NORTH ADAMS -- The McCann Tech boys’ cross country team already knows what the result of their first meet will be.
The team will lose to Gateway on Sept. 11.
They don’t have any other choice. Even if the top four finishers are all wearing a McCann jersey, the Hornets can’t claim the meet.
With only four runners on the team, the Hornets don’t qualify as a team. A cross country team must have five runners in order to score. Any number less than five results in an automatic forfeit.
A fifth runner, no matter his ability, would essentially save the team’s season.
If they can’t recruit a fifth runner, the season will not be a total loss, though; they can still race as individuals. That’s what coach Todd Hamilton has been focusing on through the first few weeks of the season.
"It’s a team sport because the team gets a score, but it’s all geared towards the individual," Hamilton said. "When you train, you train with your own time and your own goals in mind. As far as the team goes, they bond as a group, hang out as friends and encourage each other. It’s a team atmosphere, but when it’s time for the race, most runners go for themselves."
At the end of the season, there are several races that both teams and individuals can qualify for. McCann competes in the Pioneer Valley, so they attend the Pioneer Valley individuals as well as the Western
The individual focus is nice, but junior Justin Schnieder is still focused on improving as a team.
"Even though we don’t qualify as a team, it’s still trying to get everyone better," he said, still sweating after a long team run Tuesday afternoon. "We’re still working as a team rather than being four individuals. Yea, we don’t have enough to compete, but we’re still trying to get everyone better.
"We’re going to still run as a team at the meets and act like a team, and act like we’re competing. We are, we just don’t get a score."
With the first meet still about a week away and school not starting until today, the possibility exists that the team could add some runners.
Hamilton is hoping that Jess Tatro, a teacher at McCann and the team’s assistant coach, can help recruit some runners, specifically freshman. Hamilton says they have already had a few freshman show interest, but the key is getting them onto the course.
"Anyone can be a runner," Schneider said. "You just have to be focussed and want to do it. It’s great too if you’re playing basketball. I play basketball, so if guys aren’t playing a fall sport and want to stay in shape, cross country is a great way to do that."
Kyle Parada is also a basketball player looking to be in better shape. He has asthma and saw running cross country as a way to help control it. Last fall, he tried playing football as a way to be prepared for basketball. This year he is giving the wooded trails around Windsor Lake a shot at helping him prepare for the basketball court.
"If you run cross country, you will not tire, and you will be stronger in the fourth quarter than everyone else on the basketball court, guaranteed," Hamilton said. "It’s just a fact. Anyone who has run cross country and gone on to play basketball, has noticed a distinct difference in how competitive they are in the fourth quarter compared to those who didn’t run."
Brandon Smith and Mitchell Garner are the other two runners for the Hornets this year. Hamilton says both entered the preseason in good shape and is hoping to see both improve as the season progresses.
All four members of the team, along with Tatro, will be heavily recruiting during the first week of school, trying to encourage anyone to come and help the team. Hamilton prefers to have people who have never run before. He believes he is better with training new runners, such as Parada.
"Every year I have a brand new runner," he said. "And every year they improve throughout the season."