OSWEGO — Catherine Celeste is a firm believer that members of the Oswego High School varsity boys and girls cross country teams would rise to the bar that was set for them, and kept that in mind when establishing plans to increase the program’s community involvement throughout the fall season.
The Buccaneers focused on performing three collective volunteer acts around the area during the cross country season that recently concluded, roughly one per month, while aiming to improve their respective performances on the course.
Oswego placed three individual runners in the top 16 of their respective races at the Section 3 Class A championships on Nov. 9 at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill, including girls senior co-captain Miranda Gilbert, who advanced to the NYSPHSAA and state Federations championship meets.
“To me being in a high school sport is more than just competing and being an athlete, you have to show up and be there for the city you represent,” said Oswego junior Jason Purtell, a boys co-captain who finished 16th overall to lead his team to a ninth-place showing at sectionals.
Oswego started its community service initiative in late August by collecting pet food and other items to donate to the Oswego Animal Shelter. The group delivered the contributions and visited with the animals during one of the most enjoyable days of the season, according to team captains.
Celeste said that she initially wanted to organize a benefit that included varsity team members running with some of the dogs housed at the shelter, but state laws would have required all participants to be age 18 or older.
The Buccaneers then volunteered to oversee a water station during the 9/11 Remembrance Run on Sept. 15 in Oswego.
“It was cool to connect with the community a little bit through our team,” Gilbert said. “Everybody was there because they wanted to be there, and we had a lot of fun.”
Last month, the Oswego cross country teams conducted a food drive to gather donations for the pantry at Human Concerns Center in Oswego. Those items were recently delivered, and several cross country runners joined assistant coach Dominick Pike and the indoor track team to volunteer at the fourth annual Toys for Tots Teddy Bear Toss at the Oswego State men’s ice hockey game on Nov. 15.
“It’s really, you want to help and it just makes you grateful for the things that we have honestly, that not everybody has what we have and some people aren’t lucky enough to have what we have,” said Oswego junior and co-captain of the boys cross country team, Ethan Hunt.
Celeste added: “It doesn’t matter who I talk to, we just have great kids and if you ask of them, they perform. They want to do the right thing and they rise to the occasion in everything we ask of them, that’s also performance in the field when we ask of them to run in workouts. We’ve been very blessed (as coaches).”
Gilbert ran a personal-best of 17 minutes, 56 seconds to finish 37th overall in the Class A state championship meet in freezing conditions on Nov. 16 at SUNY Plattsburgh, and was scheduled to compete in last Saturday’s state Federations meet at Bowdoin Park in Wappinger Falls.
Gilbert’s 10th-place finish led Oswego in the Section 3 Class A championships on Nov. 8, while fellow senior co-captain and 2018 state qualifier, Molly FitzGibbons, finished 11th to help lead the Buccaneers to a fifth-place showing in the Class A team standings.
The duo, which each also advanced to the 2017 state championship meet, helped the Buccaneers girls team improve its overall record in dual meets to 5-2 after a 2-5 showing last year. The squad grew from seven to 11 participants since the end of last season.
“Every day on this team was kind of fun, everyone was a little goofy, and we had a lot of fun times before practices even started,” FitzGibbons said.