Runners have their own ways of preparing for a big cross country meet. Resting the night before would seem to be a given.
Unless, of course, you happen to be Yarmouth senior Ben Decker. The night before he competes against talented runners from seven states at Saturday’s 39th Manchester (N.H.) Invitational, he will play in what promises to be a hard-fought soccer match between the Clippers and visiting Cape Elizabeth.
It’s all part of Decker’s two-sport juggling act. After three autumns of playing soccer exclusively, Decker added cross country because his collegiate future is likely to involve running without a ball.
“It’s something I’m definitely going to do in college,” Decker said, “so it’s all about getting some exposure to the sport and thus far I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Decker springs from competitive distance runners. His dad, Byrne, is a six-time winner of the Maine Marathon. His mom, Melanie, has also met with success running the roads.
“It’s not even the competing piece as much as the fact they made a lifestyle out of being active,” said Decker, who often trained with his dad over the summer, when Decker continued his outdoor track mileage of roughly 40 miles per week in anticipation of a busy fall.
Saturday will mark Decker’s second cross country race. His first came Sept. 13 in Naples and resulted in a 20-second victory over teammate Braden Becker in a four-school meet that included defending Class B state champion Cape Elizabeth as well as Greely and host Lake Region.
In Manchester, Decker will compete in the small-school (enrollment fewer than 800) race against two of Maine’s top runners — Dan Curts of Ellsworth and Josef Holt-Andrews of Telstar — as well as those from around the Northeast. Then it will be back to soccer on Monday.
“Soccer is my commitment,” he said. “It’s something I feel a pretty big tie to. That’s the priority.”
Decker said none of this would be possible without the enthusiastic backing of Yarmouth Athletic Director Susan Robbins, soccer coach Mike Hagerty and cross country coaches Bob Morse and John Rogers.
“This whole thing has been kind of a humbling process,” Decker said. “Everyone involved has been really supportive of the process.”
Decker’s cross country schedule includes the Western Maine Conference and Western Class B regional. A conflict could arise between the state meet and a regional soccer final, but Decker isn’t worrying just yet.
“I’m not going to lose sight of the fact that this is supposed to be fun,” he said.
CHEVERUS, which won three of the past four Class A girls’ state titles, was in danger of not being able to field a full team this fall. A transfer from Waynflete (sophomore Anne Veroneau) and girls enticed from track (sophomore Sarah Mount) and soccer (junior Megan Sawicki) bolstered the squad enough to win two SMAA meets last week with a lineup of only six runners.
Senior Kiera Murray, and juniors Georgia Caso and Kaitlyn Dostie provide veteran leadership. Coach Kristin Barry, who had been coaching the boys’ team exclusively, assumed the reins from Valerie Guillet.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Barry, a two-time Beach to Beacon winner in the Maine women’s category who is also responsible for 21 boys. “I just see it as one big team and focus on all of them.”
CAPE ELIZABETH senior Liam Simpson said his team will compete in the elite race Saturday at Manchester’s Derryfield Park, which is also the sight of the New England championships Nov. 9. Cape Elizabeth also plans to run in the Festival of Champions the following weekend in Belfast.
“Those are the only two big meets before we get into the regionals and championship meets,” Simpson said, “so it’s not that much of a stress. When it’s just two, it’s not huge.”
Simpson’s family has hosted two Beach to Beacon runners in the past three years, Benita Willis of Australia (fifth in 2011) and Elliot Krause of Wisconsin (sixth this year).
“I talked to (Krause) about the whole college running experience,” Simpson said, “about the schedule, managing practice and homework and stuff. I don’t know if I’ll be running Division I next year but it was good to know all that.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: