BURRILLVILLE – There are strength in numbers, as the old saying goes, and those numbers, or perhaps lack thereof, will be the most intriguing subplot of the 2013 season for the Exeter-West Greenwich girls cross country team.
Following a brief hiatus, the team that almost wasn’t returns to action this fall with a fully rebuilt roster and a recently appointed coach at the helm as the Scarlet Knight girls look to reestablish themselves as part of a rebuilding program that has seen just five wins combined by either gender in the last three seasons.
“It’s a brand new team,” said girls coach Sue Millar, “so we are in the process of looking for more runners. I was only recently appointed as coach, it hasn’t been quite two weeks. We have three runners and we’re trying to get two more.”
The trio of Katie Millar, Erica Marcus, and Gianna Salvatore, all brand new to the sport, make up Millar’s debut roster. Taking part in the RIIL Cross Country Injury Fund Carnival at Burrillville Middle School last Saturday, the Knights did not officially score as a team in the Hindley Race as five runners are needed to qualify for a dual meet, but that did not stop a good showing in the team’s first taste of competition.
Millar led the way, placing 15th with a time of 29:51.03 in a race that pitted the Knights against the reigning New England champion Barrington, amongst others. Marcus and Salvatore finished farther back in the pack against the stiff competition at 84th and 92nd, respectively, with times of 29:23.61 and 30:26.54.
“They all love the sport,” Millar said. “It was all their first race on Saturday and all three of them said to me, ‘I love cross country. I can’t wait for the next race. I’m so glad that I’m doing this.’ For me, as a coach, that was the high point of any coaching I had ever done. All three of them are great kids and they’re all working hard and I think that the enthusiasm they have will help us.
“I’ve talked to other coaches and they say it takes a few years. …The girls are going to go back this week and now that they know what cross country is all about, we’ll see if we can get some other girls to come out. The goal is to hopefully get two more girls so we can have a team.”
EWG’s boys team, who also participated in Saturday’s Injury Fund, finds themselves in a similar rebuilding mode, albeit a little further along in the process.
With just five runners on the roster last fall, the boys team struggled in an 0-8 season. This year the roster is up to eight and is showing promise after finishing fifth of the 10 teams participating in the Varnam Elliott Race on Saturday.
The Knights will be strong at the top with senior Michael Dampier, who returns after qualifying for the New England championship meet as an individual in 2012 and won the Elliott Race with Saturday’s 11th best time at 16:34.57.
Also returning from last season is Donald Galloway, who just missed running a sub-20 race, finishing 43rd in a time of 20:05.30.
A trio of newcomers rounded out the scoring for the Knights. Adam Snowden placed 30th after finishing the course in 19:11.96. Rob Healy was 59th with a time of 21:04.28 and freshman Brian Lockwood was just one spot and two seconds behind.
With the preseason finally coming to a close, both EWG teams will run their first official race of the 2013 schedule Monday at 4 p.m. in a dual meet with Narragansett and host Chariho.