2000 Awards Winners

2000 letterwinners: Jeremy Huckins, Tyler Matzke, Andrew Milne, Eric Arnstein, Mike Walsh, Terence Sweeney, Jeff Samson, Isaac Harris, Andrew Mueller, Jon Holdsworth, Ruby Weldon, Alice Field, Audrey Ritter, Katie Racicot, Carrie Constant, Ann Courtemanche.

2000 Ironrunners (runners who finished every race in which they were eligible to compete): Tyler Denison, Meghan Fitzgerald, Randi Hardiman, Ann Courtemanche, Mike Walsh, Eric Arnstein, Terence Sweeney, Jeff Samson, Ruby Weldon, Alice Field, Katie Racicot.

Most Improved Runner

Because it's my privilege to dole out awards, it's also my privilege to invent them and to decide the rules for their distribution. Traditionally, certain awards are given based on performances spanning more than one season, as was the case with last year's Most Improved Runner Award. This year, because of an ongoing story that became more compelling as the season wore on, I changed the rules.

"Most improved" calls to mind lower times, higher places - numerical data easy to drape an award around. But the runner who received this award in 2000 didn't merely make amazing progress up the place ladder as the season progressed. This runner also became a competitor. For this runner, improving meant not only swifter times, but freedom from fear, fire in the eyes, and even a certain joy in the act of training and racing. I didn't just watch someone get faster, I watched someone with a plain dislike for running suffer through September practices - and smile after a tough race only a month later. As a result, this award was especially gratifying for me, the coach who watched this remarkable metamorphosis. The 2000 Most Improved Runner Award went to CARRIE MERRIFIELD.

Rookie of the Year

Bishop Brady does not have the luxury of a so-called feeder program. As a result, the cross-country team rarely knows what it's getting when a new pair of legs shows up. It would be very difficult to top the contributions of 2000's newcomers.

Last May, I was scanning online race results when I saw that a 16-year-old kid from Franklin had finished well in his hometown 5K road race. It was with some degree of shock that a few days later, I learned he was walking the halls of BBHS. After a few inquiries I discovered why he wasn't a cross-country runner; he was a running back. Right away I tried to figure out how to cure him of this dread condition.

As it happened, his mind, battered by the phenomenal number of hits that eventually transformed him into the folk hero known as "Brady Boy," was already leaning in the direction of running cross-country. Watching him run the for first time, I realized the depth of his potential, and sure enough, once the season was underway, he started rising through the team ranks. But he proved to be much more than just a remarkable athlete; he blossomed into one of our spiritual leaders immediately. Here was someone who loved to compete and could only make those around him better. A lesser group of kids than ours might have resented the sudden appearance of someone who led the way for our boys' team during the championship season, but not Brady's crew.

However, before I could blindly give away the Rookie of the Year award, I had to consider another newcomer. Like her male counterpart, she's blond, talented, a gritty competitor, and very low key (that's a joke). She was the kind of runner bound to succeed no matter what sort of training she did; the kind of runner, in other words, that makes other people think her coach must know his stuff. As a freshman, she was our number-one runner in all but two races, and her 6th-place finish at the Class I State Meet was the highest by a girl at BBHS since individual titlist and New England champion Beth Clark's in 1977. What we saw this year was just the first hint of what promises to be an incredible career.

Faced with an impossible dilemma, I ultimately decided to give the award for Rookie of the Year to both RUBY WELDON and TYLER MATZKE.

Most Valuable Runner

As far as the NHIAA is concerned, we, of course, have two distinct cross-country teams - one for the girls, another for the boys. Without question, however, a great deal of Brady's success is predicated on its unity and internal support: The two teams effectively function as one. So when I speak of the young runner whose contributions to the team in 2000 truly stand out, I refer not only to what transpired out on the course, but to tangible and intangible factors that helped advance BBHS XC in a number of ways.

This runner not only crossed the finish line first overall on two occasions, but provided a measure of leadership and optimism that was contagious. She made a point to invite all new team members into the Brady family on the first day of practice by introducing herself with a smile, and with her parents' help, provided a means for our athletes to purchase new warm-ups. In the second year of her captaincy - not her last, by the way - she also took her own running to a completely new level and ran the best race of all our runners at the Meet of Champions. She's the second half of one of best returning 1-2 punches in New Hampshire. The Most Valuable Runner Award for 2000 went to ALICE FIELD.

Quenton Cassidy (Lifetime Achievement) Award

First of all, I was spoiled in my first several seasons at Brady. In what I think of as four full seasons in the 1999-2000 scholastic year (boys' and girls' track, boys' and girls' XC), I did not have to say goodbye to a single graduating senior. Remarkably, that trend continued this year with the girls' XC team, who lose no one to graduation in 2001. Not so, sadly, with the boys.

The day of my first-ever Brady practice, I had just finished signing some forms for Suzanne Walsh when, in this cafeteria, I first met the two runners who would be the boys' team's captains in 1999 and 2000. They were juniors then, obviously enthusiastic, full of questions and eager to get things started. That casual conversation was my first inkling that coaching XC would be as involved and rewarding as I had hoped.

One of those two runners went on to represent us in the 1999 Meet of Champions and also had an outstanding track season, qualifying for the state meet in all three distance events.

The average human being can likely appreciate the supreme physical and emotional effort that goes into the execution of a cross-country race. What most fail to take into account, however, is the energy and dedication it takes to bring an athlete to the line prepared to serve his own will, and the raw desire that underlies months and months of training when no one is watching besides a runner's own conscience. At these times he is accountable only to some inner voice that will not settle for anything less than better, faster, and more. These runners pound out eight, nine, ten mile days one after another while others sit indoors, stare into space and plan how good they might become "someday." I've coached for only a couple of years but I've watched runners for a lot longer than that, and I'm not convinced this is a teachable trait. It is a gift.

Happily, our teams expanded beyond expectations this year. There was much for us to see as new team members found themselves and blossomed into competitive runners for the first time. And so it was somewhat quietly that our top runner went about constructing the best season by a Brady runner since I was in high school in the mid- to late 1980's. He kicked off the season with a win in the sweltering heat at the CAXC preview meet. In his next four races his only loss, as it were, was to the eventual state champion.

Driven runners assume a burden of risk. That they might crumble under the strain of their expectations, or their training. As the season turned the corner and headed for home, our front man started breaking down. The knee, mostly, a few other spots - and then a bad tumble at the CAXC. He was too proud to tell me this, as driven runners often are, and so I questioned his desire, as coaches often do when they have star runners on their hands. And so when this runner rebounded with a fantastic 15th-place effort at the Class I Meet to help carry us into the Meet of Champs, it may not have been his fastest race, precisely, but it was perhaps his best, and to me his most moving. And so, still not 100%, he came back to fight one more time.

From John L. Parker's runner-cult classic novel, Once a Runner: "He had lost in the final straight before, but not as much as he had wonÖsuch matters were settled weeks, months, years before, on the training fields, on the morning workout missed here or made up there. Heart has nothing to do with it. In the final straight, everyone has heart."

For purposes of the casual observer, we can call this the Lifetime Achievement Award - that fits as well as any mundane label. But of course its real name is the Quenton Cassidy Award, and of course the runner it went to is JEREMY HUCKINS.

J.P. Savoie Award

(For details regarding this very special award, click here.)

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