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ST Award winners will receive free keychains courtesy of the NA Track Alumni Association

The problem with announcing categories ahead of time is that I suddenly am confronted with tough decisions. My loyal readers have given me a lot of good recommendations. Choices are tough!

Those people who have e-mailed me nominations have influenced me greatly, although I must admit that watching the Class Meets in the snow last Saturday was the deciding factor in some cases. Once I sorted out the winners I also realized that many of the runners in this league who deserve recognition didn't fit smoothly into any category.

Imagine not having a spot for Jill Sergi, Adam Derfelt or Marianne Mealey.

Naming all those people who I felt deserving but unrewarded would open up even more contention. Instead I will just say that I was inspired by the efforts of all the nominees, and maybe I'll find categories in indoor track or outdoor track that meet their special talents.

Dolly Madison “Social Award”
Galileo “Newest Star Award”

Jackie Oates (Oliver Ames)

When you are captain of the OA cross country team, you are filling some important shoes. You are expected to be an exceptional athlete, lead your team to the state finals and be a likable person as well. Jackie was all this and more. Being first lady at the White House is easy compared to this. As one of her nominators said, "She has carried her team on her back and done it well. She is still tough as nails and as nice as they come."

Jackie is so darn nice that when I recently called her Rachel she didn't even correct me. But when she needs to be tough she is, like at the Class B meet where she laughed at the snow and beat a dozen people who had faster times at Franklin Park.

The White House once had a different Jackie as first lady. In fact, Jackie Bouvier Kennedy ended up asJackie "O". Yet, she doesn't have to worry that Oates will upstage her as one of the most popular first ladies ever. If Oates makes it to the Oval Office it will be as president.

Ryan Collins (Mansfield)

Ryan Collins is the heir apparent to Dan Darcy. That is a lot of pressure to put on a sophomore that barely stands 5'6". Yet, his second place finish in the Class C meet burns brightly.

As Galileo once said, "Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so." So maybe Ryan isn't the tallest cross country runner in the Hockomock League. But I defy his challengers to measure his heart.

Ryan carries the heart of a champion and pulsing through those veins is pure green liquid. When the chips are down and other players are ready to fold, Ryan's answer is no bluff. He knows he holds the winning hand.

When he lays down his cards, this is what you see. An ace of a distance base. The king of interval workouts. Every queen in the Hockomock loves his blond hair. A jack-of-all-xc courses. And as a tenth grader he has two more years of domination ahead. That's a royal flush for success.

Susan B. Anthony “Money Runner”
Lewis & Clark “Wilderness Award”

Kate Rizzolo (Franklin)

When it comes to putting your money where your feet are, Kate Rizzolo has few challengers. If the outcome of a meet is secure, Kate is content to sit on her savings and pretend she is just one of a host of better runners in the league.

But when it comes to crunch time "Rizz the Biz" puts all her money down and outspends the competition. You see, when it comes to running Kate just has more assets than most. If Coach Sweeney says, "Hey Kate, I'm a little short this week", she is quick to reply, "Don't worry coach. I've got you covered."

It appeared that Concord-Carlisle would outspend Franklin at the Class B meet so Riz broke open the bank and spent her way into second place.

I hear the "Franklin Mint" is going to forge a new coin. Riz is on both sides!

Matt Meagher (Mansfield)

Lewis Meriweather was once called "the greatest pathfinder ever known” On Saturday the conditions at Franklin Park were nothing short of deplorable. It looked a little grim for the Hornets. They were in the toughest and most important cross country meet of their life, and they could barely see where to go.

Matt Meagher led the way. Through snow and cold he didn't waver. In the end he became the first to reach the finish line. And he also got his team home safely to a Class C win and a trip to Gardner.

As one of his biggest fans wrote, "One word- NORTHfield! He claimed it was his favorite course ever."

Now he has a new quest. Matt is determined to lead Mansfield to a level of success they have never before seen!

Nellie Bly   “Trailblazer Award”
Albert Einstein "Smartest Athlete Award"

Emily Tran (Sharon)

Nellie Bly was among other things a newspaper writer who became a household name by doing things women weren't supposed to do.

Maybe this award should be for the antithesis of Nellie Bly. Times have changed and anyone who feels that there are things better done by men, well don't get me started!

Emily Tran did everything she should have. She led a Sharon XC resurgence by showing her teammates the way to excellence. Some people may have thought that Sharon should remain a middle of the pack team. Emily thought otherwise.

I also saw a year ago that if Sharon stayed healthy they would be an irresistable Hockomock force. Tran trampled her competition.

Most of her competitors can't see that she runs with a smile on her face because frankly, they are looking at her backside when she runs.

