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NAC cross country preview: Canton’s depth may be defining

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CANTON — Depth is a key when it comes to winning a state championship in cross country.

This year, Canton Central returns Laura Pierce and Maria Ricalton, who last year were among the top Class B runners in the state. That alone makes the Bears state contenders as they move to Class C. But what’s really making opponents see double when they look at Canton is the return of identical twins Rebecca and Gemma DelRossi.

The seniors placed 37th and 46th, respectively, at states last year when Canton placed sixth overall. Their return gives Canton the depth needed to compete for a team championship.

“This can be a dream team and the girls know that. But it takes a certain magic for everything to happen,” Canton coach Tom Van de Water said.

But for us to have a strong team, we have to be strong and healthy, and we have a few injuries already. We have a lot of potential, but I don’t want to push it.”

The DelRossi twins are training partners and push each other to improve their respective times.

“We are competitive with each other to a certain extent. We push each other. We want to work on our times and get better. We’re focusing on personal bests,” Gemma said.

The girls are close to each other in their race times, and it’s about 50-50 who will cross the finish line first on any given day.

The twins are also top students and zeroing in on various colleges that offer Division I and Division III cross country programs.

“I expect them both to run competitively at a good college,” Van de Water said. “Both have a competitive spirit. They like to do well.”

Each girl looks forward to the fall sports season.

Rebecca said, “When it gets to be August 1st, I get pretty excited about it. I start checking the websites and looking forward to the start of the season.”

Gemma said, “Laura, Rebecca and I, all the seniors, are excited about the season, I love our team. It’s like one big family when we come back together.”

Van de Water took over the program a few years ago and has been blessed with top quality runners. Pierce, Ricalton and the DelRossi twins combined to set a Section 10 relay record and finished just one place shy of All -American honors at the New Balance Outdoor Track Nationals this past spring at North Carolina A&T University.

“We’ve got strong girls,” Van De Water said. “Rebecca and Gemma are a big part of that. They both have wonderful personalities, both have a good sense of humor, both are good academically. The other girls really look up to them.”

Rebecca and Gemma are each a class officer and are members of National Honor Society and Model United Nations. Rebecca is involved in school musical productions, while Gemma plays the French horn in the school band and is a member of the school’s Environmental Club.

NAC OUTLOOK

Canton’s girls were the class of Section 10 last year and this year could also be among the top teams in the state at the Class C level.

Canton’s Laura Pierce, who won the Section 10 individual title last year, also claimed a state title in the Division II 3,000-meter run at the outdoor track and field championship meet last spring. Malone, Potsdam and Norwood-Norfolk figure to contend for second place.

Malone (8-0) had several seniors last year and went undefeated in the boys division. Gouverneur was 7-1 a year ago and Norwood-Norfolk was third at 6-2. Ogdensburg Free Academy and Tupper Lake also could contend.

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