Very rarely does a program do well in its first few years of existence.
Usually it takes some time for a program to grow in numbers and talent and become competitive in its division, league or district. It may take even longer for a smaller school since it doesn't have as many kids to choose from. However, the Marian boys' cross country team didn't need much time to get its feet under itself. No, the Colts pretty much hit the ground running – both literally and metaphorically.
In just two years of competition, the Marian boys' cross country team has won back-to-back Schuylkill League Division II titles. Although the Colts finished 7-4 last season, they were a perfect 6-0 in the division.
"I am very proud of the boys," said second-year head coach Jeremy Dormer, who was an assistant for Paul Coombe in 2008. "I was surprised, especially because we have a problem with numbers.
"I usually go out running with the boys and I saw first hand how far they have come. Their first year out they were running in the 21-minute range. Now they are down in the 19s. They have definitely put the time and effort in to improve."
What may be even more amazing is the fact that Marian has won both of it titles - and enters this year - with only six kids on its roster. The top five runners from a team score in cross country, which means all six Colts had to run as if it was their last race of the season just to post a time and score. Unfortunately for the Dormer, the cross country season runs the same time as football. A small, 'AA' enrollment doesn't help either.
Still, regardless of the amount of kids on the team (or lack there-of), as long as it possess five strong runners it has a chance. According to Dormer the Colts have been able to run as a group the last two years, which can be attributed to their success.
"The guys have had a good grouping over the last years," said Dormer. "They came together as a team, set a goal and pushed each other. I don't think it was anything special that they did. They just put the work in and ran the times that they needed to.
"They also have had a great mindset. They came together the first year and decided to shoot for the championship. Last year they wanted to repeat. Just because there is only six of them, they weren't going to lower their standards."
Sophomore Phil Marzen and senior Connor Schleicher will lead the Colts in 2010. Both runners broke the 20-minute mark last year and will hopefully be in the 19s this year. They both ran track last spring and trained over the summer by running in the local 5K runs. Furthermore, Dormer thinks that Marzen is in form for state competition already, so look for him to be the front-runner this season.
Seniors Robert Kelly and Kyle Garber, along with freshmen Nick Hopeck and Phillip Desantis will round on the team. Lately Hopeck, who came out for the sport for the first time, has been pushing Schleicher as the No. 2 runner and should help form a very strong top-three for the Colts.
Marian will be the hunted within the second division of the Schuylkill League as it goes for a three-peat. Although the Colts will have the bull-eye on their back, Dormer and his boys are confident they can run to the top once again.
"I think repeating for a third time is definitely within reach," admitted Dormer. "I am a little concerned with our grouping right now. The other guys were pretty far behind Phil in our first scrimmage. We need to work on getting some support for the front guys.
"Still, I think we can contend. Mahanoy Area and Schuylkill Haven will present a challenge. Weatherly has shown some promise as well. But all-in-all I think we can contend for the division title as long as we can stay healthy and keep improving."