In her fourth season as coach of the Hopkinton High School boys cross country team, Laura McKenzie continues to be impressed by how hard her runners work during the offseason.
“Every year there is a culture, this team culture develops,” McKenzie said. “They do all the work over the summer. By the time I get them, they have already put the work in, and now we just have to keep them running strong.”
McKenzie said the Hillers, who graduated three of their top seven runners from last season, had well-attended captains practices during this offseason.
Senior captains Ben Scott and Connor Dorfman are running strong and have been leading the team well into the fall. Scott is one of the team’s top runners, and Dorfman is returning from offseason surgery; McKenzie said he will round into form as well with some patience. Junior captain Stephen Leighton is another of the team’s leaders.
Sophomores Sean Finnegan, Cam Arnold and Darian Leo and junior Ray Collins also are skilled runners who are expected to round out the Hopkinton lineup.
“They did a lot of miles this summer,” McKenzie said. “So it’s looking good, but now is the time to step up and fill some of these spots.”
The coach added that it’s a long season, so patience will be required.
“Patience is not always my strong suit,” she said with a chuckle. “But they are developing pretty well, they look good, we just have to keep them sharp and get them to November.”
Hopkinton has a number of long-term and short-term goals. The Hillers want to repeat as Tri-Valley League Large School Division champions and earn a spot in the state divisional meet and the Meet of Champions.
“They did it last year, so they know they can do it, even though we graduated some good runners,” McKenzie said. “That was the first time we had qualified for the Meet of Champions, so now that they know they can do it, it might be a little easier.”
Hopkinton will also benefit from a sizable roster, with more than 50 boys on the team. While the freshman class is a bit smaller than in past years, there is a strong group of sophomores.
“I am excited about some of my younger guys,” McKenzie said. “They want to be good. It’s always fun when you get kids who want to put the work in.”
McKenzie said there will be a continued focus on individual improvement and achieving personal best times.
“There is something for everybody in cross country, and that’s the part I like,” she said. “Ultimately, it’s about winning, winning the TVL, winning the showcase meet, but it’s about everybody else, too, and I think we have a really good culture. Everyone is in it for a different reason, and they are putting their best foot forward and racing.”