Boys XCountry Team Aims for Perfection

Published in the October 29, 2008 issue of The Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster


The Nashoba Regional boys' cross country team knows something about what it must have been like for the 2007 New England Patriots, that feeling of a giant bull's eye on your back every time you take the field. Every week, every meet, some of the best runners in the state have taken aim. But so far, Nashoba has stayed perfect.

Dual meet wins over Wachusett and Shrewsbury last week brought the Chieftains' regular season record to 10-0, marking their second consecutive undefeated season. In the Central Massachusetts cross country coaches' poll on Oct. 25, they received a perfect score of 100 – meaning no other team received a first-place vote – up from 99 points the previous week and 98 two weeks prior.

Shrewsbury, now sixth, had been ranked as high as third in the Central Mass poll before its dual meet with Nashoba on Oct. 20. The Colonials were so focused on beating the Chieftains that they rested their top runners at the Wachusett Invitational the previous weekend so that they would be fresh for the Nashoba meet. Still, the Chieftains prevailed, 23-34, just two days after taking the Class B title at the invitational.

“There's a lot of pressure on these kids now,” said head coach Don Gribbons. “Everybody wants to beat them.”

But the Chieftains, like the Patriots, know a perfect regular season record doesn't mean much if a team doesn't come through in the post-season. Starting tomorrow, the Chieftains have a league title and a district title to defend, and a third-place finish at the state meet to improve upon. And, to a man, Nashoba's runners insist they haven't won anything yet.

“It's kind of nice to be the team that everyone looks at as a strong team that runs smart and runs well, and that people look to as the team to beat. And it's great to be on a team that's so good and part of a program that's so strong,” said Stow senior Nick Papanastassiou, one of three team captains. “But honestly our training is really more focused on districts and states. We really stay focused on the end of the season, and we view the dual meets as a means of preparing for that.”

Leading the charge—literally—have been Stow juniors Brendon Aylaian and Coby Horowitz. Aylaian has been turning heads in running circles since he won the mile event at the district outdoor track meet two springs ago, but has continued to improve, this year leading all runners at both the Wachusett Invitational and the McIntyre Invitational meet on Oct. 4.

Horowitz, a former soccer player in just his second year of competitive running, is matching Aylaian step for step. He's won the last three dual meets and set new course records on Nashoba's home course (Bower Springs) and at Algonquin.

Bitter rivals? These two are more like Bobsey twins. They run together in every race, and rarely finish more than a few seconds apart—usually with the rest of the pack far behind.

“We'll run off each other,” Aylaian said. “It's nice to have someone on the same team who's running right there with you. I know I'll always be behind him, or he'll always be behind me.”

So much for the loneliness of the long-distance runner.

“It's always a good feeling knowing it's going to be me and my teammate up there,” Horowitz said.

Other integral parts of the Chieftain machine include senior captain and 1000-meter track champion Joe Doyle, fellow senior captain Ramesh Govindan, Stow seniors Georges Fischer and Nick and Alex Papanastassiou, senior Marc MacLeod, and freshman phenom Reid Sullivan. What's most impressive about this group, Gribbons said, is the way the gap between the first and seventh runners has shrunk dramatically since the beginning of the season – which bodes well for the team's post-season run.

The Chieftains will defend their Mid-Wach B title tomorrow in Marlboro, then prepare to do the same Nov. 8 at the district meet in Gardner. The state meet will be Nov. 15 at Franklin Park in Boston.

And no matter what the coaches' polls say, the Chieftains insist that how they finish the season is what matters.

“I'd rather be ranked ninth in the state and end up placing third than be ranked third and place ninth,” Nick Papanastassiou said.


Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239