Catching up with Apponequet Cross Country

Sep 27, 2022

LAKEVILLE—The boys’ and girls’ cross country teams at Apponequet Regional High school got off to a running start this season.

Both teams have started the season 4-0. Everyone from seniors to freshmen have contributed to the team’s success.

Coaches Alex Walecka and Daniel Rutledge credit the cross country program at Freetown-Lakeville Middle School with sparking interest in young runners and preparing them for high school-level running.

“Young kids tend to drift toward things they’re familiar with,” Rutledge said. “Since they’re familiar with cross country, we start to see better numbers.” 

The varsity team holds joint practices with the middle schoolers, and senior Lucas Quinn said the varsity runners have started recruiting for the future.

“We have a giant middle school program,” Quinn said. “I don’t know where they get everybody. It’s a great program and it helps us out a lot.”

The boys’ team did not have any seniors last season, meaning the team did not have to replace any production from graduating runners. 

The girls’ team this season has one senior, four-year runner Ava Wisniewski, and the coaches estimate that 90% of the girls’ team are freshmen and sophomores. Unlike last season, the girls’ team has enough runners to officially compete in meets.

“Even though I’m the only senior, I have a great group of girls with me,” Wisniewski said. “It’s amazing that all these new freshmen can make such a big difference. The girls on our team did their summer training and it really paid off.”

In addition to the middle school program, Rutledge and Walecka create personalized training plans for runners in the summer. This lets the team adjust to the season quickly since runners begin preseason with a higher level of fitness than athletes who did not train in the summer.

“One of the things that sets us up for success is having the kids come into the season prepared,” Rutledge said. 

The coaches see some of the athletes in all three seasons. Rutledge, who is in his 10th year coaching cross country, also coaches spring track. Walecka is in his second year coaching cross country and has coached winter track for five seasons.

The team’s success represents a comeback after the entire athletics program took a hit in 2000. The construction of the adjacent middle school forced almost all outdoor sports off campus as nearby fields were redone.

Cross country saw one of the steepest declines of any sport despite the school having great teams in the 1960s and ‘70s, according to Athletic Director Jim Cabucio.

“You almost had a generation of kids that never played on campus,” Cabucio said.

Now, that same middle school is helping to fuel the resurgence of the Lakers Cross Country program.

Apponequet’s next meet is on Oct. 4, at home against Old Rochester Regional High School. The meet could decide this season’s South Coast Conference champion.