Bacon Academy boys' cross-country team remains confident in new division
By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Mon., Sep. 19, 2011
“Last year went exceptionally well,” said Jason Lucas, sixth-year coach of the Bacon Academy boys’ cross-country team. Last year, the Bobcat boys took the ECC Medium division crown.
But things have changed a bit for this year. The team did lose some talent, said Lucas, but a number of key runners are returning. More importantly, the team has moved up to the Large division, “So we’ll be going up against bigger schools, more talented runners. It’s going to be a little bit more of a challenge this year,” said Lucas.
With five runners with varsity experience returning, and a couple of newcomers replacing those who left, “we have a solid top seven this year, so we’re looking pretty good,” said Lucas.
Part of his optimism stems from the condition of the team as it starts the season. “Many runners organized practices on their own over the summer,” Lucas said, adding, “The boys met three days a week pretty consistently.”
Key to the success of this year’s team will be the two co-captains, Justin Bingham and Josh VanHeest, both seniors who have been with the team since their freshman years. “They’re four-year runners and have really shown a lot of progress. They’ve really developed over the past four years,” said Lucas, adding that they are both “strong athletes, full-fledged varsity runners.”
Bingham started running in middle school, part of a feeder program organized by Bacon Academy track coach Steve Browning. “I’ve been running ever since, as soon as my feet hit the pavement,” said Bingham, who has noticed a dramatic improvement in his running over the years, cutting 2 minutes off his time between his sophomore and junior years, and saying that much of that improvement comes from an improved mental outlook and increased confidence. “Running’s as much a mental game as it is physical,” he said.
Van Heest started as a sprinter, “but I didn’t make it,” he said, and turned to cross-country, following in the footsteps of his older brother, whom he said he admires. “And I’ve been doing it ever since,” added Van Heest, who is further following in his brother’s footsteps by becoming team co-captain.
Like Bingham, Van Heest has also seen a noticeable improvement in his running over his four years, and also like Bingham, plans to continue running after graduation. “It’s really fun,” he said, adding, “and I like a challenge.”
And part of that challenge, not only for Van Heest, but for the rest for the team as well, is facing the stiffer competition of the Large division. “The expectation going in was that there are certain teams we will compete with, and there are certain teams where we’ll learn from the experience,” said Lucas. In any case, though, he said that this year’s team differs from some past teams in that they are not intimidated.
“This team is really, really positive about everything,” he said. They weren’t nervous about the competition heading into their first meet, in which they beat St. Bernard and Lyman Memorial, losing only to perennial powerhouse Norwich Free Academy. “They were more nervous about this being their first race of the year than they were about who they were running against,” said Lucas.