I-L sophomore Cam Daly leads the pack at last week's Kingswood Invitational in Wolfeboro. The top runner for the Lakers will look to add a state championship to his ever-growing resume this weekend in Manchester. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 21, 2013MEREDITH – It's been a dream season for Cam Daly. The Inter-Lakes High School sophomore hopes the best is yet to come however.
After winning seven of the eight races he's competed in during his first-ever cross country season, Daly and the Lakers now set their sights on Saturday's Division III state championship meet. The boys' race, scheduled for 1:40 p.m. at Derryfield Park in Manchester, will follow the girls' race at 1 p.m.
"I think it'll be a very good race," said Daly, who is one of the favorites in the D-III field. "I've raced a lot of those top runners during the season and we all kind of know each other. We're all nerds for this kind of thing so we keep tabs on what everyone has been running."
Daly expects to do battle with a pair of runners from the southern part of the state near the top of the leader board. Hopkinton's Dom Repucci and Mascenic's Tim Fafard should be tough competition, with Repucci winning the Capital Area Championship last week in his final tune-up before the state meet. Fafard finished second to Daly at the Belmont Homecoming race earlier this season.
"I think I've been running pretty well lately but my last race where I went hard was at Belmont," recalled Daly. "I'm going to rest up this week and try and go all out at the state meet."
Daly was also victorious in his team's final race before the state meet, capturing the Kingswood Invitational a week ago. It was I-L's final regular season meet this season in what has been an outstanding fall for the program that has surprised many along the way.
"As a team we were predicted to finish so low this year," explained Daly. "But I think as the season has gone along we've been kind of a force to be reckoned with."
Where the Lakers finish at Saturday's state meet will be an interesting story all on its own. Thanks to the infusion of Daly and senior Trevor Colby to the lineup (both came over from the soccer team), I-L has impressed on the team front this season. With runners like Johnny Cox, Ambrose Bean, Eamon Bean and Finnian O'Connell hoping to score well, the Lakers have high expectations for the state championship meet.
"Our team's been amazing," said Daly. "We've had our share of injuries but the guys have all stepped it up and when we've had a full team, we've been really strong."
Daly has been at the forefront of that resurgence however. After finishing third overall in his first XC race back in August at Gunstock Mountain, the sophomore has been outstanding. He's picked up wins in big races at Sant Bani School and Belmont, gaining experience and confidence along the way.
"I've definitely been adjusting to cross country," said Daly, who burst onto the track and field scene last spring as a freshman by finishing second in the 1,600 meters at the Division III state championship. "Running track you're dealing with a lot less miles, especially with the shorter races. The longest race I do is the mile so now that we're running these (5K) races, I'm running upwards of 40 miles per week now. It's just a lot different."
That adjustment period was short-lived however, and not only has Daly been winning races, he's been down-right dominant at times. Despite his strong spring season on the track, the success on the XC scene has even been a bit of a surprise for Daly himself.
"I had no idea what to expect this season to be honest," Daly said. "But I don't think anyone expected the kind of season it's been so far, definitely not myself. There's definitely a learning curve that goes along with it. The first race I did, I decided not to take the lead and ran behind someone. That didn't work out so well for me but I've just worked on pacing throughout the year, especially with the upper level runners. I know I have to keep a good pace if I want to compete in the big meets."
Despite all the success, Daly's competitive running career is still very much in its infancy stages. The sophomore only really began competing seriously as a seventh grader, though he's already run in some prestigious events. Daly took part in the Hershey's Track and Field Games (Penn.) in 2012, and he was 11th overall in the New Balance Outdoor Nationals Freshman Mile this past June in North Carolina.
"Those big meets really help you learn how to race," Daly explained. "You're running with such good runners that you're forced to take it to another level. But that New Balance race was really the turning point for me. I think that's when I decided I had to make the switch to cross country because everyone was asking what my cross country time was and I didn't have an answer for them. It was just, 'Oh, actually I play soccer."
With the championship portion of the season now approaching, Daly has his sights set on putting an exclamation point on what has already been a tremendous fall. Saturday's state championship meet is the first part of the equation, with the Meet of Champions and New England Championships also goals for the sophomore. The Lakers were hoping to get down to Manchester to run the course at Derryfield Park this week in anticipation of Saturday's meet.
"Those top runners might have an advantage on me because I know they've both run there but hopefully I can gain a little experience with the course," he said.
Daly is also expecting to compete in the Foot Locker Northeast Regional Cross Country race on Nov. 30 in the Bronx, N.Y., closing out a fall season that has certainly been lively. He anticipates a winter spent on the Nordic ski team in preparation for the outdoor track and field season, where he will look to continue his ascent amongst the best in New Hampshire, despite being just a sophomore.