Newark Charter cross-country coach Steve Sinko welcomed a record number of runners back in August at the beginning of preseason practice. Fifty-two student-athletes – 30 boys, 22 girls – are the most Sinko has had in his program since he started it seven years ago.
It’s a squad made up of a combination of veteran leadership and an influx of youth not seen since the high school opened. Thirty-four of the 52 runners are sophomores or younger, and three of the four captains – seniors Tommy Kinservik, Andrew Narvaez and Emma Hadley, and junior Madi McWatters – are taking on the role for the first time.
“There is a feeling of newness to the program this season,” Sinko explained of the team’s makeup. “Young team members are learning about who and what they can be as the next generation of Patriot runners. New captains are taking their turn with leadership and putting a stamp as to how the program will run going forward. There has been a lot of growth since we started preseason in August and we are improving week after week. Hopefully, we will continue this trend as we head into the championship portion of the season.”
Senior Aidhan Corbett is the top runner on the boys squad. And like a lot of “first timers” on this year’s team, it’s a brand new experience having the spotlight of being No. 1 shining on his shoulders.
“He has risen to the task leading the team in every workout and race while helping his teammates improve as well,” Sinko proudly said.
Running second behind Corbett in the pack is Kinservik, who has recently battled injuries and hopes to be back to full speed by the championship meets. Fellow seniors Ryan Lynch and Micah Beck provide some of the veteran leadership Sinko raved about.
“Ryan has been working his way back into form over the last few weeks, and if he continues to do so, will greatly impact our team placing,” Sinko explained. “Micah has been enjoying his best season as a Patriot and he helps add a little fire and emotion to our team.”
Junior Ian Lynch, sophomore Josh Washington and freshman Tyler Alvarez round out the Patriots’ lineup.
“Ian has been improving by leaps and bounds the last few weeks, dropping over two minutes off his lifetime personal record. He is fully healthy and is showing what he can do,” Sinko said. “This is Josh’s first year as a varsity contributor and he has been doing a great job in the role. Tyler is a strong and steady performer doing some great things for our team, and he is just getting used to high school cross-country.”
McWatters, the reigning Diamond State Conference champion, is the leader of the girls pack.
“Jokingly, it seems like Madi has been here forever,” Sinko said of his co-captain. “She started with our program as an eighth-grader and made an immediate impact. In her junior year, she is still doing the same. Great attitude, tireless worker, daily leader of our team day in and day out.”
Like on the boys team, there is a mix of classes represented in the girls starting lineup. Sophomore Alison Huthmacher and eighth-grader Arianna Murphy have had solid seasons to date.
“Alison joined us as an eighth-grader and made an immediate impact,” Sinko said. “She is an extremely dependable runner that rarely has a bad race. Arianna shows an incredible amount of potential and is getting better week after week. She is the next of immediate impact eighth-graders.”
A trio of freshmen have wasted no time contributing to the varsity team.
“Lily Halfen is one of our top middle school talents that is making a great jump to the high school level, showing her potential as she adjusts to high school running,” Sinko said. “Grace Carroll is one incredibly tough runner. She will have a plan, execute it, and shows no fear when competing as a young runner. Lastly, Maddie Alvarez has had some minor injury issues in her first season on the cross-country team that mildly affected her training. She is healthy and has been consistently training these last few weeks and she is showing what she can do.”
Sinko is hopeful that junior April Polk will be at full strength as the championship meets loom.
“April brings the team great experience at the varsity level,” he pointed out. “She has been dealing with some nagging injuries but still does a great job supporting the team. Her best racing is still in front of her if we can get her to 100 percent.”
While the team prepares for the upcoming conference, county and state meets on the trails, Sinko is pleased with how this multi-age and experience team has bonded off them.
“Team bonding, which in my opinion is the greatest part about the sport of cross-country, has been coming along all season,” he said. “With so many new team members, it has taken a little bit of time. We had a good stretch of no competitions and in that time of training, I think the team came together very quickly. As we have been racing the last few weekends, the camaraderie has grown both with the separate groups, boys and girls, and the team as a whole. It is important for the team to understand that they have to be in this together or positive results become a little hollow if just focused on self. This team has a good understanding of that concept.”