The hard work is paying off the West Deptford High School boys’ cross-country team.
Two days after producing a second-place finish at the Salesianum Invitational, the Eagles swept a quad meet to close their Colonial Conference record at 8-2. The eight wins represent the most in a single season since the 2001 team went 9-1.
Most exciting of all, West Deptford coach Mark Drummon said, is that the team is just getting warmed up.
“I think we’re just coming around, honestly,” Drummond said. “We had some big meets earlier, but we are just really starting to pick up the tempo now. All the stuff they have been doing so far is just mileage and threshold training. If anything, I figure three weeks out we will be as good as we are going to get and hopefully turn that into a top three at sectionals and a top 10 at states.”
The Eagles have been led all season long by standout junior Ray Parsons. The success of Parson is nothing new, as he has been the program’s top runner since arriving as a freshman. What has been different is the shrunken gap between Parsons and the rest of the Eagles. Teammates Dale Johnson, Jon Ladner and Kevin Cianfarini have been hot on Parson’s tail this season, forming a pack that few teams can contend with.
“We have been stressing running together and running in packs, to cut down on the gaps in between runners,” Drummond said. “They did that pretty much to perfection at Salesianum with Ray running well and Dale and John right on top of each other and Kevin a few spots behind.”
The second-place finish in the Small Schools division of Saturday’s meet—which featured teams from Pennsylvania and Delaware, among others—resulted in the team earning a trophy, the first time in a decade the team has done so. Drummond said the accomplishment allowed the runners to see the fruits of their labor.
“We got a nice bowl trophy and it’s just a nice vindication for them,” he said. “We run into Haddonfield and Haddon Township (the only teams the Eagles lost to this season) so many times, and you can still do a good job but you don’t usually get to see that feedback like that. It was nice to be there at a meet like that and be rewarded.”
Although the Eagles lost out on the conference title to Haddonfield, West Deptford did take down Haddon Heights this season, marking the first time since 2001 that the Eagles beat the Garnets.
“That’s when they were really able to see the hard work is worth it,” Drummond said. “Had we lost a close match to them and a close match to Haddon Township, I think the guys may have started to wonder if the hard work was worth it. I think with that result and the success at the Invitational, they are really seeing it pays off when you put the time in.”
Before the Eagles turn their focus to the Sectional Championships they will compete in the Gloucester County and Colonial Conference championships. Drummond says the team has confidence that it can make a strong showing against some of the big schools this weekend at the county meet.
“The guys want to get after it and see if they can really compete with some of these big schools,” said Drummond. “The main competition is going to be Washington Township, Kingsway and Delsea. We hope somehow we can compete with them.”
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