Here's the bad news for her rivals. Next year she's back!


Nate Sharpe (Canton)

Albert Einstein = Intelligence. He also left us with a host of remarkable insights into life. Here are his quotes and how they relate to this year's winner.

"The only source of knowledge is experience."

Nate uses each race as a test of his own ability and uses the knowledge received to determine his strategy for the next race.

"The bitter and the sweet come from the outside, the hard from within, from one's own efforts."

Nate has shown time and again that he is the master of his own fate.

"The legs are the wheels of creativity."

Who knew Albert and Nate were on the same wave length?

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."

Nate uses challenges to make himself better!

"Many times a day I realize how much my own life is built on the labors of my fellowmen, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received."

Nate is team oriented and appreciates the efforts of his compadres.

By the way. Nate got a 1590 on his SATs and is looking at Princeton, Yale, and MIT.

Any Questions!

Calamity Jane “Team Savior Award”
Louis Pasteur "Remedy Award"
No Picture Available

Kate Meagher (Mansfield)

Calamity Jane is credited with riding into the middle of an Indian uprising to rescue the commander who had been wounded and had fallen off his horse.

A year ago I had no idea who this girl was. Mansfield was on the verge of state level success as a team. Then disaster struck. One of their key runners developed asthmatic problems at the most inopportune time (not that there is ever an opportune time).

Kate chose the perfect time to emerge and northrunning noticed with the following comment. "Perhaps the biggest surprise for Franklin was the performance of Mansfield's unheralded Kate Meagher. Meagher held off the best of the rest from "Big Blue" including one of the toughest head to head runners."

Unforunately for Mansfield, they still lost the battle. But not Saturday. Kate hopped on her white stallion again and this time rode in with a 10th place finish in Class C that was instrumental in leading them to a 3rd place finish.

Matt Gannon (Franklin)

Louis Pasteur worked tirelessly to solve the most pressing medical conundrums of his day.

He understood that the answer to important questions weren't always readily available when he said, "Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity."

With all the problems I had picking this award, it was these simple words that made it a no-brainer.

Matt Gannon was not blessed with the level of talent that makes it easy to excel. Most of us aren't!

What makes him different than most is that he just won't let go of the idea that he can be great. He's not just out there everyday plugging away for no reason - he is reaching for the solution to his problem.

That is - How to be the BEST!

Betsy Ross “Team Symbol Award”
Leonardo da Vinci "Masterpiece Award"

Ashley Willox (North Attleboro)

Perhaps this nominator drew the connection best. "Ashley, like Betsy, works at adding stars to shine along with her."

You can't think of NAXC without thinking of Ashley. There wouldn't even be a team without her. Ashley Willox was the sole returning athlete from last year - the rest were seniors. She "recruited and motivated 6 new athletes to success."

Her competitors were quick to recognize her influence. "After racing her she was the first to shake my hand and then lead her team for a cool down." Willy knows how to wear the red and white with pride.

As her coach I couldn't ignore what she meant to the team, and also what she did to mold each girl as an individual. Ashley expected each to give her best and helped them discover what pursuing excellence is all about. I can't imagine suggesting a better symbol for our team.

But then, Ashley is Ashley. Let me share a letter from her aunt.

"Ashely Willox is my niece. Her Uncle Jamie Willox, my husband, passed away just over a year ago. Since Jamie died, Ashley has had a tremendous impact on me and on my son Cameron. I have watched Ashley work hard at home, at school, at track and at dance. Ashley never gives up, even when she is down, not well or injured. But, it hasn't just been just for herself that she hasn't let up ... it is for her friends and her teamates ... it has been for Cameron and I, her family. I admire my niece in more ways than I can explain. Ashley has
been an inspiration. She is always positive, always supportive and always giving. There have been many times in the last year that Ashley has inspired me to pick myself up, take a deep breath and take another step. At the same time she has been helping me and taking on all the challenges of her personal and
academic life ... she has been hurting too. To me, Ashley Willox is a true example of the "Team Symbol Award". You can never do it alone!"

Dan Darcy (Sharon)

Dan is Sharon's perpetual motion machine (a concept that Leonard spent years trying to develop. Dan also understands that putting together a masterpiece takes time.

This season was his Sistene Chapel. He paid attention to every brush stroke. He laid on practice after practice with the finest craftsmanship he could muster.

As da Vinci once wrote, "Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind."

Dan is not one to "sap the vigors of the mind."

His feet are always in motion - and faster than his Hockomock League competition can match.

Unfortunately his rivals rarely got the chance to witness the masterpiece in the making. By the time they got to the finish his paint had dried!


