(Fifth in a series in which the Globe profiles a varsity high school team from Eastern Massachusetts.)
Defending an All-State title is never easy, but that’s the task at hand for the Concord-Carlisle boys’ cross-country team.
The Patriots are coming off capturing the title with an average time of 17 minutes, 3.1 seconds on the 5-kilometer course at Stanley Park in Westfield last November. Powered by senior captain and Globe All-Scholastic Will Chaffin, the Patriots are excited to welcome an influx of new runners in pursuit of a repeat.
Coach Mary McCabe estimates there are more than 25 new runners on the team this season, most of which are freshmen.
“We try to allow the freshmen to be freshmen and enjoy the process and keep their mileage down,” McCabe said.
Alongside Chaffin, senior captains Aidan Ih, Kierthan Lathrop, and Will Crounse are focused on maintaining the culture that propelled the team last year. It seems to be working, as the Patriots had first-place finishers in the varsity, JV, and freshman races at the Amherst Invitational at Hampshire College.
Here are five things you might not know about Concord-Carlisle boys’ cross-country:
Chaffin is serious about running, there’s no doubt.
“Running takes up a lot of my time,” said the senior captain, “so it’s really hard to find time after school for anything other than running and homework.”
So, when does Chaffin find the time to pursue his other passions? That’s easy. Before school.
Chaffin is the founder and president of the Concord-Carlisle High’s Civil War Club, which meets every Wednesday before school. Between 10 and 15 students show up every week, Chaffin said, and he asks that members come prepared to present on a topic associated with the Civil War.
Rivers & Revolutions
Chaffin isn’t the only self-proclaimed history buff on the team. McCabe is also a social studies teacher at the school.
McCabe also works with Rivers & Revolutions, a program within Concord-Carlisle High that brings together 50 juniors and seniors for what the school calls “a school within a school.”
The program seeks to break from traditional classroom norms, with a focus on experiential and interdisciplinary learning. Students go out into the real world to engage with local organizations, businesses, and natural landmarks, including a recent field trip to the Peabody Essex Museum.
Battle Road runs
The Dual County League provides great competition for the Patriots, and McCabe calls it “a great, great league with a history of long-distance runners.”
Running right through the DCL map is another historic road: The Battle Road, which cuts through Minute Man National Historic Park in Lexington and Concord. Every so often, the C-C runners will follow the trail for a practice.
For a team with so much interest in history, retracing the steps of Paul Revere’s ride is exciting. The Battle Road is also a favorite practice spot for many collegiate teams such as Boston College and Tufts, as well as professional runners training for the Boston Marathon.
“It’s one of our favorite spots to run,” Chaffin said. “There are frequently professional athletes that train out there.”
A jog through Battle Road is nothing compared to the journey of sophomore runner Nico Martinelli.
Martinelli’s father, Vincent, served in the Army and recently retired. Vincent’s work meant Martinelli moved a lot as a kid.
Martinelli moved to Paris in the second grade and lived there for four years. A yearlong stay in Virginia followed, and then Martinelli moved to the Netherlands at around age 13.
It was in the Netherlands — at the American School of the Hague — where running became a true passion. He moved back to his hometown of Concord last year, and has used running as a way to reintroduce himself to his classmates.
“It was a good way to meet new people,” Martinelli said. “Especially here.”
Martinelli is just one newbie in a mass of new faces for the Patriots.
“It’s exceptionally unusual,” McCabe said of the 25-plus new runners. “We’ve never had a season like this.”
After losing a bevy of seniors last year, it’s up to the older runners to reestablish a state championship-level culture.
“Trying to teach culture is not an easy thing,” McCabe said.
It’s runners such as Chaffin — as well as the other captains — that have to keep things in perspective.
“There’s a difference between fun times and serious times,” Chaffin said. “The challenge is being able to judge which is which.”
Matt MacCormack can be reached at email@example.com.