CAMBRIDGE — There are no invitationals to build toward.
The Bayside Conference, regional and state championships will not be held during this compressed fall season.
Heck, Wednesday’s cross country dual meet between host Cambridge-South Dorchester High and Kent Island — longtime ruler of the conference championships — wasn’t even held on the Vikings’ normal 3-mile course — The Jungle off Egypt Road.
“I miss The Jungle,” Cambridge-SD head coach Sean Reincke said of his home course, site of the annual conference championships, which is now a treacherous trek at best thanks to Mother Nature’s winter touch. “That upsets me not being able to be over there.”
Reincke wasn’t the only one missing The Jungle.
“I really wanted to do that. That’s like what I was looking forward to most this season,” Kent Island senior Finn Walsh said of The Jungle, where he set the course record at the 2019 Bayside championships (15 minutes, 28.54 seconds), then lowered it again eight days later while winning the Class 2A East Region title (1:24.72). “Guess I can’t do it this year.”
What Walsh has already done this year is break the Kent Island course record during last Wednesday’s season-opening meet, clocking a 15:37.
“Actually I was not expecting to do that time,” said Walsh, who was runner-up at the 2019 2A state championship meet. “I was like, ‘Guess I’ll go out and try for sub-17, or something like that.’ I just think all the elements were right that day, and just went for it.”
But other than trying to lower their times from week to week, or chase personal records, Walsh and others have changed their goals this cross country season with no titles to pursue since the COVID-19 pandemic erased the normal fall season.
“Honestly it’s mostly my team because I know we’re not having states or regionals,” said Walsh, who ran a first-place 15:43 yesterday to lead the Bucs to a 23-41 victory over Cambridge-SD in the boys’ competition. “So for me it’s my senior season, there’s not much like I can do to make that better.
“What I can do though is, I can create a good team environment,” Walsh added. “Because that’s what I kind of got my freshman year. And that’s why I fell in love with the sport, because everyone was so accepting, and everybody wanted to work hard together. For me to keep up that team environment is my greatest goal this year.”
Cambridge-SD junior John Condon, who ran a second-place 16:34, has his sights set on a family matter.
“What’s driving me this year is I’ve always wanted to surpass by brother’s time of 16:17,” John said in reference to his older brother Jeffrey. “Last year I ran a 16:19, I was real close to it, but I never did accomplish that. And this year that’s my goal.
“I also wanted to do states,” Condon continued. “But they didn’t have it, so now I’m just racing to be with my friends because I hadn’t seen them in almost a year now. And it’s great to be able to race with them, have the camaraderie of my friends. And it’s also nice to compete with other teams like Kent Island.”
Condon admitted Walsh provided a bit more incentive yesterday.
“Chasing Finn is really fun because it’s not every day that you get to race somebody that fast,” Condon said. “And it’s nice to be able to go from one step to the next, trying to get faster every time. And with having people to race with it’s a lot easier stay with them and get motivated.”
Kent Island sophomore Sarah Van Ornum won the girls’ competition with a time of 20:29 — outdistancing teammate and runner-up Reese Delp (20:55) — but is focused on dropping her time as the season progresses.
“I was looking for a 21 flat and I think I got that,” Van Ornum said. “I want to get sub-20 this year by the end of the season. Just trying to maintain what I had last year (19:48 was her PR in 2019).
Minus the usual objectives, Kent Island head coach Kristen Park and Reincke have adjusted their focuses this season, but noted certain core values remain the same.
“It’s basically about times, getting as fast as you can in the next four weeks,” said Park, whose boys’ team has won 10 straight Bayside titles while the girls have won eight of the past nine conference crowns, including the past four. “Setting the baseline and just getting faster and faster. And of course setting ourselves up for track.
“It’s definitely been a different year for these kids, and they’ve definitely been out of their element,” Park added. “Just getting them back into a routine is what’s really counting right now, and reminding them of what we do and why we do it.”
Reincke, who led Cambridge-SD’s girls to a Class 1A state title in 2013, is taking this season has as a chance to build.
“My approach with my kids has been that this is an opportunity to get in shape together that we wouldn’t have had in normal times because they would have been doing track,” Reincke said. “And not all of my (cross country) runners do track. So I said, ‘Look, we’re just going to get in shape together.’ I said, ‘Most of us are out of shape.’ John (Condon) and Macleane (Doty) ran all winter. They look great. The rest of us did not. We’re going to get in shape together. You get to race, which normally when you’re training you don’t get to race, you just got to train.
“Just trying to turn it into legit positives, not lying,” Reincke continued. “This is a great opportunity. They can do their spring sport if they do, if not they can keep running and we go right into summer. And I have a lot of juniors that will be seniors and I’m hoping we get a normal fall. So it could be perfect.”
Notes: Doty (18:08) placed third in the boys’ race followed by nine Kent Island runners, including Brady Medeiros (18:33) in fourth and Trey Donnelly (19:14) in fifth … The Bucs took the top three spots in the girls’ race, with Jules Biggam taking third in 23:12. Cambridge-SD’s Gizelle San was fourth in 26:34, while Kent Island’s Jenna Scalia also clocked a 26:34, finishing fifth. … Cambridge-SD did not have a complete girls’ team.
SSPP 12, Annapolis Area 6
EASTON — Caroline McKelvy had four goals and two assists, and Emmary Sweeney netted five goals and an assist as Saints Peter and Paul won its season-opener.
Hattie Messick scored a goal and set up three others for the Sabres, and Joy Perry added a goal and one assist.