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Sports

September 9, 2013

The Unlikeliest Runner

Ex-standout football lineman now a college cross country captain

The classic cross country runner’s build is rail thin ... the less bulk to carry during a grueling 5-mile race over unforgiving terrain.

Chris Affannato is the antithesis of the classic cross country runner. He has the steely determination and the unwavering work ethic, but that body was not made for distance running.

His being a distance runner seems as unlikely as Billy Ray Cyrus being named Father of the Year.

But the powerful 5-8, 180-pounder with the tree-trunk thighs is a cross country runner for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. A tri-captain to boot.

“I’m still a lineman at heart,” said Haverhill’s Affannato.

Indeed, he was a starting offensive lineman for Whittier Tech’s unbeaten 2009 Eastern Mass. Division 4 Super Bowl championship team.

Affannato has only been running for the Buccaneers since last fall, but MMA coach Chris Ryan said the captain honor was “well deserved.”

He added, “Chris gives a total effort in every practice and race he enters. He is, as I have told him, our bulldog!”

That’s an apt and ironic description as the U.S. Marines’ mascot is the bulldog. Affannato is studying and training to be a Marine officer.

With the football physique comes the football mindset.

As Ryan put it, “He attacks the five miles like a football lineman attacking the quarterback.”

Just like cross country, the 5-8, 180-pound Affannato doesn’t have the ideal frame to be a college football lineman.

“I gave it (football) a little bit of though, but the military career came first,” he said from the training ship Kennedy, which was traveling through the Cape Cod Canal.

The military career always came first.

“I was six years old,” recalled Affannato, who just began his senior year at MMA. “My dad and I were watching the Discovery Channel’s ‘10 Most Deadly Jobs.’”

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