Northern Italy contingent at Europeans gets bigger
October 18, 2014
SAN GIOVANNI, Italy – Saturday was the final chance for cross country runners to qualify for the DODDS European finals.
Five boys and seven girls from Vicenza and Aviano had already made it, but more were hoping for a trip up to Germany next week.
Vicenza freshman Caleb Robles was one of those and faced a tough course while trying to break the 21-minute mark for the second time this season.
“In Naples, the course is much smoother and here it is rough and has a lot of cracks and loose gravel, which made it hard to run up the hills and get your footing,” Robles said.
Cougars coach Mike Haiderer, said he knew after Robles had a subpar performance last week at home that the pressure would be on this weekend.
“In Naples he was over 50 seconds under, but last week he was almost a minute over,” Haiderer said, referring to the 21-minute qualifying mark that boys have to break twice.
“But I knew he could do it, because he has been training really hard,” Haiderer said.
Robles backed up his coach’s confidence with a time of 20 minutes, 48 seconds and pushed himself to cross the finish line just after Aviano’s Jaylen Esposito, who had already qualified.
“Since it’s the first year that I’m able to qualify, I want to see my brothers try out, so I continued to try hard and improve to be a good example for them,” said Robles, who has four younger brothers.
“I’m just happy with the results the kids have made as whole,” said Haiderer, who started coaching Vicenza’s team this season.
“It’s my first year here and I’m trying to develop a program and it’s a good year to springboard off of,” Haiderer said, referring to the four boys and three girls from Vicenza who qualified for Europeans.
Aviano coach Kim Ramsey was also happy. Aviano is sending two boys and four girls to Germany.
“I’m very happy, because last year we only qualified one runner,” said Ramsey, whose team only returned two runners from last year, Hannah Stone and Arie Fowler.
The Saints are mainly comprised of freshmen, two of which took top honors Saturday: Ginny Belt ran 23:51 and Alec Diks finished in 19:48. Ramsey said Diks has four top finishes throughout the season and Belt three top spots. But says she expects the rest of the team to step it up in Germany.
“I think they’ll improve and I expect them to do fantastic,” Ramsey said. Saturday’s route took an unexpected twist for one of Vicenza’s runners.
Senior Blaize Gordon, who had qualified for Europeans, discovered how rough Aviano’s cross country route can be. Within the first half-mile, Gordon sprained his right ankle and was unable to continue.
“I’ve come out of worst scrapes before,” Gordon said. “Like in Germany when I seriously rolled my right ankle.”
Gordon ran cross country at Vilseck the two years prior to arriving at Vicenza. He believes he’ll recover and be ready for Europeans when both the Cougars and Saints head up Thursday.