MATTAPOISETT — It’s 2:30 p.m. on a Thursday, and in Washburn Park, a student goes zooming by.
He’s followed by another, then a gaggle of girls, chatting as they run. Slowly, the entire group of 52 students forms a long line of runners circling the park’s grounds. With any luck, at least a few of them will continue their run—right onto college teams. The Old Rochester Regional High School cross-country teams, both girls and boys, have produced a number of college runners recently. Cindy Tilden, the coach of the girls’ cross country team, named three college runners from just the Old Rochester Class of 2017. Recent graduate Riley Shaughnessy now runs for Worcester State. Nina Bourgeois and Rachel Scheub of Rochester run for Trinity College.
Getting the students fit for college running is something Cindy and her husband Bill (who is the coach of the boys’ cross-country team) have some experience with. The cross country season only runs for 10 weeks, and doesn’t have a spring season. To top it off, only about half of the students on the teams (the number of overall cross-country runners this year is 52) generally run cross-country before high school. “Mostly though,” Tilden explained, “they’re students who thought they would give cross-country a try in their sophomore year, or who switched over from another sport.”
Because the team is comprised of students from varying fitness levels, Tilden splits them up into different groups. “Sometimes it feels like I need to be in fifteen places at once,” she joked. “The team covers anyone from people who’ve never run before to people who’ve been running for a long time.”
Team workouts include running, stretching, and cardio and weight routines, tailored to the fitness level of the students performing them. The students also need to find a way to keep fit in the spring season, particularly if they’re looking to improve on their times. A number of students, Tilden explained, run track in the spring, but the teams also consist of swimmers and basketball players.
The number of students going on to run in college has been rising for the past few years. “For a long time, students thought that they weren’t fast enough for college cross-country, and that they couldn’t compete,” Tilden said. “It’s becoming more common, though.” Tilden noted that new opportunities are always opening up. “There are higher and lower divisions and more cross-country teams appearing. There are even running clubs, and those clubs still go to meets and compete, like any sports team,” she added. “There’s always an opportunity for anyone who likes to run.”