Thursday, December 12, 2013
YARMOUTH - Bob Morse, now in his 32nd year of coaching cross country at Yarmouth High, delivered a short history lesson following his team's first home meet of the season.
Sarah Becker, left, and her brother, Braden, joined cross country to prepare for Nordic skiing. Now it’s grown on them.
Glenn Jordan/Staff Writer
He told the unusually large group -- 20 boys and 34 girls -- that it had been a long time since Yarmouth had swept a home meet, even longer since a Yarmouth boy and Yarmouth girl had won a home meet on the same day, and never before had siblings turned the trick.
Sarah and Braden Becker -- a senior and junior who share freckles, genes and sunny dispositions -- are responsible for ending the drought earlier this month at a school known for its dominance in Nordic skiing.
Such success on snow-covered trails would seem to go hand-in-hand with running success in the fall, but aside from several stellar individuals -- Anna Markaretz, Matt Lane and Scott Loomis come to mind -- the Clippers have generally found themselves far behind the likes of nearby Greely and Falmouth.
Last week the Yarmouth girls beat Cape Elizabeth ("for the first time, I told the girls, since I think you were born," Morse said) in New Gloucester by taking five of the first seven spots. Cape's boys prevailed over Yarmouth, but the Clippers have emerged as a threat to the traditional Class B powers.
"I'm sure they had a couple of girls missing, but that didn't take away from our performance," Morse said.
"This year is a major breakthrough. This is the largest team I've ever had."
Morse said the program has doubled from its usual average of about 25 boys and girls, an increase he attributes to recruiting efforts by his captains.
Sarah Becker, Emma Pidden and Sydney Sperber lead the girls, and Thomas Robichaud and Braden Becker lead the boys.
"Soccer has always been king and still is king in Yarmouth," Morse said.
"But for some reason there's a shift. The fact that you can participate in every practice and every meet in the regular season (may be a factor). There's obviously no bench time unless you're injured."
The Beckers actually took up running to train for Nordic skiing, a sport that has brought the school 20 state championship banners for girls and 14 for boys.
"It was kind of a social thing initially," said Sarah, who played soccer as a freshman. "Then we just got more into it."
"Now it's just as important to me, if not more, than skiing," said Braden, who took it up his freshman year.
Sarah has seen her squad grow from seven girls to 16 last fall to the current 34.
The Clippers finished 10th in Class B last fall, while the Yarmouth boys failed to qualify for the state meet.
Before a recent practice at Twin Brook Recreation Area, the siblings paused after jogging over from the high school to talk about Yarmouth's emergence. After answering a question, Sarah often turned to her brother and asked, genuinely interested in his view, "What do you think?"
"The one thing that struck me about both Braden and Sarah," Morse said, "is that here we are at a ski meet or a running meet, and everybody's loading up and so forth, and they ALWAYS come and say, 'Thank you, Mr. Morse.' They go out of their way to make sure to thank me for whatever we've done."
Not that others aren't appreciative, Morse said, but the Beckers are consistently so. He said they're also two of his hardest workers.
Sarah, who turns 18 next month, is an honor student who audits an afternoon English class at Bowdoin College twice a week called Introduction to the Narrative. The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which Morse uses as recovery days after hard workouts on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Braden, 16, is a member of the school robotics team. He also plays tennis in the spring, when his sister plays lacrosse. They both ride road bikes, and love to hike and swim.
This weekend they'll be able to see just how far they've come, both individually and as a team, when Yarmouth travels to Belfast for Saturday's Maine XC Festival of Champions involving more than 70 teams, 900 boys and nearly 700 girls. Regardless of the outcome, the return trip promises to be an enjoyable one.
"After you work really hard together, there's kind of a bond that comes out of it," Sarah said. "Especially on the bus rides home. We kind of let loose together, and dance to crazy loud music and have fun."
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org