Huebner, captains lead Foran boys cross country

Cole Heitmann and Brett Dumais worked offseason magic to help Foran post personal record times this season.

Cole Heitmann and Brett Dumais worked offseason magic to help Foran post personal record times this season.

Foran High Athletics / Contributed photo

Inclusion was the watchword for the Foran High boys’ cross country team in 2020.

Coach Jeff Raucci’s top runner Nate Huebner equates that one-team approach and a strong preseason workout plan to the Lions’ overall improvement.

“Our captains Cole Heitmann and Brett Dumais made friends with everyone, people listened to them and they directed everyone on how to handle different situations,” said Huebner, a junior who placed fourth at the Southern Connecticut Conference Division B championships.

‘Coach had given us workout to do (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic) over the summer so we did them at a safe social distance,” Huebner said. “Last year we did maybe two workouts a week. This year, we wanted to grow together as a team, so we worked out every single day.”

Foran took fourth place in SCC Division B behind Huebner, who ran in a time of 17:52 over the 5K (3.1-mile) course at East Shore Park in New Haven.

Huebner was followed across the finish line by freshman Max Newton (19:30), Heitmann (19:36), junior Joshua Cummings (20:07), junior Damon Downs (20:09), sophomore Kevin Chen (20:13), Dumais (20:48), sophomore Cole Cahill (20:52), junior Jake Duggan (21:32) and sophomore Tighe Duggan (22:33).

“While we made some great improvements throughout the winter, coronavirus put a halt on things from March until August,” said Raucci, whose Lions went 5-4. “It was during this time Cole took it upon himself to organize sessions with the boys to stay in shape and improve for the season.

“Adhering to all the regulations and social distancing, our team never skipped a beat once we were back into practices in September. Brett and Cole created such a positive environment that motivated each athlete and pushed everyone to not settle for anything.”

Dumais is a 3-sport athlete with an expansive resume that includes being in the National Honor Society, a member of the band and earning Eagle Scout status.

Raucci said, “Brett was an outstanding captain this year who led by example and was always willing to lend a hand to teammates throughout the season. The boys' resilience throughout this chaotic season was extremely motivating as a coach.” Each division held their own race (50 runners) to meet COVID-19 requirements on social distancing and avoiding gathering of large groups. The results were then merged to crown an overall league champion. Xavier was followed by Guilford, Daniel Hand, Cheshire and Shelton. Foran was 12th out of 16 teams.

Huebner sees a direct correlation in his time dropping to the productive offseason.

“It wasn’t just me that improved, it was the entire team,” he said. “Most of the guys dropped one minute or two minutes. I dropped three and it was great. It is a sport that you become dedicated to and the guys on our team are dedicated. We push each other to be good. If I was to run on my own in the summer, I wouldn’t have worked as hard. It is not an easy sport and you need other people to encourage you to keep on going.”

Raucci was impressed by Huebner’s improvement

“The improvements Nate has made from last year to this year have been incredible. He didn’t break 20 minutes last year (PR was 20:20) and he came into the first meet this year running a 17:51,” Raucci said. “He works his tail off day in and day out and I think given his work ethic and time he puts into this sport he has a good chance to be in the 16's next season for his senior year.”

Raucci expects his team’s can-do attitude to continue.

“Our team's future looks bright, and a big factor for that is the senior leadership from Brett and Cole this year,” Raucci said. “They both really set the tone for what is expected for upperclassmen moving forward. I think our current juniors will answer the call. We have a strong group and I can't wait to get back into offseason workouts and for next season to start.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354