They’re a bit ... different. But they make it happen, time and time again.
Whether that difference, a singular sense of humor that straddles the fence between goofy and certifiably insane, is what has kept the Newburyport boys cross-country team so successful over the past few years, no one seems able to say.
But what cannot be denied is that this group of runners has known nothing but success, having just taken its second Eastern Mass. Division 5 Championship in a row Saturday. The Clippers are headed for the Mass. All-State Championships once again this weekend.
“We’ve always tried to keep things enjoyable,” Clippers coach Don Hennigar says of both his boys and girls cross country teams. “Because it’s a hard sport. There’s nothing easy about it. To have a balance of being able to enjoy the time when you’re not running and working hard when you are running, it’s worked out well through the years.”
Very well, as the boys are coming off their second consecutive undefeated regular season and are heading to their seventh states in as many years.
“It’s like a job,” says Hennigar. “If you hate your job, you’re not going to do a very good job. If you like coming to practice, then you’re going to do a better job at it.”
Hennigar says that the team’s sense of humor has always grown from the leadership, and no leader has seemed to have left such an indelible mark on the team’s psyche than last year’s captain, Keith Conway.
“Keith was my mentor,” junior Chris Orlando says of Conway. “When I was a sophomore, we’d go on runs all the time. And he gave me the weirdness that he had (so) I would carry it on. He is the sun, and I am the planet that revolves around him.”