p.m. Sunday in the first playoff round of the state soccer tournament.
heading into the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament. The seedings for the state tournament were expected to be announced last night, and were not available as of press time.
The Vineyarders could play in a tournament game either at home or on the road as early as this weekend.
Coach Bob Hammond said his team hit a bumpy patch to close out the season and has had problems capitalizing on scoring opportunities. But the coach it was hard to explain.
“I can’t second-guess why they are or aren’t scoring . . . it can be any number of things: poor field conditions, some strange bounces or a hot goaltender. But I think this is a team that is capable of putting it all together at the right time . . . and heading into [the state tourney] it would be a great time to find our scoring touch,” he said.