There’s being thrown right into the fire to start a season, and then there’s the early season schedule of the Gloucester cross country program.
Both the Gloucester boys and girls teams, which start the regular season this afternoon, square off with the two toughest teams on its schedule to open the season in Peabody (today, 4:00 p.m.), and Marblehead.
On the boys side Gloucester will be squaring off with the defending Northeastern Conference Large and Northeastern Conference Meet champions in Peabody, a team that Gloucester nearly upset last fall in the NEC Meet coming two points shy of the meet champion Tanners. Next week Gloucester will then host a Marblehead team that is the favorite in the Northeastern Conference South this fall.
The girls face an even tougher test this afternoon in Peabody, who not only won the Northeastern Conference last fall but was crowned the MIAA Division 1 All State champions. The girls follow up with defending Northeastern Conference Small champion Marblehead next Wednesday at Ravenswood Park.
The Fishermen will also be facing changes at the state level. Last year’s realignment saw Gloucester move from Division 2 to Division 3, and this fall Gloucester is dropping another division down to Division 4. The change means Gloucester will have a new crop of opponents at the Division 4 State Meet, and it also means that the team and individuals will compete in the Division 2 All State meet for the first time in school history if they qualify.
The Gloucester boys, who finished with a perfect regular season record and a Northeastern Conference Small championship in 2012, come into today’s opening meet with Peabody a young squad led by a trio of juniors. The team graduated its top two runners from last fall in Noah Mondello, a four time Northeastern Conference All Star, and Jacob Holscher, a three time NEC All Star and they will be very tough to replace. But a solid core of juniors leads Gloucester into the 2013 season in Everest Crawford, Willie Pierce and Matt Ciaramitaro.