After winning seven of 10 meets last season, the returning members of the West Deptford High School boys' cross-country team could've sat back this off-season, knowing that they had the talent to once again produce a winning record.
Instead, the athletes showed more dedication than ever, demonstrating that all last year’s success did was ignite a hunger for something greater.
“These guys are all really motivated,” said West Deptford coach Mark Drummond. “My style has always been to give guys space in the summer because a lot of guys are year-round athletes now, and I still think they are kids and need to breathe.
"They made the choice to do workouts five days a week instead of the three I do usually. They did it at 8 a.m. five days a week. I go a couple of times a week and I never saw less than eight guys there in a day and saw as many as 14 some days. To me, that shows the commitment they have and that they want to take that next step they haven’t had yet.”
That step involves beating one of the Colonial Conference’s premiere teams—defending champion Haddonfield, Haddon Heights and Haddon Township. While it’s too early to say exactly how this West Deptford group will stack up against the Haddons, Drummond believes quality depth could give the Eagles the edge they need.
"I have always had one or two guys up font, and then that cliff falls off for that next group,” Drummond said. “Now I have four or five guys up there and five or six guys fighting for those last couple spots. Where it used to be throw-ins for the six seven spots, I have guys that can really fill in those spots.
"That could be the difference between one of those 7-3 years where we have one of those close matches with one of the Haddons, but you still come up a little short, and finally beating one of them."
Below is a look at the 2012 West Deptford boys' cross-country team.
Coach: Mark Drummond
Last year: 7-3.
Returning runners: Ray Parsons (jr.); Kevin Cianfarni (jr.); Dale Johnson (jr.); Jon Ladner (jr.); Andrew Coppola (sr.); Morrell Wolf (sr.); Matt Shinkle (jr.); Kris Green (sr.).
Promising newcomers: Mitch Wiliczek (fr.).
Team to beat: Haddonfield
Outlook: With two top returnees back for their junior year and a deep pool of runners to fill out the roster, West Deptford should at least match its 2011 win total, and once again be a contender to reach the State Championships.
Three storylines to follow:
–The growth of Parsons and Cianfarini. The Eagles' top two runners last season, Parsons and Cianfarini have been such a vital part of the program the last two years, it’s easy to forget that they are just now upperclassmen. Now that both runners are a year older and wiser they will be counted on to not only provide valuable points, but also leadership.
–Coming out of the gates strong. West Deptford opens its season Sept. 11 with a tri-meet against Sterling and Haddon Township. Sterling graduated its No. 2 runner from a year ago, but should still be a tough competitor. Meanwhile, Haddon Township has been a thorn in West Deptford’s side in recent seasons and once again looks loaded. If West Deptford can stay close to the Hawks, or even pull out a win, it will be a great indicator that the Eagles are in for a big season.
–Making it back to states: West Deptford recorded a fifth-place finish at sectionals last year, earning a spot in states at Holmdel. Drummond expects this year’s team to once again qualify and is hopeful that it can do so with an even better performance.
“They went to states and now they want to make that next step,” he said. “Instead of being fifth in sections, they want to be top three and see where we go from there. The biggest step is their attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes to get there.”