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Cross-country is a family affair; Bennie brothers lead team in string of victories.

Byline: Jay Gearan

HOLDEN - Consider the very successful Wachusett Regional boys cross-country team. There's no talk here of "the loneliness of the long-distance runner."

Legs pumping, arms pumping, here come the Bennie brothers: freshman Colin, sophomore Jeremy and senior Graham. They're together at home in Princeton and heel to heel after school at the lead in races, usually followed closely by talented teammates senior Chris Baker, juniors Pat Bova, Steve Bunker and Tom MacPherson and sophomore Matt Tinsley.

Then there are the twins, juniors Alex and Ryan Jagelsky, out for the team for the first year and running so well.

It's an extended family really, bonded by dedication to a sport that can be so often grueling and tiresome, yet for the Mountaineers, never lonely.

"Jeremy, Graham and Colin are typically the top three runners in races," said Wachusett coach Brian Wallace. "It's really amazing when you think about it. Three brothers, one sport. When you think of other sports, where else does that happen?"

When the Bennies finish 1-2-3, it's a victory lock for the Mountaineers in dual meets, a mathematical impossibility to beat.

But the Bennies, sons of Lisa and Ian Bennie of Princeton, are always thinking team first.

"The rest of us are pretty much brothers too," said Jeremy, who owns the Wachusett school record. "We've got 25 kids on the team. We're a tightknit group, rooting each other along. It's fun, really."

Added Graham, a senior co-captain along with Chris Baker, the only other senior on the team, "This past summer we did a lot of training with our team. We had a lot of captains' practices, and it's showing."

Graham usually clocks the Wachusett 3.1 mile route in around 17 minutes.

Entering last week's Wachusett Invitational, the Mountaineers were a perfect 8-0 overall and 6-0 in the Mid-Wach A.

The cross-country winning tradition, like the girls' teams, runs strong at Wachusett.

Mr. Wallace's teams, over the years, have posted superb seasons, including four straight Central Mass. titles beginning in 2000, numerous Mid-Wach A League titles and the Division 1 state championship crown in 2002.

Look for the Mountaineers to place high in the upcoming State Coaches Meet and the Central Mass. Championship at Gardner Municipal Golf Course in mid-November.

Asked for his advice about running, Colin said, "Train as a group, train as a team. Doing everything you have as a team. That makes everyone better, not just one person."

Added Graham, "Our coach adopted a motto for this year: `Getting better together.' And we have."

You'll hear not a trace of jealousy when listening to the Bennie brothers talk about their siblings, their teammates or even their opponents' accomplishments. What comes through loud and clear is respect, exemplary sportsmanship, and a love for running.

"Ever fight?" the brothers were asked.

Silence followed, and then laughter when Jeremy offered, "Kitchen table, last piece of chicken."



CUTLINE: (1) Freshman Colin Bennie and his brothers, senior Graham Bennie and sophomore Jeremy Bennie, are on each other's heels on the Wachusett Regional High School cross-country team. (2) Brian Wallace, Wachusett Regional High School boys' cross-country coach, lines up the runners at the start of a dual meet between the Mountaineers and Leominster High School.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 29, 2009
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