So now I know stuff and my foray in the world of cross-country began. We had a few characters.
Senior Jeff McMurray who had the obvious nickname of Fred was the leader. Jeff was a good runner who competed well in the 880 in track. Never afraid to throw down. He had the purest speed on our team. He was also the funniest by far. Because he was about the only one with running experience his stories were legendary to us. He recounted races from the track stars of the past and it was inspiring. I'm not sure what his racing strategy was, but he was the only guy ever from my HS in cross-country I saw during races. He made the sport fun.
Senior Mark Albers was a skinny guy who was also funny, but in a different way. He used to put mint glow by his nose just to keep his nasal passages open. You can't make this up. He figured it would allow him to breath better. How he ran with his nose on fire I will never know. Always willing to run at the front for as long as he could and then fade into the back. He would usually explain to us in detail after the race why he couldn't hang on.
Tarso Canerio was a senior and a foreign exchange student from Brazil. He was our 3rd / 4th man. He worked hard and was always pushing the pace in workouts which most of us were not mature enough to figure out. We spent most of our time getting him to tell us how to swear in Portuguese.
The last senior I remember was Dave DeRosa who due to prior football injuries was using cross-country to get in shape. Dave wasn't going to be up front, but man did he make it fun. He and Fred knew like the entire senior class so the inside details of what was happening with people older than us and stories about the teachers were priceless. Dave didn't like to lose, so one time he suggested he take a couple opponents out in the woods on the way back to increase our chances. I'm sure he wouldn't have went through with it, but it was funny to think about. Dave went on to Slippery Rock were I went to school and I got to know him pretty well. Great guy.
We never had anyone from the Junior class I remember. Beside Fred and Tarso being scorers the rest were predominantly from the sophomore class. We perceived by our second year we would just keep getting better. Hope sprang eternal as we ran through that year. We won our second dual meet that year against Ellwood City and I picked up my first win ever. I remember getting to the front and being scared I would be run down. That's when I learned being scared isn't a bad thing. We were crushed by the other teams. We had several teams who made states annually and had a couple guys who could get pretty well under 9:50 for the 2 mile. Most of those teams swept us easily. We went 2 - 5 that year in duals. This is when my buddy made the claim, "We're not good, but we're funny." It was good we had fun, but losing all the time wasn't settling to me.