There was no mincing words when head coach Steve George reflected on this past fall for both the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ and girls’ cross country teams.
“This has been my most memorable season thus far at Whitman-Hanson, and I can’t say enough about this great group of coaches and kids,” said the sixth-year head coach.
It began before the first meet.
“Starting this season with my coaching dream team of Steve Schlicting and Kim Coletti got things off on the right foot,” George said.
The boys’ team posted a 6-3 record — highlighted by wins over Plymouth South (25-34), Plymouth North (26-30) and Scituate (22-39) — during the dual-meet season, which was followed by a first-place finish at the Patriot League meet.
The leap of the junior Theo Kamperides to stardom and improvements from the rest of the Panthers’ pack were pivotal.
Kamperides posted a season to remember, culminating in a 66th-place (out of 181 runners) finish in the Div. 1 Championship meet. Kamperides finished in first place in all but one dual meet and was tabbed the Patriot League Keenan Division’s MVP.
“Theo had a remarkable season,” George said of Kamperides, who owns a personal best time of 15:50. “He is a hard-working, dedicated athlete and brings it every time out.”
Senior captains Brandon Hager and Adam Solari, junior Liam Cafferty and sophomore Nathan Tassey were also named league all-stars.
Hager had a personal best time of 16:45.
“When he arrived four years ago, his running mechanics were — by his own admission dismal,” George said. “Brandon worked on his form and worked hard. He perfected it over the past year and it has paid off.”
Tassey had a top time of 16:53 in his first season on the team.
“I am happy he chose cross country,” George said. “He is a gifted runner with an incredible attitude and a great sense of humor. He keeps us all laughing on the road. He has also remained healthy all season despite this being his first exposure to high mileage.”
Cafferty’s best time was 17:02.
“Liam, It didn‘t start off well for [him] with blistering that kept him out of action for a couple of weeks, but he turned it on when he got back,” George said. “Another kid with an outstanding attitude and dedication to the team. He has been a major contributor since his first day as a freshman.”
Solari, known more for his prowess on the ice, put together a productive campaign, finishing one second off of Cafferty’s time at 17:03.
“He has extraordinary leadership skills,” George said. “He has never let us down in any competition and always rises to the occasion at big meets. His incredible effort at the Patriot League meet put us over the top and he ran a great race at EMass.”
George said while he’s excited for the short-term future of the program, he has some concerns down the road.
“My philosophy has always been to encourage kids to participate in something, whether it be another sport or drama, band, robotics, anything; but be involved and take advantage of these opportunities,” he said. “I’ve got to somehow get the message out that running in general has a positive impact in every aspect of life. I‘ve experienced that on a personal and familial level and we are planning some projects to promote our sport and get more kids involved.”
While the postseason success wasn’t there for the girls’ team, it exceeded George’s expectations, posting a 4-5 record for its best mark in four years.
“Going into the season, I anticipated a drop off from last year, but with the addition of Myah Kamperides and Bryn Miller, and an outstanding season from Anna Flynn, the ladies fared well overall,” George said.
Like her cousin, Myah, a sophomore, posted wins in seven of her eight dual meets en route to being named a league all-star, in her first year on the team after playing soccer as a freshman. Myah finished the season with a personal best time of 19:32.
“We thought Myah would be a major factor this year but had no way of knowing just how good she could be,” George said. “Myah exceeded expectations. Myah’s success came as a result of hard work, training with the boys’ squad several times per week and staying healthy throughout the season.”
Also an ex-soccer player, Miller, a junior, posted a top time of 21:11 in her first year on the team.
“Bryn is a bit of a worrier and that should ease as she gains confidence,” George said. “She has enormous potential, paired with a desire to improve. She doesn’t know how good she can be.”
Just a sophomore, Flynn ended the season with a personal best time of 21:19.
“Anna is probably our most fit athlete,” George said. “She works hard in the weight room and has increased her strength tremendously. She improved her time by over five minutes since last year and will drop a couple more before she’s through.”
Senior captain Tori Boss, senior Niki Kamperides, senior captain Tori Carleton and sophomore Sarah Boulger rounded out the Panthers’ top seven.
George said he’s already begun planning for next season.
“I’d love running at Martha‘s Vineyard in early September, but in retrospect our goals would have been better served had we run the Coaches Invitational in November and been more prepared for EMass,” he said. “We’ll be back, stronger and faster in 2020.”