CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – William Carter is in his first year as John Jay’s cross-country coach. He has set a goal of winning a league title, while hoping to make some noise in the sectionals. But any aspirations are tied to the uncertainty of the coach’s primary goal.

With COVID-19 in mind, he said, “Our main focus is on keeping the kids safe and giving them a full season.”

So, if things continue to move along, he has confidence in his runners. The mainstays on the boys and girls squads are Kelsey Crawford, Lily Carey, Lily O’Shaughnessy, Thomas Dachik, Max Goodman, and Logan Aceste.

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At cross country meets, seven runners start the blocks for each team. So, there will be a lot of competition among the remaining teammates to fill the other four slots for John Jay.

However, the delayed start to the season has changed things up and made practice a little more precarious. The team had to build up steam and endurance with shorter runs, because less sunlight dictated the running schedule.

On the other hand, his six primaries make things a lot easier for a coach—especially one in his first year. Carter sees the first string setting the tone, and the contagion takes off from there. “It’s a team sport, 100 percent, and when you’re on the trail, you try to feed off the energy of others.”

Therefore, the synergy has the group pushing to the next marker or up the next hill, according to the coach. But the first-year travails are also lessened, because Carter is not coming out of nowhere. He was the track coach last year and there is enough familiarity to go around. “I know a lot of the kids, and they know me,” Carter said. 

At the same time, the fall and spring season do not compete, they complement.   “Each sport is going to help the other,” said Carter.

In addition, he’s always quick to remind his kids that cross country and track athletes are set apart from others. In other words, running is sometimes a vehicle to get better at other sports. So, the grind never ends. “These kids are just running on pure will and desire,” he asserted.

The low-profile nature of cross country also means the accolades are a bit light among the student body. “It takes a different breed,” Carter said.

Still, runners aren’t completely immune for the desire to be seen and heard. “When family and friends are there at the finish line, these kids live for that,” he concluded.

John Jay was slated to open the season on Tuesday, Oct. 13, in a home meet against Byram Hills.