10 Newport County cross country runners to watch this fall – newportri.com

10 Newport County cross country runners to watch this fall  newportri.com

Cross country isn’t exactly the best spectator sport because, on most courses, runners disappear from sight for good chunks of time. Regardless, there are fine-tuned athletes who participate and they should be watched.

Locally, Portsmouth and Rogers high school have boys and girls teams. Tiverton has a boys team, but not enough female runners to comprise a full, five-girl squad and Middletown High School — despite having a feeder program at Gaudet Middle School — does not participate in the sport.

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Those local runners who give their all and huff and puff their way to the finish line of the 3.1-mile races deserve some recognition for their efforts. Coaches named some runners they thought particularly merit viewing.

Kaden Kluth, Portsmouth

The senior finished 23rd in the state cross country meet last season and Portsmouth coach Shaun Horgan feels the hard-working Kluth can better that mark this year.

“He had a very good cross country season last year and then had an awesome indoor and outdoor track season,” Horgan said. “Now he wants to put it all together for cross country this year.

“He’s driven. It’s rare to have a kid like this. He does not have the typical high school mentality. He’s a collegiate runner waiting to happen. He’s super dedicated and focused.”

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Nick Mercer, Tiverton

A junior, Mercer was runner-up to teammate Ryan Souza when the team held a timed-mile race. “He needs to work harder than Ryan Souza to get his spot,” new Tiverton coach John DiGangi said. “And he does work hard. Ryan is more a natural athlete.”

It was the first time DiGangi saw any of his runners compete in the sport.

“I guess you could say Nick is more of a tactical runner,” DiGangi said. “He definitely has a talent for running. He’ll be a competitor more and more as the season goes on.”

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Luis Betancourt, Rogers

Rogers coach Charlie Woodward said Betancourt opted out of last cross country season because he wasn’t comfortable competing during COVID. Woodward certainly is happy to see Betancourt return for his senior season.

“His best time as a sophomore was in the 19-(minute mark),” Woodward said. “I’m hoping he picks up where he left off and his times keep getting better. In track, he’s mainly a hurdler but he’s also a talented distance runner.”

Jeff Brady, Portsmouth

Last year, Brady was the center on the basketball team after running cross country. Then he went to outdoor track, where he ran the 800-, 1,500- and 3,000-meter races and also vied in the high jump, placing fifth in the state meet.

“He’s a jack of all trades,” Portsmouth coach Shaun Horgan said of the senior. “He was first-team, all-class in cross country and consistently our No. 2 runner. His best time is 17 minutes, 28 seconds. I’d like to see him go 17-flat and possibly break 16 for the season.”

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Ryan Souza, Tiverton

If ever there was a runner eager to break from the starting line, it would be Souza. The senior suffered an ACL injury during basketball season in January and only returned to athletic competition when the cross country team recently held a timed-mile race.

“He was the first one out of the gate and the first to finish,” Tiverton new cross country coach John DiGangi said. “I’ve never seen him run before, but he’s definitely the best by far on the team right now. He’s hungry to be great. I’m excited to see what he can do this season.”

Jack Siglar, Rogers

Siglar is a junior and first-year runner for the Vikings whom coach Charlie Woodward expects will do well. “He can stick with Luis (Betancourt) and Luis is our top runner,” Woodward said.

So all Siglar did was finish one place in front of Betancourt in the Vikings Injury Fund meet. “Right off the bat, you could tell he was very talented,” Woodward said. “He runs on his own, but hasn’t run for a team. He was running all summer two or three times a week.”

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Katie Yalanis, Portsmouth

Yalanis, a sophomore, cracked 20 minutes and finished in 23rd place at the state championship and also finished in fifth place in the freshman state championship. Coach Jeff Rose seeks more from the underclassman this season.

“She’s a reserved kid, but she’s got to realize she can run with the big dogs and be a team leader, too,” Rose said. “She also runs a little timid in races, starts off slow and when she finishes, she still has something left. I want her to leave it all on the course and finish with an empty tank.”

Caite McCabe, Rogers 

McCabe begins her third and final year of cross country looking to close her career the way she began it. The senior broke 22 minutes for a 3.1-mile race as a 10th-grader before suffering an injury that year that was never exactly diagnosed.

“Ever since her injury she’s come back with a vengeance,” Rogers coach Charlie Woodward said. “She’s definitely leading the pack for the girls so far this year. She ran (personal-record times) in the 800 and 1,500 in outdoor track, and she’s looking much faster this year.”

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Kitty Damon, Portsmouth

Damon finished 55th in the state cross country meet and last year discovered she could excel in the 400 on the track as she placed third in the state.

“She found a race she could dominate. She needed that to realize she could step up,” Portsmouth coach Jeff Rose said of the senior. “That was a big confidence boost. I hope that translates for (cross country).

“She’s a hard worker and she’s funny. If you have someone to lighten the mood on hard workout days, that’s a key component to success. It sets a good tone for the team.”

Hazel Peters, Rogers

Peters was impressive as a freshman and, after a couple of mediocre seasons followed, she seems reinvigorated entering her senior campaign. “She was the fastest girl we had her freshman year,” Rogers coach Charlie Woodward said.

“Then her times were not as good as that. Coming in this year, she said she’s been running all summer and following the schedule.

“She’s been great in all of our pace work and she shows up for all the practices. She’s very committed. She’s very competitive and really wants to get back to her freshman time and beat it.”