Friday October 26, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- When Theresa Apple started coaching cross country at Pittsfield High School in 2000, she had just three girls on her team.

That number has grown to 37 in 12 years, and now each of them can claim the title of Berkshire County North Division champion.

"You need numbers," Apple said. "That's where you get your strength in a cross country team, the depth. ... It's a good feeling, I have to say. I'm really proud of them. I think what I'm most proud of is the way they pull together and work together. They wanted something so they work hard for it."

That something was Apple's first outright North title with the Generals this fall. Pittsfield shared the North crown in 2008 with Mount Greylock, and before that the Generals were in the South Division. It was an early season win over the Mounties that Apple called "a turning point" that had her team believing it could win in the county's top flight.

While the Generals have unbeaten Lauren Farry at the top of the lineup, they also have plenty of strength behind the sophomore. Twins Makayla and Mackenzi Powers have both stepped up this season, as has sophomore Liza Smith.

"Last year I was like 18th on the team. I just did not do very well," Smith said. "I was getting better but then I broke my elbow. ... I think the biggest difference is I actually ran over the summer. Last year, it was intimidating being a freshman."

Smith has helped the Generals narrow that gap between their top runner and their fifth runner. That depth -- for which Greylock has become so famous -- is the key ingredient in a successful team. Mackenzi Powers said winning the North was something she was focused on from the start.

"It felt really good [to clinch]," Mackenzi said. "This was the first time in -- I don't remember how long -- years. It was such a relief for me because all this season it was like a weight on my shoulders. It was always on my mind. Now we finally had it."

Apple said she's not super competitive herself, instead choosing to focus on strong times and what she calls the apex of the season, the Western Massachusetts championships on Nov. 10. Yet the intense fire and desire of this group of girls has forced the coach to pay attention to the standings.

"I often don't know our season record. I have to write it down," she said. "I'm not competitive anywhere near to the extreme that they are. I've seen that developing over the last five, six years. ... I can't be happy with ‘Oh, top seven, go to Western Mass., who cares.' No. They want to win."

To reach Christopher James:
cjames@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6252.
On Twitter: @BECJ2K