Before her first season running for the revived Boston Public Schools citywide cross-country team last fall, Maria Lewis was a little uncertain about her new sport’s benchmarks.
“I thought an eight-minute mile was great but apparently it’s not that good,” the Fenway High senior said shortly before the team’s second season began this fall. “It’s like a beginner mile, so this year I’m aiming for like a 7:20 split. I would like my 3.1-mile time to drop a little more. So I’m definitely going to work a little harder this year.”
In just its second season, the team will take 14 athletes to Saturday’s EMass Division 1 meet at the Wrentham Development Center, including Raymond Chai, Ryan Cheung, Ryan Larapena, Sean Martinez, Shaquan Richards, Tayo Stuppard, Joseph West, Britney Firmin, Ashley Lewis, Leigha Mills, Imani Pressley, Asma Rivera, Ashley Rodriguez, and Ajia Salmon.
The city’s cross-country program was revived in 2003 by former O’Bryant runner Ruben Sanca, who represented Cape Verde in the 2012 London Olympics. When Sanca graduated in 2005, the city’s cross-country mantle was picked up by Charlestown runners Omar Aden and Ahmed Ali. But after Aden and Ali graduated and went on to run for the University of Arkansas and Providence College, respectively, the team fell by the wayside once again.
Last year, Snowden history teacher and track coach Pam Rose was tapped to restart the team.
“A lot of these runners were runners for outdoor track [last year] and they saw the benefits in their season a little bit earlier,” Rose said before this season started. “So they see the benefit and they are bringing in people as well and it’s spread across the team. And they know if they want to get better they need to do cross-country.
“For this year, we definitely learned a lot more about recruiting and getting kids and the types of kids, so the recruiting started during the outdoor season.”
The team also features several Seventh Day Adventists who are unable to compete on Saturday for religious reasons. Rose said she learned to deal with that.
“You can’t just rely on a few kids,” she said. “We just had to let it go and participate where we could participate and it worked out.”
Rose’s husband, Colin Rose, also helps coach the team. He said last year was difficult because all of the runners were doing cross-country for the first time.
“Right now, we’re going out for a half-hour run and they know how to pace themselves,” he said before a preseason workout. “It really is starting from second base instead of being in the dugout last year.”
Colin Rose said the next step will be to create internal competition on the team.
“We’re building a program -- we’re not going to be state champions this year,” he said. ”But if we can get a core of kids that are competing with each other, we should see some good results.”
While they might not win the state championship, their efforts on the course will pay off when it comes to the indoor track season this winter and the outdoor track season in the spring.
“I think it’s going to push me to do more of what I want to do this season because last season I didn’t really know what I was doing and I wasn’t really sure about the times and stuff,” Lewis said.
Lewis also said she’s proud to have helped revive the team.
“The bigger the team gets, the more proud you get," she said. "It’s like, ‘OK we started this. We’re leaving but we’re not leaving Ms. Rose with an empty hand.'
"We’re bringing in more people to come in and make the team bigger so we can make a bigger difference in Boston than we did last year.' ”
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.