NEWPORTâ€“Sophomore Sam Brunnette will be the sole representative from North Country at this yearâ€™s New England Regional Cross Country Meet at the Twin Brook Recreation Center in Cumberland, ME this weekend.
Brunnette is coming off of a season that his seen steady growth for the runner, beginning with his first race on the course at Primeau Farm.
"It was a pretty good season. I was going into the year hoping to do well and I started off with a PR (personal record), which was nice," said Brunnette.
The rest of the season, while not flashy, was effective.
He picked up a second place finish in the first half of the year, but then flew under the radar while improving his times and techniques.
"I quieted down, basically until I got to the State Meet, where I placed 25th," he said of how the season unfolded at the end.
Coach Chris Shaffer has noticed the jump in performance from Sam's freshman campaign last season to this year's showing.
"Sam basically had an extension from last year," said Shaffer. "He came on strong as a freshman and really grew through the year.
â€œThis year he picked up where he left off and continued to grow and was one of our top four guys throughout the season."
According to the coach, a big difference from last year and this year was the off-season work Brunnette got in.
"Last year he hadn't done any running going into the season. This year he did some summer running and he competed in outdoor track and that set the stage for where he came in this year, as he was running much stronger and much faster early on."
At the State meet he got the desired results that allowed him a chance to compete with the best in New England this weekend.
"In beginning you have to start out fast at it is flat and then heads down hill, so I did.
â€œMy second half was slower and I used up a little more energy than I should have, but I managed to stay in a good position and finish strong."
Said Shaffer, "It was a fantastic race, text book as far as what we tried to put together pre-race.
"I told him to go out strong and steady, but not too hard. We knew that there was that traditional bubble within the State Meet where twenty seconds could mean the difference between twenty-fifth and seventy-fifth, but he kept working to stay at the front of the bubble and he pulled it off."
Brunnette has been using a balanced attack in his preparation for races throughout the season, and his process for this race has not differed.
"I have been using a little bit of everything; diet, coaching; I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for coach," said Brunnette.
As a runner, getting protein is always important.
As a vegetarian it can be a problem for some, but for Sam, it is a non-issue.
"There are plenty of ways (to get protein), you just have to know where they are," he said. "Soy is mostly where I get it, and I do have eggs."
Shaffer has noticed, just in the last week, an upswing in Sam's performance.
"He has been actually getting stronger, which is a tribute to the fact that he's got a lot of natural talent.
"Right now we're building that physical (ability) on top of it and hoping for a new PR for him this weekend."
As for his trip to New England's, Sam is primed and ready to go, but his participation in the race wasn't a forgone conclusion at the season's start.
"I am very excited. At the beginning of the season I wasn't expecting it, but the closer I got to States, the more I realized I could."
And his prediction for this weekend's race?
"Probably a sub-eighteen and hopefully a PR."
We at the Express wish Sam the best of luck in Saturday's race