Sacagawea "Wilderness Award"
Winston Churchill "Leadership Award"

No Picture Available

Kailin Collins (Mansfield)

One picture is worth a thousand words. Kailin Collins is coming down the last slope entering the finish at Franklin Park. There is roughly 600M to the end and Alexandra Krieg is sitting on her. Each has spent hundreds of miles preparing for this moment.

Krieg would desperately like to be Class Champion. Collins is carrying the hopes of her team and the pride of the Hockomock League on her shoulders.

No contest! Kailin leads Mansfield to the State Finals. The terrible weather; the harsh conditions only tilt the odds in her favor. She's ready to lead Mansfield into previously uncharted territory.

As one of her teammates says, "The girls call her 'psycho' for a reason. - She is a tremendous athlete that excels under any conditions."

The course at Gardner provides some hardships of its' own. Lead On!

Mike Caeran (Mansfield)

This was another of those difficult awards. Every team has someone that they look to. Sometimes it is the captain - but not always. When I look at Mansfield I see a host of leaders. Each had their role in creating team success. But Mike Caeran has a few qualities that Winston Churchill would appreciate.

Churchill said, "If you're going through hell, keep going.".

"It's no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary." and "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

Mansfield was in for some difficult times this year. It is during the difficult times that there needs to be a clear sign as to what it takes to persevere. Who gave it?

"Nuff said"

Maria Mitchell "Newest Star Award"
Orville Wright "Flying Finish Award"

Stacie Binney (Oliver Ames)

Right up until Saturday I had another runner in mind. Not that I didn't appreciate what Stacie had done, but I had my eyes on a couple of freshmen.

Her outstanding finish on Saturday was the deciding factor. Sophomores should still be a little intimidated at the State Meet - even more so when the weather is bad. But "super B" buzzed the competition and placed 11th overall, less than a minute under 2nd place.

What did my rereaders have to say? "Where did she come from?! Only a sophomore and #8 in the league this year."

Since when does 8th in your league convert to 11th in your Class C.

A new star has been discovered. And it didn't take a telescope to do it!

Fjodor Melnikov (Foxboro)

The Wright brothers flew through the smoke screen of impossibility. Author: Dorothea Brande American Success Writer

As a few of my readers told me, "How could it not be? The kid has 51 second 400 speed and a monstrous stride. - I know from experience, he blew by me at Hocks on the last stretch."

If they are side by side with 400M left to go Fjodor will blow the doors off the competition. The only way to pull the wind from under his wings is to get a big lead - a very, very big lead.

Amelia Earhart “Flying Finish Award”
Thomas Paine "Die for the Team" Award
No Picture Available

Katie Brague ( Mansfield)

"Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace with yourself." These are the words of Amelia Earhart, one of the world's most celebrated aviators, a woman who broke records and charted new waters.

She also said, "Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn't be done."

KTB continues to do what can't be done. She flew across the frozen tundra at Franklin Park to a time equal to her good weather PR. Her next flight is scheduled for Saturday in Gardner.

Maybe she will keep in mind the words of this famous aviatrix. "The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do."


Brendan Monks (Mansfield)

Thomas Paine was best known for developing the theory of the rights of man, and he wrote 'Common Sense', which was a pro-revolution pamphlet.

And "common sense" is what I heard from a lot of my readers. "This kid just loves cross country - did cross country every year and for his freshman, sophomore, and junior year (weren't great) , but kept at it and really improved senior year, many other people would have given up or quit in his situation."

But he didn't quit because he was working toward a cause he believed in . As Thomas Paine put it, "It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself."

In the end, it didn't matter who believed in him as long as he believed in himself. That belief was proven justified as he became a critical part of the success of his team.


Annie Oakley “Crowd Favorite Award”
William Bradford "Trailblazer Award
No picture available

Kailin Collins (Mansfield)

Annie was a rodeo star that was one of the most facinating and loved women of her time.

I like to spread out the awards and recognize as many people as possible. But if I've got to watch someone that isn't wearing red win, it has to be Kailin.

Dave Binney (Oliver Ames)

There are some obvious differences between Dave Binney and William Bradford, the least of which is that within the Hockomock League more people know the former than the latter.

William Bradford led a disheveled crew to life in a totally new world. Dave Binney is helped his team re-discover a world Oliver Ames once controlled.

That isn't an easy task as evidenced by these words. "With all the studs gone, the team looks to him for leadership in the next couple of years. He has stepped up big time for his team, and he's only a junior. There is so much more to come from him."

This Thanksgiving there will be more than one teammate celebrating because Dave led them back to State Finals.


There is one more mystery winner that will be announced next week. I heard something about a runner that just blew me away. It can't go unrecognized.