Members of this year’s Shawsheen Tech Boys and Girls Cross-Country teams

The members of this year’s Shawsheen Tech Boys and Girls Cross-Country teams include: front row from left - Kaylee Gaffney (Tewksbury), Jamie Odans, Kaleigh Shannahan, Dan Lee (Tewksbury), Stephany Krusper (Tewksbury), and Emily Pinto (Wlmington); and back row from left, Andrew Stokes, (Wilmington), Adam Ippolito (Tewksbury), Mike Bankowski, Joseph D'Ampolo (Tewksbury), Ryan Johnson (Wilmington), Andrew Campeloro, Evan Munro (Wilmington) and head coach Pat Kelly.     (photo by Jim Vaiknoras).

BILLERICA — The Shawsheen Tech Boys Cross Country team will be looking to build on the success they had last season when they fought their way to a winning record, going 7-4 on the campaign and gaining some great experience with a relatively young squad that gave the top teams in the league all they could handle.

The Rams would love to repeat or improve on last year’s winning record and they certainly seem to have the pieces in place to do just that, but they must also overcome the loss of some key contributors from last year’s squad, including Steve Basler of Tewksbury, along with Ryan Smith, who had one of the most incredible seasons on the history of the program.

Smith was undefeated in dual meets on the season, while also earning second place finishes in the CAC Championship Meet as well as the State Vocational Meet.

Having an elite athlete like Smith at the top of the lineup was a huge advantage for the Rams, but Shawsheen coach Pat Kelly is confident that his squad can once again put together a successful season.

“Losing someone like Ryan is a tough loss, however, we are bringing back several of our top ten runners from season, and they came into camp looking really good,” Kelly said.

Among those who have looked the best in the early going of the season have been junior Alex Smith, Ryan’s younger brother, who had an outstanding season in his own right last season, with several top ten finishes. He will be joined at the top of the lineup by fellow juniors Dan Lee of Tewksbury along with Matt Hemenway, as well as sophomore Joe D’Ampolo of Tewksbury, who had an outstanding freshman season.

“Alex, Dan, Matt and Joe have all looked strong at the beginning of practice, and in addition to that, we have some newcomers who look like they are ready to contribute,” Kelly said.

Some of the new runners that Kelly will be counting on include junior Paul Tower of Tewksbury, sophomore Braedon King and freshmen Ben Hollenbeck and Andy Candeloro of Tewksbury. So, while the Rams suffered some obvious losses at the top of their lineup, Kelly is hoping that their depth will once again keep his team in contention.

“I think we will be similar to last year where we are a team that other teams are talking about” Kelly said. “I think we will finish above .500. I hate to make those predictions, but I feel like we can do it. I feel like we can be a top three team in this league.”

Kelly however, acknowledges that it won’t be easy to make his prediction come true, given the stiff competition within the CAC.

“Greater Lawrence, Chelsea and Whittier all seem to be at the top of the league. Whittier was a little down last year, which surprised me, but they will be back this year. And Essex is another up and coming team, so there is plenty of competition within the league,” Kelly said. “So, the question with that many good teams is, where does that put us? But I still think we are a top three team in the league, and maybe at worst four.”

Shawsheen assistant coach Dan Dorazio, who also works with the distance runners with the Spring Track team, shares Kelly’s optimism for the season and beyond.

“I feel like we have a really good core coming back from last year,” Dorazio said. “We have really strong group of sophomores coming back from last year, so that is good for this season, as well as for the future.”

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