CUMBERLAND — The dual meet portion of the cross-country season is safely in the books. The early-in-the-week gatherings involving schools squaring off against their regional rivals has given way to a postseason gamut that is far more demanding and extensive due to the field expanding.
To Trevor Crawley, shifting from the sport’s unofficial “warm-up act” to a series of defined gatherings of harriers is not akin to a mystery wrapped in an enigma. To date, everything the Cumberland High senior has done on the trails has been geared toward what lies ahead, albeit with a slight twist.
Save for last week’s Northern Division championship-clinching performance for head coach Tom Kenwood’s Clippers, Crawley’s duel-meet services were not required. The depth at Cumberland’s disposal allowed Kenwood to “save” his top distance specialist, a decision that was made back in the summer and done specifically with an eye toward the next several weeks.
“In the past I’ve given Trevor a few meets off, but he’s stepped up his training this year and running more quality miles and getting more workouts in,” Kenwood explained recently while sitting in the high school’s Wellness Center. “At this stage, it’s more important for him to get a quality workout in rather than run in a dual meet.”
In other words, Crawley enters this season-defining stretch free of the usual wear and tear that runners tend to accumulate following the season’s first month. That’s when league meets tend to blend in with invitationals and training principles that volley between recovery and preparation mode.
October represents his September in terms of feeling fresh, hence why Crawley feels that he’s just now scratching the surface.
“I like to race; it’s my favorite part of running,” stated Crawley. “I didn’t race for a couple of weeks and that was a little weird, but now I’m ready to make a push.”
Just to clarify, Crawley didn’t participate in three of Cumberland’s four league meets. This past Saturday’s second-place, 16:23 finish at the Wickham Park Invitational in Manchester, Ct. – a showing that was only a few seconds off the previous course record – came exactly seven days following an equally impressive runner-up, 16:43 clocking at the Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions, one that featured a field of 779 runners.
Closer to home, Crawley’s dominance resonated during the Sept. 21 Blackstone Valley Invitational, when his 15:15 mark at the Burrillville Middle School course was nearly a whopping two minutes faster than the next closest finisher. The only league meet Kenwood elected to send Crawley to the starting line came last Tuesday at Bryant University. In keeping with the first-team, all-state status he earned last year as a junior, Crawley completed the hilly 3.1-mile course in 17:14 – 34 seconds quicker than his closest-at-hand challenger.
Staying with the in-state competition, Kenwood believed Crawley would benefit more by refraining from meets that would stop short of posing a serious challenge to a runner that has his sights set on running at the Division I collegiate level come next fall. Crawley says that he too is aware of his status as an elite runner within R.I. circles, but that his classification changes seismically whenever the Clippers participate in an out-of-state invitational.
“I was in the lead by myself (during the league meet at Bryant) while I was with a group of people (two weekends ago in Maine),” he remarked.
Added Kenwood, “He’s accepted the challenge of running against the better competition. He won the Blackstone Valley Invitational by so much that it doesn’t do him any good. You need to run against kids who are equal or better in order to get a better performance, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
In some ways, the demanding workouts Crawley has subjected himself to while the Clippers are busy racing allowed him to stay sharp while maintaining that competitive spirit. On the days in which Crawley alone served as his chief rival, he would run three miles at roughly a five-minute pace, which would allow him to remain close to his typical race pace.
“It’s a little more beneficial,” said Crawley matter-of-factly.
“By running on a Monday or Tuesday, it knocks one of your training days off,” Kenwood delved further. “The day before a race, usually you take it a little bit easier. The day after, you’re not going as hard. When you have another meet coming up on Saturday, you don’t have any time to do a lesser workout than what you want to do.”
There represents a few other reasons why Crawley has by and large spent September under wraps. First, Kenwood saw the league meets as a prime chance to gain additional exposure to his runners in terms of all-division consideration. Judging by the 11-0 record Cumberland produced, the Clippers figure to have no shortage of representatives, the list of deserving possibilities including Kevin Seaver, Alex Southiere, Matt Smith, Sean Laverty and David Agudelo.
“When you talk about teams in cross country, you want a tight pack of runners,” Kenwood stressed. “Trevor is far and above everyone else, but our pack of runners is very close.”
Said an appreciative Crawley, “It’s nice that the guys have been able to take the load off my back a little bit and we can still win without my help.”
Second, college coaches tend to pay more attention to the times achieved at the more prestigious meets. By carefully picking and choosing when he deploys Crawley, Kenwood knows that his heralded performer will be near or close to top form when the starter’s pistol is fired and plenty of onlookers are taking notice.
Presently, Crawley lists Providence College and Northeastern as his favorites with unofficial visits planned at each school over the next two weekends. Kenwood also added that URI and DePaul have also been in contact with interest also shown by Georgetown and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
“A lot of college coaches have said that at the high school level, you end up racing too much,” said Crawley. “They thought it made sense for me to take the dual meets off so I could be fresh.”
“At this stage, he could run for pretty much anybody,” feels Kenwood.
This weekend, Warwick’s Goddard Park will host the annual Brown Invitational, yet another prime opportunity for Crawley to gauge himself against a higher caliber of runner. The class meets are scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 27 at Ponaganset High School with runners returning to the same location on Sunday, Nov. 4 for the state meet.
The competition will heighten following the states with the New England meet, where Crawley will be seeking to qualify for the nationals.
“I’m probably going to improve more late in the season that I did in the past,” said a confident Crawley, understanding full well that the best of senior season is still in front of him. “To me, this feels like the start of the season.”