Sixth is First

Sam Chambers
On the heels of Joe Faraguna ’16, St. John’s Varsity Boys’ Cross Country won the Varsity B Division at the Woodlands’ “Friday Night Lights.” Faraguna finished first overall with a 13:13 time in the 4000m race.  Jake Schick ’16 was the next top finisher for the Mavericks at 11th place (13:48), followed by Jayan Hanson ’17 (18th-14:03), Ben Bieser ’15 (25th 14:15), and Alex Cherches ’15 (27th-14:17).

Having the top individual winner does not necessarily translate to an overall team victory, however.  Most races--including SPC--allow seven to ten runners per team on the course.  The top seven finishers on each team receive a placement score  relative to the field.  The top five out of those seven receive points for the final team tally.  The lowest team score wins unless there is a tie, which is broken by the team’s fastest sixth place finisher.
The Mavericks finished the race with 85 points and tied for first with Katy Taylor.  Frank Spence ’15, St. John’s sixth place finisher, beat Taylor’s sixth runner by 10 spots, giving the Mavericks the team win.

“We have had a rough start to this season with several runners not competing right now,” said Faraguna.  “It was a good meet, but we are looking towards the end of the season.”
“It’s a team effort,” said Spence.  "Some schools have one great runner but if they don’t have a team to back them up.  Individuals don’t win championships.”

In 1996 St. John’s had the top two runners in the meet but came in second overall.  In 1997 and 1998 with their top runners finishing third, St. John’s finished first.

“The fifth and sixth runners are just as important as the first runner,” said Head Coach Richie Mercado ’79.

The sixth place tie scenario worked to the advantage of the 2012 St. John’s Girls’ Cross Country SPC title in Fort Worth.  The Mavericks’ top five finishers were even in points with Hockaday’s top five--which included the first overall runner--but Olivia Havel’s ’16 sixth place finish was better than Hockaday’s sixth runner’s, and the Mavericks claimed their 16th title.  A year later they repeated with a 17th Cross Country championship.

Boys’ Cross Country, SPC runner up in both of those races, is looking for a 14th title, a first since 2000.  In order to get to the top at SPC, the Mavericks will need to combine their individual effort with a team mentality. 

“The secret ingredient is pack running, or team work,” said Faraguna.  “We are running individually and with our teammates.  This comes into play mentally by knowing who to run with.”
“You are friends and you compete with each other,” said Julian Henry ’15.  It’s nice to know someone is there for you in the moment.”

“Everyone is important,” said Assistant Coach Cullan Hemenway.  “At this time of the season you can see real drops in time.  There are a lot of variables such as injuries and course terrain that come into play.”
With 34 runners in the high school program, the Mavericks have a lot of mixing and matching ahead of them to form the best pack possible. They are trying to find the right chemistry, the secret ingredient that turns a group of individual competitors into a winning team.

The 2014 SPC championship course is at Norbuck Park in Dallas, a change in venue from the past two years. There is ground to cover before they head north for the conference race, but the awareness they have of the dynamic between personal success and the ability of a team to take home a championship promises an exciting season filled with possibility.

And, perhaps once again for the Mavericks, the sixth shall be first.

Sam Chambers - Athletic News