If you ask a runner how much they like to run on a scale from 1 to 10, the majority will give you a below five answer. Runners can agree that running is not the most enjoyable pastime, but they still do it. The members of the Verona High School girl’s cross country team may also agree with this. Running at least 20 miles a week must get tiring.
Leading the team this year are captains and seniors Adrianna Fierro and Karishma Parekh. Together, the two girls are doing their best to lead their team to victory. Ready to take over for when the beloved seniors graduate are juniors Julia DiGeronimo, Brie Rigney, Kate Ashley, Jess Derderian, and Ashley Keneally. Lastly, Jenika Ying and Kathleen Nagy will be there to fill their shoes when their seniors finally graduate. However, these girls do not run this team on their own, Coach Gene Leporati helps keep these girls in check.
Training for a sport like this is not a walk in the park; the practice and dedication that comes with it are exhausting. These girls have practice six days a week, after school on weekdays, and then early Saturday mornings at the track. During the week, an average run adds up to be around four to five miles a day, with a generous amount of hills. The girls like to change their runs up everyday, varying from a nice run on the shaded trails to a tougher run to the reservoir in Cedar Grove. This is where creativity comes to play, because no one wants to run the same route every day.
During September, there is usually one meet a week at Branch Brook Park in Newark for the girls to show off their running abilities. Then, as September comes to an end, invitational and championship meets start to begin, pushing the girls to their limits. On October 3, the Lady Hillbillies competed at their championship meet at Branch Brook Park in Newark. Together the varsity team consisting of seven girls, Fierro, Parekh, Ashley, DiGeronimo, Rigney, Ying, and Nagy, came in first for the Liberty section. Four girls placed in the top 10 of the race, receiving medals for their accomplishments. Coach Leporati called this performance “textbook perfect,” because the girls performed their best so far this season.
Running cross country may not seem very difficult, but the weather conditions and injuries that runners battle through makes this sport a difficult task. Arguably, these Verona girls do a great job at making it look simple. If you ever get the chance to see a cross country meet in action, jump at the opportunity. The first 20 minutes of the race may be boring, but once our girls start running in, the cheering begins, and the excitement ignites.
Photos copyright Phillip Chivily (top) and Valerie Ruddy (bottom). Used by permission.