Stuart Cross Country Needs Depth To Keep Prep B Title Streak Alive
By Bill Alden
For the Stuart Country Day cross country team, the 2005 season will represent a foray into uncharted territory in two respects.
On the one hand, the Tartans enter the fall looking to end the season as the first program to ever win four straight Prep B championships. But as Stuart looks to make history, it will have the challenge of doing so without its usual complement of stars.
"We have always had a strong three at the front," said head coach Thomas Harrington, whose program comes into the season having won six straight Patriot Conference crowns in addition to its Prep three-peat.
"Now we just have a strong two in Laura Brienza and Nicole Huber. It's imperative that we get four or five other girls to step up and fill in the line-up for us."
While Harrington may have concerns about his squad's depth, he has no qualms about his two stars, senior Brienza and sophomore Huber. "Laura and Nicole will be the strength of the team," asserted Harrington, whose team starts the season by competing in the Magee Invitational on September 17 in Elizabeth.
"Laura came into camp about a minute and a half ahead of where she was at this point last year and Nicole is two minutes ahead. Laura and Nicole get along really well, they work together. I think Laura really wants to do well in her senior year."
A key to the success of Stuart will be whether senior Sasha Levitt can stay healthy. "Sasha was in our front five last season until she got hurt in the Peddie meet," said Harrington. "She's good health-wise right now and she has to stay mentally focused. She has to believe in herself."
As for the best of the rest, Harrington is gaining belief in sophomore Anais Vaillant, and a trio for freshmen, Carrie Heckel, Lizzie Henderson, and Hannah Claudio.
"Anais and Carrie look really good," asserted Harrington. "Carrie is running well. Anais is a former tennis player who has taken up running. Lizzie and Hannah also look good. If they all stick with it, they can become good runners."
Harrington, though, acknowledges that his club faces an uphill battle. "Half the team is brand new and the other half was on the course cheering on people at the big meets last year," said Harrington with a laugh.
"I know the senior class wants to be the first to get those four Prep B titles. But we have a lot of question marks. If there is any year where we are susceptible in the big meets, this is it."