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Freshman runners get varsity initiation

Youngsters step up to cross country challenge
By: Cecil Conley Sports Editor
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Life as a high school freshman is not always fair. Three members of Lincoln’s cross country team can attest to that. Kyle Ebert, Leo Calderon and Dylan Toerpe compete with the varsity boys squad in Pioneer Valley League meets because they can score points for the Zebras. There is no chance of them winning the races, however. Lincoln will host the third and final PVL meet this season on Wednesday at the Twelve Bridges course. That will be another afternoon of the three freshmen attempting to keep pace with juniors and seniors. Head coach Doug Croall had no choice but to dip into the fountain of youth. Croall has just one senior and two juniors on his varsity boys team. The four sophomores are running cross country for the first time. To be competitive in PVL meets, Croall has turned to the freshmen who “trained well during the summer and were already quite fit when the season started.” Count Ebert, Calderon and Toerpe in that group. “We put our best team on the course for league meets,” Croall said. They may be taking their lumps against league competition, but all three are confident their time will come. “They can get on us now,” Calderon said. “We’ll get on them in three years.” Ebert would much rather compete at the varsity level and be pushed than have a shot of winning junior varsity races. “I think it’s a lot more fun,” he said. “We must be good enough to be with the varsity.” The Bronco Invitational last Saturday at Bella Vista High was an opportunity for the freshmen to compete in their class. And they made the most of it. Ebert won the 3,400-meter race in the small school division. Calderon finished third, and Toerpe was 22nd in the field of 52 runners. Ebert moved out front after about 200 meters, much earlier than he had planned. “We make a race plan not to lead, but everybody was going slow,” Ebert said. “I was nervous in the lead. I kept listening to hear the other runners behind me. When I knew they were following me, it was OK.” Ebert won despite making a wrong turn at a fork in the course and said the turn was not clearly marked. “I went about 100 meters the wrong way,” said Ebert, whose victory paved the way for the Zebras to win the team title. Croall took just 15 of his 26 runners to the invitational because a PSAT Test session was held at Lincoln High. The Zebras did not have a runner in the varsity boys race. Shannon Snook was 14th in the 5,000-meter varsity girls race. Heather Felt was 23rd. Katy Mercier was eighth and Loreena Sims 19th in the junior varsity girls race.