So this past weekend was very special for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Athletics Program. Yes, for the first time since 2004 both the Boys and Girls Cross Country Teams ran in the Massachusetts (MIAA) All-State Cross Country Championships at Franklin Park, just outside of Boston. Oh, you thought I was referring to the football game? No, that sporting event did not interest me. After all, I attended and graduated from one of the high schools where the rivalry dates back to 1875. The earliest known game between the two schools was played on May 12, 1875. I never attended a football game in high school, however.
My view of athletics is one that establishes a love for the activities in the individual that will remain with them throughout the individual’s lifetime, promoting a healthy lifestyle that endures. I watched a movie about the American distance runner Steve Prefontaine, where the actor portrayed the runner speaking to a group of kids. He asked them if they liked football. They yelled “yes” and he replied that football wouldn’t be much without running, right? He did the same for several other sports, getting the same response from the kids. My point is, running might seem pretty mundane, but we tend to take it for granted as a sport, for the most part. But I am biased, as I am a runner and I coach runners.
Here on Martha’s Vineyard, I know runners that have run more than 100 marathons, compete in the Boston Marathon year after year, and run road races well into their 60’s. People clamor from all over the country to run in the Chilmark Road Race every year. Every summer residents and visitors alike take to the roads, paths, and trails of the Vineyard to resume running programs lost since the previous season. Running spans the confines of generations like few other sports do. I have been running for more than 25 years, including marathons.
Yet, the weekend the Boys and Girls Cross Country Teams both qualified for the Massachusetts State Finals, a few lines appeared in the local papers; nothing more. The fact that there where kids that stepped up when their team members faltered, enabling the entire team to advance to the next level of competition, well their names and times were not listed or noted. The next Saturday, when the Steamship Authority lot in Vineyard Haven was overrun with people clamoring to board the boat to Nantucket for the football game, the Cross Country Team quietly boarded the boat bound for Wood’s Hole.
The island’s radio station broadcast the football game live. Island businesses had signs posted in their windows cheering on the football players. When the Football Team returned to Vineyard Haven, victorious, they were greeted with a hero’s welcome, or so I was told. Pictures and video of the players and the game were all over the internet. Oh, and the runners on the Cross Country Team made it back to the island, too; just in case anyone was wondering.