Maybe St. John’s Prep cross country coach John Boyle felt like Forrest Gump prior to the season.
Because, like with a box of chocolates, Boyle wasn’t sure what he’d get with the Eagles this fall.
The Prep only graduated one scorer from last year’s squad, but that was standout Jake Smith, who is now running at Assumption College. And last year’s team was only average by Prep standards, finishing second in the Catholic Conference and eighth in EMass Division 1.
Boyle also wasn’t sure who would be his No. 1 runner or how much to expect from junior Liam Dow of West Newbury. Dow had shown promise two years ago as a freshman but he had missed much of last fall with a complicated hamstring injury.
“It was hard to tell how effective he’d be,” said Boyle, who has been with the St. John’s program for more than 30 years including four as head man. “The injury was tough on him last year, but he did run a 10:02 in the 2-mile last spring.”
Even Dow wasn’t sure about his effectiveness.
“I was hoping to be in our top three, but I didn’t know how well I’d do,” said Dow. “I hadn’t run 5Ks before. I thought it’d take me awhile.”
In fact, Dow has been one of the surprises of the season and a major reason why the Prep could be a factor in the Eastern Mass. Division 1 meet.
Dow debuted by placing first in the Prep’s opening dual meet with a 5K time of 17:15, he won his second dual meet as well and then, at the highly competitive Ocean State Invitational, he ran a surprising 16:35 (for 5K) to finish fifth.
“That was a huge surprise and a big breakthrough for me,” said Dow, who started running as a seventh grader at Pentucket Middle School. “I was just hoping to break 17 minutes. I actually spent the first mile and a half leading the race ... I didn’t know what I was doing, but it worked out.”