SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga Springs boys cross-country team captured a state championship this year, but still has its sights set on a bigger prize.
At the beginning of summer training, the team’s two primary goals were to win the state championship and qualify for nationals. They accomplished the first goal, but not the second. Last weekend, the Blue Streaks finished third at the Nike Cross Country Regional Qualifier, just one spot away from a trip to the national championship.
The team “believed certainly they were capable of qualifying,” said Coach Shane Zanetti. “We had just beaten the two teams that qualified at states a couple weeks before.”
“I think it was mostly a matter of us just almost going out and being too aggressive to start off the race,” Zanetti said. “We were probably winning at the mile mark; we were at second place at the halfway point, and then we just weren’t able to keep it together through that last mile and finish where we wanted to.”
Despite the disappointment at regional qualifiers, the team is still proud of its season as a whole, especially the six-man tiebreaker victory at states. “The state meet was an awesome, awesome experience and awesome race,” Zanetti said.
The tiebreaker finish supported Zanetti’s belief that every runner is valuable. “We really like to emphasize that everybody has a purpose, from the top guys down to the final runners on our team,” Zanetti said.
Nonetheless, it would be hard to think about the Blue Streaks’ season without mentioning standout sophomore Thomas Isenovski. “From our first couple races of the season, Thomas definitely emerged as a frontrunner,” Zanetti said. “He’s very quiet but you can see that he’s very confident in himself.” At states, Isenovski helped capture the Blue Streaks’ first team title since 2012.
Now, Zanetti and his squad are tasked with developing a strategy that will get them above and beyond the success of 2023. “We talked about the idea of maybe training a little harder through the local meets and building things up a little bit more and not cutting back until we get to the state meet next year,” Zanetti said.
The coach also wondered if the team believed a bit too much in its own abilities. Zanetti said that next season the Blue Streaks might be “a little bit more conservative in developing a race plan, especially for the course that regionals is at.” Zanetti said his team will work on managing emotions and “learning how to kind of keep them in check until you’re really ready to make that big move.”
As the preparation for next year begins, Zanetti indicated that the emphasis will continue to be on the importance of the team over any one individual. “I think there’s a lot of trust and respect between everybody, so we’re very proud of that part of our program,” he said.