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Cross country tradition strong at Stratford

  • Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rob Gantt/Gazette Ryan Abdullah is one of the top runners for Stratford’s boys cross country team and led the Knights to a fourth-place finish on Saturday in Lexington.

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Each summer, runners on the cross country teams at Stratford High School do whatever it takes to carry on the program’s tradition.

In the fall, they reap the fruits of that labor. That can be counted on just like the changing of the seasons.

“It’s been told to me to that our sport is not a game,” SHS coach Shane Sutherland said. “Most of our practices are work and they’re labor intensive. Kids go through a dramatic change. They go out and do things that others might think are impossible, like running eight miles a day or 40 miles a week.”

Sutherland’s teams set a respectable goal each season and generally attain it. If not, they still finish better than 75 percent of the other Class AAAA teams in cross country most of the time.

Sutherland, in his 11th season, said they aim to be top 10 at state every November.

“If you can do that, then you’re being competitive,” he added. “We’ve had some successful seasons. We set the bar high. We want to be in the top 10. In this state, that’s very competitive.”

The boys cross country team was state runner-up two years ago and the girls were third a year before that. Individually, Jasmine Polite was a two-time state champion in cross country in 2009 and 2010 for the girls team.

“I can’t say it enough,” Sutherland said. “We have dedicated kids. We have kids that are willing to do work that most kids don’t. They put in the time, the mileage and the commitment that it takes. When you’re doing 40 to 45 miles a week, that’s a time commitment. You can’t do that in five days without it being a long day.”

This year’s squads follow in the steps of past teams from Crowfield Boulevard.

The boys team is among the deepest Sutherland has had at the school and seems a lock to meet their goal.

“The boys are, top to bottom, one of the most competitive teams amongst themselves,” he added. “We have the mythical one minute gap in cross country, which is anything under one minute means your team is going to be competitive.”

Led by Ryan Abdullah and Austin Weaver, the Knights have 12 runners posting times between 16:30 and 18:30.

“Realistically, we’ve got 12 guys in the mix for our seven spots,” Sutherland said. “Our goal is to get five guys under 17 minutes and that puts you right in it.”

Other key runners are Brett Alford, Kyle Thomas, Morgan Woods and Ryan Adams.

The Lady Knights have three frontrunners and are looking to build some depth as the season goes on.

Alex Zimmer, Bethany Reaves and Tiffany Hutson are the top three for the Lady Knights.

“Those three girls up front run under 20 minutes,” Sutherland said. “We just want to get our four and five on track. We’ve got to get them faster and maybe a top 10 is possible.”

Stratford swept meets with Woodland, Cane Bay and Bishop England at Wannamaker Park on Oct. 9. The Knights took all of the top five spots to finish with a perfect score of 15.

On Saturday, both teams competed in the Body Shop Invitational in Lexington. The boys placed fourth out of 24 teams, while the girls were ninth among 23 squads.

The Region 7-AAAA meet is Oct. 23 and Lower State is set for Nov. 2.

State is Nov. 9 at Sandhills in Columbia.

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