They’ve meant so much to the program that when they graduate next June, four special seniors are going to be terribly missed by their Huntington girls’ cross country teammates.
Nicole Arenth, Alexandra McKenzie, Christina Nigro and Bridgette Starr are all in their final season with the Blue Devils. The four teenagers were recently honored on Senior Day as rookie head coach Beth Vogelsang and Huntington’s underclassmen strived to give them the sendoff they so richly deserve.
“Looking back at the last four seasons that I’ve been on the cross country team, this year has been the best,” McKenzie said. “It’s upsetting to be leaving such an amazing team, but I’m excited to hopefully be moving on to another great team in college. Senior Day was one of my best races of the season and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my teammates being right beside me.”
Huntington High School
physical education teacher Beth Vogelsang.
Vogelsang stepped in for longtime cross country coach Debra Cheskes, who took a child care related leave of absence. The team quickly took a liking to their new mentor and they have enjoyed a wonderful season together.
“Although I just joined the team this year, we bonded quickly,” Nigro said. “Throughout the season we have created more memories than I can count. Senior Day was a race to remember with beautiful weather and surrounded by close friends and teammates and our coach. I couldn’t be happier about my decision to join the team this season.”
Huntington’s runners have steadily improved their times and posted a string of personal best performances. The Blue Devils have impressed many opponents and maybe even surprised themselves.
“I’m so happy to have had the chance to be a part of the team and become close with so many amazing girls,” Starr said. “The team is like my second family and Coach V really helped us all come together and become very close. Although I never got to run in any races because for the past two years I was injured, all the girls still made me feel like a huge part of the team and I love cheering them on. I know for a fact that I’m going to miss them so much next year. I don’t know what I’m going to do without them.”
The Blue Devils will be sad to see the season end. They are having so much fun. Individually and together as a group, the team has come so far since that first day of practice late last August when the athletes met with their first year coach outside the school gym.
“Deciding to join the cross country team is honestly one of the best decisions I’ve made,” Arenth said. “It will definitely be hard to leave the team. I’m so grateful for all the love and support I’ve received from them and Coach V. Senior Day was great. Everyone put their best foot forward at the meet. I’m so lucky to be a part of an amazing group.”
The whole team had a collective lump in its throat at Senior Day because the four teenagers who will graduate in June mean so much to the group.
“Senior Day is always such a bittersweet time, remembering memories and pondering over the great relationships made,” Vogelsang said. “During my first year coaching cross country, I was able to meet four fine young women who will do absolutely amazing wherever they go and excel in whatever they put their minds to. Alliy McKenzie, one of our captains and top seven runners, is a true leader and helped direct our cross country team. Her confidence and nurturing personality are just a few qualities I have noticed where she excels.”
Huntington’s three other seniors were very special, too. “Nicole Arenth was my coach’s captain this season,” Vogelsang said. “I chose her for this position because she is very intelligent, always looking to help and has a sweet way about her. After being injured for most of the season, Nicole came out strong toward the end when she was healthy.”
Huntington is going to miss each of the seniors. “Christina Nigro, although in only her first year on varsity, played a huge role on our team,” Vogelsang said. “She was not only a top seven runner, but she also gave so much heart in every workout we did. Her attitude was always ‘what’s my next challenge’ or ‘give me more to make me better.’ In cross country, it’s very difficult to get your personal best every race, but Christina beat those odds and crushed her time every competition.”
Starr also filled a key role with the team despite being sidelined with an injury. “Bridgette assisted me whenever there was an opportunity to and her teammates loved seeing her there with a smile and her positive energy before every practice and meet,” Vogelsang said. “Bridgette is a very down to earth individual. I was lucky to meet her.”
Senior Day played out at Belmont Lake State Park where Huntington competed in its final crossover meet of the fall. Underclassmen spent weeks designing commemorative posters for each of the seniors and presented them to the happy teenagers. Vogelsang gave each of them a bouquet of flowers.
“These four ladies will never be forgotten and will be missed in future years,” Vogelsang said. “They definitely paved the way and set the bar high for our future cross country teams.”