I am writing as a Mass. high school XC and track coach, a fan of the sport, a member of the MSTCA Cross Country Committee, and a 30 year subscriber of your newspaper. While Kelly Sweeney’s article on the MIAA XC state championship meet was well-written and shows journalistic talent, the coverage of four cross country meets in such a brief article is unfair to this sport, one that services more athletes than any other in the state.
Cross country is growing in this state, but coverage is diminishing from your paper and others. I have heard the responses from your staff in the past that there simply isn’t enough space to properly cover high school sports, but I would argue that soccer, football, and others are getting what they deserve. Why not us?
I think the answer is simple. We have 4 state meets at one site, and out of convenience, this allows your reporter to write one article. Fair enough, but 4 MIAA soccer championships would not be covered into one article (especially boys and girls in the same article). What this space crunch did was force the reporter to write about individual performances, and have little to no space left to speak about the teams.
This is my most crucial point- cross country and track are TEAM sports. Only reporters see them any other way. It’s easy to watch a runner cross the finish line and want to write about what one sees, but the real story is what happens after that. Coach Zopatti of Pembroke was never interviewed- no mention of his team’s incredible 4th state title in 5 years. Coach Sawyer of Hamilton-Wenham, always knocking on the door, gets a hard-earned state title- never interviewed, never mentioned. Coach O’Connell of Needham, so close last year, so good all year, never spoken to. Coach Collins of Mansfield, a hall of famer, wins her 3rd in 6 years, never interviewed.
It’s not just about the coaches though (although I’ve read every other state title article and every winning coach was spoken to in those), it’s about the team drama. Tyngsborough went out and led the DII girls race for half of it before H-W came roaring back. Pembroke needed its 6th man to step up to seal the deal. Mansfield held off a deep DI boys field, especially defending champs Lowell and Peabody. Bishop Feehan has its top runner go down, only to hang in for 3rd place in the best battle we’ve seen in years.
Our sport deserves more than this. I’m just asking that you consider separating your articles for XC and track into divisions like every other sport. We make it convenient for a reporter by having 4 meets at one site, but don’t punish us by reducing our coverage to almost nothing. Trust me, there are hundreds of coaches who want to wake up and read your paper, as well as thousands of athletes, parents, and fans. Please give us something to tell the story.