For Lenox High School senior Scott Carpenter, as well as all the top cross country runners in Berkshire County, it's all been building to this part of the season.
It should be no surprise, then, that Carpenter -- the defending Western Mass. Division II champion -- isn't nervous, but impatient.
It's time to go.
"I'm just waiting for the time to finally come," he said Friday night. "I'm definitely hoping for big things out of my team. Obviously, it's my last year and it would mean a lot to me. If everything goes as planned, I think we should be happy with our result."
Carpenter isn't the only one from the Berkshires looking to repeat his success of a year ago today at Northfield Recreation Center, where the Divisions I and II sectionand and state meets will be held. Today's Western Mass. meet begins at 11 a.m., with the Division I girls race. The Division II girls follow at 11:40; the Division I boys run at 12:20; and the Division II boys run at 1 p.m.
The Mount Greylock boys have won the Western Mass. title for the past two seasons, and will look to defend it once again. Coach Scott Burdick believes Lenox and Monu ment Mountain will be the two toughest teams in the race for his team to overcome.
"We should be in the top three teams. I know Lenox and Monument are tough but so are we," Burdick said. "We're very healthy and the kids are running the best they have all season. We've won it the past two years and we know what it takes to win because we've been there.
North Division girls champion Pittsfield gets its top runner back today. Sophomore Lauren Farry, who pulled out during last weekend's Berkshire County Championship race due to illness, is back in the lineup. She will lead a Pittsfield team looking to return to the state meet, as the Generals placed 17th in the state last year.
Farry ran the Northfield course before last week's county meet, and said she's over the bug that stopped her at Berkshire Community College. Not wanting to take any chances, Farry made sure she was properly hydrated Friday. She also took it easy this week in practices.
"I kind of tapered my runs," she said. "I didn't do too much, so I wouldn't be too tired [today]."
With Mackenzi and Makayla Powers behind her, as well as runners like Liza Smith and Mollie Daly, Farry feels PHS is even stronger this season.
The North Division has at least three legitimate shots at a girls team championship today, with PHS strong in Division I and Lenox and Greylock looking for a D-II crown.
The Greylock girls have also won two Western Mass. titles in a row, but they know it's not necessarily the teams that they have to worry about.
"It's a brutal course. The first mile is up hill and then it's all rolling hills and downhills," Greylock junior Jenna Phelps said. "We have to really run what we think is best, and I think coach has done a great job preparing us for that."
It might be a 3.1-mile course, but the first mile can be the start and finish for some.
"The first third of a mile can make or break the race," Hoosac Valley coach Ron Namislo said. "Most of our kids are pretty well used to it. A lot of kids have run it a few times. They know it's tough."
"This is one of my favorite courses, really because of the hills," Hoosac sophomore Travis Ciempa said. "The only hard part is the first hill. Once you get over it, you're having fun."
Carpenter also said the first hill is the toughest part -- "Right from the gun, it's just straight up for [half a mile]" -- but said his plan of attack won't change.
He also said today's meet will be a bit of a dress rehearsal for next week's state meet on the same course.
"I'm going to be keying in on certain parts of the course, and seeing how I feel in parts of the race," Carpenter said.
Last season, Mount Greylock's Emily Kaegi won the meet to lead her team to the Division II title. The Mounties placed four runners in the top 10, and Kaegi finished the course in 20 minutes, 29 seconds.
The Mount Greylock boys also won the Division II title last season.
"I had so much fun on it last year," Kaegi said. "I just love the course and really do have so much fun running on it. I think that is key when running such a tough course, like Northfield. If you can smile and have fun on it, you'll be in better shape."
Including practice runs, this will be her eighth time running on the course. Only teammate Kat Chenail has more experience on the course. The senior placed eighth last year.
Kaegi was a sophomore when she claimed the crown last year. The two runners directly behind her were juniors. Frontier's Natalie Mako and Hampshire's Brittany Dalton took second and third, respectively, and are both expected to be back at the race this season. Whoever has a better start on the opening hill could go a long way toward deciding the race.
"The first hill is just awful," Kaegi said. "You know your legs are going to be dead at the top of it, but as soon as I get to the top of that first hill, I know good things are coming."