It was the cross country equivalent of a mom making sure her kids’ shoes were tied before they went out to play.
The New Scotland Park cross country course in Voorheesville was pretty much a shoe-gobbling mudpit on Saturday, following an all-day soaker on Thursday. The wind was fierce.
Kate Sherman is a senior and knew how to handle all these elements, so she passed that on to her much less-experienced Mohonasen teammates.
“We taped our shoes, so I made sure all of our shoes were on tight … we’ve had issues in the past with people losing their shoes,” she said with a laugh on Monday.
Sherman has been a star of this team for a long time now, and she finished third overall and second on the team at the Colonial Council championship meet, as the Mighty Warriors eked out a two-point team victory over Voorheesville.
Remarkably, the other four runners who scored for Mohonasen are all in eighth grade, so as Sherman experiences her last high school running season this spring before heading to Iona College, there is much to look forward to for a Mighty Warriors program that appears to be loaded up for a long run of success, maybe even at the highest level.
“I’m not going to get ahead of myself about where they could go, but I think they could go pretty far in Section II and, quite frankly, in the state, if they stick together and do the work like they’ve been doing,” said coach Bill Sherman, Kate’s father.
“It’s really exciting for them, because next year we’ll still have a super-young team and that’s good to build the program,” Kate Sherman said. “It’s exciting to see what they’re going to do.
“You’re going to see the team build back. A couple years ago we had a super-young team, and we were able to watch that build and grow a program.”
Rachel Miller won the Colonial Council race in 16:07.9 for 2.6 miles, and after Sherman, Miller’s eighth-grade classmates Abby Marriner, Lexi Thayer and Kyde Power finished fifth, 10th and 13th, respectively, for the purposes of team scoring.
Power was competing at the varsity level for the first time this season, and Thayer had never run a cross country season at any level.
Coming into the Colonial meet, her experience amounted to dual meets and no crowded invitational-type fields like she faced on Saturday. Thayer even has a nickname already — “Slayer” — because it sounds like her last name, and “she slays the competition!!” Bill Sherman said in a text message. They needed her to rebound from a slow start to get as high a placement as possible on Saturday, and she gritted her way to an important 12th overall.
“For an eighth-grader to overcome what she did in her very first championship invitational-style meet is shocking,” Sherman said.
“I thought they did really awesome,” Kate Sherman said. “I was very impressed with how they handled it, especially because we haven’t had too many opportunities to race this year.
“I really just told them if you fall, get up and just keep running. I did give them a little bit of advice for the wind, like if you’re with someone when it’s really windy, tuck behind them. Don’t break the wind for them.”
It’s been an interesting senior season for Sherman, after the Colonial Council decided to postpone cross country until the spring.
There also was no indoor track season, and no sectionals for cross country during this “Fall II” season, although outdoor track will hold a Section II championship meet.
Mohonasen ran some club races in the fall, but otherwise has had to keep it together while not actually racing.
“It was difficult, especially in the fall,” Kate Sherman said. “It was hard when we were just practicing and it kind of felt like we were practicing for no reason. It was hard to look so far ahead. There was no sectionals, and we didn’t even really know what goals to have as a team. We weren’t sure what the season would look like.”
“It’s been really hard, the adversity they’ve overcome. And these girls stuck with us,” Bill Sherman said. “They weren’t deterred when the athletic directors decided to postpone. They stood with us. When indoor was taken from us, they were outside with me in the snow and the cold all winter long, with really not much to run for other than the belief that we could do it in the spring, with cross country.”
Adding to the uniqueness of the season has been the fact that Kate Sherman only sees her middle-school teammates at practice.
“She has taken them under her wing,” Bill Sherman said. “I’ll be honest, it’s been pretty lonely for her, because the age difference is staggering. They’re not even in the same school, right?
“She was that person. She was the baby when she started, and she was the phenom. And now, her leadership has been critical to helping the girls understand how far they can push themselves. Because when they’re in a race or a hard workout, the natural tendency is to give in to that pain. And they see Kate not giving in to that pain. And Kate talks about if you do long distance right, it hurts every time. That’s what Kate’s been teaching these girls.”
“In the past years, the team has been super-close, and it’s definitely a different vibe,” Kate Sherman said. “I used to have classes with people on the team. So it’s a different relationship, but we’re still very close, and we’ll hang out and have captains practices every once in awhile at our houses.
“Sometimes they want to have fun, but they’re also really mature for being in eighth grade. When we have to be serious, they’re willing to be serious. And I tried to make it a fun season, because it’s a very different season where we’re not able to travel and have that type of fun. We’ve tried to make it as fun for them as possible.”
There’s nothing more fun than winning, and based on Saturday’s result — but also the dedication the young Mohonasen runners have shown while not competing for months on end — suggests that this program will keep winning in the coming years.
And having Kate Sherman’s example to follow should only bolster that prospect.
“I’m just so fortunate to have her, because I can say whatever I want, and I’m not doing it,” Bill Sherman said. “But Kate is actually sharing in the pain, and they see her doing that, and she talks openly about it. The leadership has been tremendous. Because we ask a lot of them, what I call the Core Four, the eighth-graders.
“They’ve answered it.”