baby blue polo shirt Peabody boys cross country looking for another banner season
For the past 17 years, Joe Rocha has coached both the Peabody High boys and girls cross country teams.
This fall, however, the program has been split. Rocha will continue to coach the girls, while Fernando Braz takes over the boys’ program.
Braz, the Tanners’ highly successful indoor and outdoor boys track and field coach, has previous experience in the fall. He coached cross country at Lawrence High from 1993 98 and has worked with many cross country athletes in his ‘Going The Distance’ summer conditioning program.
Seniors Shane Braz (Fernando’s son), Marc Alperen and William Aylward will captain the team, while junior Claudio Rocha (the coach’s nephew) is also one of the Tanners’ top runners.
“I feel fortunate and excited about the opportunity to work with a terrific group of new and returning athletes,” said Braz. “I’ve had the privilege of watching Shane, Claudio and the others develop over the years. The difference this season is that I’llbe involved daily in their development as student athletes. The opportunity to guide the team is an exciting and challenging task.”
A year ago, the Tanners were undefeated in the Northeastern Conference and won the league meet championship. But the loss of one of the top runners in not only New England, but also the country in Marcelo Rocha (now running at Providence College) leaves big shoes for Peabody to fill.
The Tanners, however, remain optimistic.
“We’ve been working hard lifting and running all summer,” said Aylward. “We’re very strong in our top seven. Last year we were third at All States, and hope to have another season like that if our younger talent emerges.”
Alperen added that while the team is strong at the top, finding a steady and reliable No. 5 runner is the key to the squad’s success.
“There are a couple of younger guys fighting for that spot,” he said. “The top four are real strong, but we have to work down low to get those guys to contribute on a regular basis.
“Our ultimate goal is to win a state championship. But cross country is a team sport, and if you don’t have a fifth guy you’re not a team.”
There are a lot of underclassmen out for the team, which makes strong senior leadership even more crucial.
Shane Braz stressed the importance of working together; he said the team’s runners have set both individual and team goals. Because Peabody has been a winner for years. everybody will circle that meet on their calendars.
“We have to work together to create a good team,” he said. “Last year was a great one for all of us, and we know everybody is going to try to knock us off. We have to be ready for that. I’m looking forward to achieving our goals.”.