A team of young runners based at Bradford Elementary School has been running fast and flying high, literally.
On Dec. 14, members of the Bradford Huskies youth certified USA Track & Field Travel Cross Country team flew to San Antonio, Texas to compete in the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships.
It is the most elite youth cross country competition in the country, said head coach, Matthew Castonguay.
The results were impressive for such a young group. The team of fleet-of-foot youngsters worked hard to get there and maintained a positive attitude, which carried the day, Castonguay said.
“They understand that to be a highly competitive cross country runner, it’s more about the mind than the body,” he said. “You need to stay positive and tell yourself that you can do it.”
Eight members of the Huskies age 9 and 10 team along with a 12-year-old member competed at the Junior Olympics event. They were: Benjamin Craven, 9; Connor Flynn, 9; James Crippen, 9; Ean LaRochelle, 9; Ryan Connolly, 9; Patrick Connolly, 10; Joseph Gallo, 10; Collin Daugherty, 10, and Connor Alessi, 12.
Connor Alessi was the Huskies’ top finisher. He competed in a field of 391 runners and finished 69th with a time of 11:00 on the 3K course.
Alessi, a seventh grader at the Hunking Middle School, said it was “awesome” to travel to Texas and meet new people. He said he felt excited and nervous at the same time.
“I ate as healthy as I could and got lots of rest and I practiced five days a week,” Alessi said about preparations for the event.
The Huskies’ 9 and 10-year-old boys division came in 16th place overall in a field of 28 teams. The group did not qualify for the national event last year.
It takes a lot of resources to send a team of kids across the country. In the case of the Huskies, the team holds three fundraising events each year to help pay their dues, including USATF and AAU membership and competition fees, and travel lodging. Their families pay the cost of transportation and often accompany them on these trips.