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Silently rooting for personal-best performances

Mascenic’s McGurk, Fafard to complete against top runners in New England

I don’t know if you have ever been to a big cross-country meet, but it can get a little intense.

Over the last two weekends, I have spent part of my Saturday watching high school runners push their bodies to the limit at the divisional cross-country meets and Meet of Champions. And the fans have been great with raucous cheering and cow bells at what seems like ever turn.

I don’t cheer. Never have when I’m on assignment. It is just a personal and professional standard that I follow very closely and one that every journalist should. Obviously I want the locals to do well. It makes my job easier when the story is of success and not heartbreak.

So even though my rooting interest at those races was not broadcast for all to hear, I certainly wanted nothing more than for every runner from our coverage area to do well. This is not professional sports. These are young student athletes who are building their resume for the hope of continuing their careers at the college ranks. How could you not want them to look adversity in the face and laugh?

And while I will not be at Twin Brook Recreation Center in Cumberland, Maine on Saturday, sight of the New England High School Cross Country Championships, I certainly will have an interest in how the day plays out for Mascenic runners Elizabeth McGurk and Tim Fafard. Both have strung together some incredible races this year and a good showing on Saturday would be the perfect way to end the season. It also would have been nice if a few members of the ConVal girls cross-country team could have joined them, but there is always next year.

With the trip almost three hours each way, it would be a long journey to have it end in disappointment. Even though getting to this point should make whatever happens on Saturday just an added bonus, the competitive nature that drives Fafard and McGurk tells me anything less than a season best would be difficult to take.

For McGurk, this is a much better way to end her high school career than the disappointment she felt after the Division III race on Oct. 27. McGurk finished fourth overall, but her time was not nearly what she had hoped for. But by qualifying for Meet of Champions, she had a chance at redemption and did the senior ever take advantage of it. Not only did McGurk place 23rd to earn one of the final qualifying spots for New Englands, but she set a new personal best.

And as for Fafard, he may just be a sophomore, but he is running like an experienced senior. He jumped from 10th to third in D-III in just one year, passing five of the seven returning runners who finished ahead of him in 2011. Then on Saturday, Fafard rose to the challenge of the state meet by finishing seventh and tops among the sophomore class.

Neither have ever made it to the New England Championships, so there will likely be some nerves that go along with a meet of that magnitude. This race will feature the best runners in all of New England and many that will some day be running for high level college programs. And as long as both Fafard and McGurk stick to the plan, they should do just fine.

They just have to remember that they belong in the meet. They earned their spots just like everyone else.

And as for those inspiring fans, McGurk and Fafard will certainly have a few cheering them along the course, and not just their coach Mike Smith, who sprints around and shouts out instructions every chance he gets. They will also have one here waiting patiently to see the results.

The fact they are in this position is a testament to their hard work, and not just this season. These two work extremely hard at their craft all year long and it is always great to see when that type of effort pays off.

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