Goold, Red Dragons Claim Fifth Straight League Championship
With three decades and a huge variety of coaching experience on his resume, Bob Goold knew that this past season with the Maple Grove boys track and field team was going to be a difficult one.
Getting your roster cut in half will do that.
“We had 17 kids this year after having 30 last year,” Goold said.
It doesn’t take a track and field expert to figure out that a loss of personnel of that scale was going to be hard to overcome. Luckily for the Red Dragons, the runners, jumpers and throwers that they did have were consumed with winning, regardless of what the numbers said.
Add to that, having this year’s Post-Journal Boys Track Coach of the Year at the helm and a sturdy contingent of assistant staff members, the results were not that surprising.
Five tenacious seniors combined forces with a determined group of underclassmen to carry Maple Grove through to their fifth straight Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association title.
“I said we’ve won four in a row you guys, let’s get one for the thumb,” Goold said.
Like so many other teams that come to find success late in the season, especially with a undersized roster, there is no way that Goold could have gotten that final “ring” without the help of his dedicated seniors.
Among those upperclassmen who stepped up every Tuesday and Thursday during the regular season were Post-Journal Boys Track Athlete of the Year Michael Peppy, Nash Nelson, Simon Olson, Truman Purslow and Nick Fabrizio.
Each accomplished in their own right, with Peppy leading the way in individual success following his pair of podium finishes at the NYSPHSAA Championships in the 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters, the group shared a common drive to help the Red Dragons overcome the odds stacked against them.
“This was a year when I really thought that we would have struggled, but the five seniors were just unbelievable,” Goold said. “Those five seniors just made it happen because they would do every event that we needed every time.”
While Peppy’s prowess in the middle- and long-distance races was a known quantity heading into this year, Nelson’s accomplishments in the sprints, Olson’s versatility, Purslow’s jumping and Fabrizio’s work in the field events all combined to make up a group that was greater than the sum of its parts.
Of the five, it was Olson’s approach to the season that is perhaps the most exemplary of the senior spirit.
“Simon was the go-to guy. He could do anything and everything,” Goold said. “He is the most heart-warming kid I have. He always wanted a sectional patch and was never able to get one in soccer. Then, finally, at the sectional meet in the 1,600-meter relay they were able to beat out East Aurora for third place and he got his patch.”
Joining Olson in that group were, Peppy, Nelson and Riley Auer with a time of 3:32.99, just a few tenths of a second ahead of fourth-place Lewiston-Porter and fifth-place East Aurora.
“It was pretty impressive how those five seniors helped carry that team, especially with Carson Crist being hurt most of that season. Usually he would be between high jump and hurdles. We had Darius Jones really step up as a sophomore in the hurdles and then Riley Auer and Pete Auer and the middle distances.”
While Goold will be without his fearsome fivesome next year, Jones’ athleticism will help flesh out the versatility of this year’s squad, while Crist will return for his senior season after finishing second in the pentathlon in the Section VI Championships.
The Maple Grove boys head coach may have as much experience at the helm of his team as anybody, and part of that knowledge means knowing when to defer to those around you.
The way Goold puts it, “I’m a jack of all trades, but not a master of any, so it’s nice to have some guys who are masters.”
That means opting to let the Red Dragons girls coach, Jim Foley, lead the way in the jumping events, while Maple Grove cross country coach Steve Matteson brings a wealth of middle- and long-distance running experience to the table.
“We’re so lucky we have Jim Foley as the girls coach, and then Steve Matteson is right there working with our distance kids,” Goold said.