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Originally published in the Worcester Telegram 2-14-20

Whitinsville Christian second-year indoor track and field coach Michael Persenaire has certainly mastered the art of making due with what you’ve got.

“Our teams are small this year, with 12 boys and 13 girls,” Persenaire said. “Having such a small group makes the team feel more like a family than anything else. This group of athletes enjoy being together, more so than any other group I’ve seen. Not only do they enjoy being around each other, but they love competing against each other even more.”

Both Crusader squads went 3-4 this winter, and they’ve both managed to put together a strong postseason.

The WC girls placed third at the DVC championships and eighth at the Central Mass. Division 2 championships, while the boys placed second overall in both meets.

According to Persenaire, who is assisted by Tatiana Wiersma and Chris Vander Baan, Whitinsville Christian has never won a DVC boys’ or girls’ title, though the boys did capture a CMass D2 crown in 2012.

“Our strength is having captains that are willing to compete and work hard in practice as well as on meet day,” Persenaire said. “They push everyone to get a little better each day. The success that we have had this year is directly tied to the leadership these captains have shown.”

Captains include seniors Darnell Worley and Vicky DeBarros, and juniors Joseph ThumannHadley Koeman and Karen Behket.

“It’s a good team,” said Thumann, whose team will compete in Saturday’s Division 4 state indoor championships at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center in Boston. “We have a great amount of sprinters. On the distance side, there aren’t as many of us, but it’s still fun. Honestly, I just want everyone to have their best race and see all my teammates accomplish what they want.”

What Persenaire stresses the most to his student-athletes is the importance of setting personal goals and eventually achieving them, rather than individual wins and losses.

Thumann, whose primary event is the mile, posted a career-best 4:31.40 when he finished third at the MSTCA Coaches Invitational for Small Schools at the Reggie. One of the elite cross-country harriers in the state, Thumann said he still hasn’t gotten used to running indoors.
“I don’t like running in gymnasiums,” he said. “It’s (the season) not going the way I’ve wanted it to go. I’ve had a knee injury, but it’s one of those things you have to push through.”
Added Persenaire: “Joe works extremely hard, shows up each and every day, and gets right to work. He has grown so much as a runner and a person over the last few years. Joe just wants to race and it doesn’t matter what’s happening around him once he steps on the track. You know he’s going to give it his all and go out and compete.”
Other key contributing Crusaders include senior Hadley Koeman in the mile, junior Jeff Curtis, who broke the school record in the 55 dash (6.78 seconds), and is also the DVC and CMass champion in the event. Next, there’s senior Darnell Worley, whose personal-best in the 300 (36.73) was good for first at CMass, while sophomore Cece Labonte set a school record in the high jump at 4-10, and classmate Becky Dowling stars in the 1,000.
In addition, both WC boys’ and girls’ 800 relay teams have also set school records.

DeBarros, Labonte, sophomore Jill Labonte and freshman Kira Simoncini did it for the girls with a 1:54.86, while Curtis, Worley, and seniors Michael MacGillivray and Alex Kerr teamed to post a 1:34.84 for the boys.

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