There was little left for the Council Rock North cross country team to do.
Not many teams can say they did everything they had set out for in a given season, but the Indians can. Their journey wrapped up Nov. 2 at the PIAA Class AAA championships, where the Rock placed fifth overall with 172 points.
"The CR North cross country team had set three major goals for the season: to win our conference, to make it to states and to finish in the top five at the state meet. We accomplished all three goals, so by any measure, we had a successful season,' coach Dave Marrington said. "When we started our summer training back in July, we weren't sure what we had. We knew we had three guys coming back from last year's varsity, and after that, we were just speculating.'
What CR North found, as it turned out, was that rest of the field of runners it could start in place of the graduated James Zingarini and Mac Emery was solid enough to make it a contender. Leading the way was a first year cross-country runner in senior Rob Simmons. He had previously played golf for CR North and run track for an AAU squad, but gave up the former in favor of trying cross-country. He wound up becoming a reliable No. 3-4 runner for the Indians, as he took fifth overall in the Suburban One League (SOL) National Conference championship meet Oct. 18. A week later, he ran a time of 15:58 to place 32nd in the District I Class AAA title meet, and then at states, his time of 17:11 was good for 35th among athletes competing with full teams. It was also a spot behind junior teammate Sean Griswold, one of the top three returnees for the Indians.
"It was really fun. I really like everyone on my team. Coaches are great,' said Simmons, who hopes to run cross-county and track at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. "We just worked really hard all season. I definitely think we worked harder than any other team in our league.'
The results spoke for themselves. The Indians fell at Pennsbury in a dual meet Sep. 18 despite a course record time by senior start Ross Wilson, who finished in 15:36. After that, though, CR North left little doubt what the best squad in the National was. The Indians faced the Falcons again in the league title meet, and this time, not only did Wilson win again with a time of 15:31, but his team defeated the Falcons to earn another crown. The Indians thus continued their league dominance, as they have missed out on the championship just once since 1987.
From there, the Indians took third at districts thanks to top 50 showings by Wilson, Arita, Griswold and Simmons. That was strong enough for a trip to Hershey, where they finished only two points behind State College Area for fourth.
"That probably just sparked the fire,' Simmons said of the Pennsbury setback. "We worked really hard to get back at them in SOLs.
"It's been quite a while. You don't want to be that team to lose it,' Brian Arita also said.
A junior, Ariata was the No. 2 runner behind Wilson this season. He also medaled at leagues and then took 27th at districts in a time of 15:56, marking the first time in his career that he broke the 16 minute mark. He then took 38th at states, which will make him one of the top 20 returning runners in Pennsylvania in 2014.
"Right from the beginning, I ran a lot of miles this summer with Ross Wilson,' Arita said.
"States was my best race,' he added. "It was a hot day and I made sure not to go out too fast.'
Arita and Wilson took part in the Deuce at Singer Farm invitational in West Chester November 16. Against some of the best runners in the state, Wilson again showed his abilities in the two mile with a fourth-place time of 9:59. Arita was 23rd, and both plan to compete in the Foot Locker Northeast Regional meet in New York Nov. 30. A strong showing could be enough for either to make the national meet.
"This year, I'm running the real race with all the best guys in the northeast region,' said Arita, who competed in a younger class event in the same meet last season. "We're definitely feeling better about foot locker after yesterday.'
While Arita continues to rise, Wilson remains the leader for the Indians. Not only did he win the league championship individually, but he also took second in districts behind West Chester Henderson's Tony Russell, who also went on to claim states. Wilson, though, was third in states at 16:01, which helped earn him First Team Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches' Association All-State honors. During the year, he additionally claimed wins in the John Sharp Viking, Briarwood and Council Rock Invitational meets.
"I learned a lot from him on how he likes to race,' praised Arita of Wilson, adding that he taught him how to be humble, as well.
"At practice, he just works so hard,' Simmons also said of Wilson. "It kind of rubs off on everyone else, how hard he trains and how much he wants to win.'
Other contributors this year included junior Jesse Laitman, sophomore Benn Heintz and freshman Tim Haas, all of whom competed in districts and states and placed in the top 110. Senior Chris Lewis ran in the league championship meet, while Pat Profy and Matt Haldeman also earned points at times.
Their presence, combined with the fact that only Wilson and Simmons will graduate, mean that the Indians could contend for big things yet again in 2014.