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Newark High runners beat to the same drum

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Newark Girls Cross Country Team

Newark High’s girls cross-country team is as close a group as its been in recent years.

When Allie LaPorte trains for cross-country running, she sometimes does so to the beat of rock music from the 1980s and 90s. It helps pass the time during what can be very long and lonely treks on trails across fields and through forests.

When she’s not running, LaPorte is often seen donning a shako, as she leads the Newark High band in her role as a drum major. It’s an entirely different beat of music she is tapping her foot and twirling her arms to as she directs dozens of musicians to move in cadence across a field. And she’s not nearly as lonely as when she runs.

“I like getting to know everyone,” LaPorte said, explaining why she gave up playing the saxophone to take her current role with the band. “The past three years in the band I didn’t get to know everyone. By being a drum major, you get to know people and understand and it’s really cool to be able to motivate people and bring them together.”

LaPorte’s dual role in the fall is unique. That is, except for the fact that Newark’s other drum major, senior Leia Clendaniel, is also on the cross-country team.

“Both Allie and Leia are fantastic students, with clear-cut priorities, so we trust them to make the best choices for themselves,” head coach Gordon Thomson noted about when they have to choose between their two roles.

Other cross-country members also in the band include Erin Dillon, Rachel Tims, Katie Zucaro and Lee Robell.

“I should not have been surprised because the team told me they sing songs on some of their runs,” Thomson said.

LaPorte chose to give up soccer last spring to focus on her running.

“I was really into running, wanted to do it full-time and outdoor track and soccer were the same time,” LaPorte explained. “I found myself wanting to make a decision and I wanted to be more invested in running.”

Her investment as a drum major leading a large group of people has transferred to the cross-country courses.

“They’re pretty closely correlated,” she said comparing the two roles. “It’s something I’ve come to appreciate this year, being able to meet and have relationships with such a wide variety of people. It’s really an eye-opening experience, and I’m really glad I got to be a part of both.”

Brianna Espinal is Newark’s top runner. She led the Yellowjackets at the Unionville Invitational in Pennsylvania, the White Clay Creek Classic and the Hereford High School invitational in Maryland. Ariz Hernandez is another one of the top runners and Ana Donato, Erin O’Rourke, Rachel Tims and Katherine Zucaro round out the pack.

“I think we’re emphasizing being a team this season, which is great,” LaPorte said. “Out of all of my four years running cross-country, this season we’ve been the closest when it comes to doing a hard work out and finishing together. We are all close in physical endurance and in our relationships and I think that’s really great.”

Thomson also has noted the camaraderie.

“Believe it or not, we have a very close team,” Thomson remarked. “Once they all get together for a 5k race, they are an excitable crew.”

Newark’s get-togethers over the next few meets will be at the top local meets that then culminate with the state championships on Nov. 9.

“We have already laid out the schedule for the day of the state meet,” Thomson explained. “[The girls who participate in band] will have a band performance in the morning, the state championships in the afternoon, and then another band competition at night.”

It’s at the state meet when LaPorte hopes to top her 5k personal best of 22:46.

“I want to end my running career on a good note,” she said.

Given her dual role this fall, she couldn’t have said it any better.

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