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January 09, 2021
New England Elite Boys Age 15-18 Team is December 2020 Athlete of the Month
National cross country age division winners cap successful season
New England Elite Boys 15-18 team
(Haverhill, MA) is USATF-New England’s Athlete of the Month for December 2020.
This comes in recognition of their performance at the Junior Olympic National Championships in Paris, Kentucky on December 12th and 13th, where, as a team, they took home first prize in their age divsion. Individually, Nathan Lopez (Lynnfield, MA) finished first in the 15-16 division in 15:35.8, and Ryan Young (Londonderry, NH) finished second in the 17-18 division in 15:39.4. Matt Griffin (Londonderry, NH) and Freddy Coleman (Methuen, MA) also finished in the top ten in their respective age divisions.
The race was Will Shahbazian’s (Andover, MA) last on the Junior Olympic circuit, as he will turn 19 before next year’s race. Notable performances were also turned in by Baxter and Isaac Gower-Hall (Sudbury, MA). Baxter finished fifth for New England Elite, sealing their two-point victory over Lake Grove of Indiana. The win marks New England Elite’s first Junior Olympic National Championship team victory.
USATF-NE spoke with the team about their performance.
Did you have any specific goals heading into the Junior Olympic National Championships?
Going in, I think the goal for me and the team was to try and get first overall in the team competition, which combines both 15-16 and 17-18. I was going to try and improve on my placement from the AAU championships the week before and try for top 3. maybe even go for the win.
: I think, as a team, we knew going into the meet, we had a really strong team. We knew that if we put it all together, we could do something really special. Our group of guys knew that all season. They all
worked really hard, especially as a group, to make sure we could accomplish that.
Will, this was your final year of Junior Olympic eligibility, how did it feel to finish your career with a National Championship?
I just wanted to get out and run a solid race to help the team in any way that I can. I’m not going to be running in college and I’m turning 19 before the next time, so this is my real last true cross country team race. I just wanted to do it with my teammates and go out on top, and I couldn’t ask for a better way to go out or a better group of guys to do it with.
Your team has been close to a championship before, namely two years ago, when you were the No.1 team going into the race. How did those past near-misses affect how you trained for and perceived this year's championship?
I’d say that, as a team, there was definitely some maturity about how we were going to get it together, how the season was going to look. I feel like we definitely just stuck to what the plan was: we were going to work really hard over the summer. I know most of us are in high school, so we didn’t exactly get to see each other that much, but when everything clicked and everything just kind of came together, especially running some smaller races and getting back into the flow of things race-wise, our guys came together and it worked out.
For most of this year, training as a team must have been difficult because of COVID-19. How were you able to stay motivated?
Running is fun. We had practice a couple times a week, we got to see our team then, but it’s really all about the national races. Luckily, before the national races, we were able to run on a really fast course here in New Hampshire in Nashua, and we ran some really fast times… The course in Kentucky was definitely more difficult because of the hills, the turns, and the footing was a little less solid, but we’re from New England, we’re used to stuff like that.
Most memorable moment?
I’d have to say that one of the most memorable moments for me was breaking 16 in the 5k as long as any of the other athletes here. It was a big goal for us. Winning this national championship was also a big goal, so those were big memorable moments.
For me, winning nationals was one of the most memorable moments of my running career, and for the team too. We were all working so hard, and had trained so long for it, and it just felt so good as a team to take the win.
Ryan, Coach Crapsey described you as a quiet but hard-working leader. As one of the older athletes on the team, how do you try to fill that roll?
I just work hard at practice. I wouldn’t consider myself as more of a leader than any other of these boys. We all work equally hard, we all put in the time and put in the work, but when it just comes down to the race, I’m always quiet before the race. I listen to my music, I just focus on the race only. I try my best.
Do you have any goals going into indoor track season?
Just continuing to improve with these guys at practice everyday, pushing us, pushing myself and everyone else. I aave no doubts that can happen.
Coach Crapsey, your team has accomplished a lot this season. Is there anything you’d really like to say about your guys?
I couldn’t be prouder of the way they competed together. You heard some of them talking about how they competed in Florida, and taking some of the learning--they all had excellent races in Florida as well--and taking those learnings and pushing them forward to the following week, and staying hungry and focused on the strategy.
The team they beat out of Indiana, Lake Grove, is a terrific team with a lot of history on the Junior Olympic circuit. These guys, they came to play. It was a game of fishing, and they absolutely came to play, especially over that last mile. There was a lot of jostling back and forth, but these guys really put it together in that last mile. Again, I couldn’t be prouder of how the race unfolded for each and every one of these guys.