LAKE GEORGE - High School Cross-Country Coach Scott Smith has a lot to smile about this year. A year ago, as a newcomer to Lake George, he was seeking to recruit enough runners so he could compete as a team.
This year, he's got a full roster of runners, including several boys who have made their mark on the state level. Plus, his girls team - yes, Smith recruited enough in 2008 - won the Section II championship, as they did the year before.
"We've got several extraordinary athletes running Cross-Country this year," Smith said.
As of last week, team member Senior Steve Petramale was ranked No. 2 in the state for Class D schools, and Junior Willy Underwood is ranked No. 6, Smith said. These two runners, both Adirondack League champions, successfully compete in invitational meets at AA schools that have about 10 times as many athletes to draw from. This year should mark Underwood's second year in state competition, and Petramale's third. Other standouts at Lake George include Corey Tomko, Jason Barnes and Richard Jelley.
On the Lake George girls team, Kacey O'Brien is a standout. She won the Adirondack League championship last year, after being mentored by Seniors on the 2008 team, Smith said. O'Brien, in turn recruited and mentored Courtney Mastrodomenico, who's improving tremendously, Smith said.
"I have been touched by the amount of closeness we have on this team," he said. "We promote a family atmosphere, and we'd like to see this mentoring continue."
Smith's team is open to all, including athletes who are seeking to stay in shape for track season or wrestling, he said.
Regardless of how successful the team has been, the bottom line for the Lake George team is meeting individual goals, however lofty or earth-bound, Smith said.
"Whether it's breaking records, winning championships, or just finishing a race without stopping - any of those goals are fine with me," he said.
That supportive family atmosphere, however, is likely to raise individual goals, prompting each runner to ever higher achievements, he said.
"We have awesome kids on the team," he said. "And we have the opportunity to do extraordinarily well this year."