Adam Vaccaro burst through the darkness of the treeline and out into the bright autumn sunshine.
There were still several opponents nipping at his heels, but Western Wayne's top cross country runner seemed oblivious to the fact
Vaccaro ignored the cheering fans, screaming coaches and camera-toting media types. He stared straight ahead, eyes fixed on the course, legs and arms pumping in rhythm.
"Adam is about as dedicated a runner as I've ever worked with," Coach Kyle Fagan said. "He's the product of his own hard work. Adam pushes himself incredibly hard. He sets a great example for our younger kids."
Those traits paid huge dividends for Vaccaro on this particular afternoon.
The battle-tested junior eventually pulled away, leaving all his competition in the dust and leading Western Wayne to a rare Lackawanna League cluster meet sweep.
The Wildcats posted an eye-popping five wins on the day, defeating Scranton (24-31), Forest City (19-36), West Scranton (20-35) and Mid Valley (17-38).
Without question, though, the biggest victory of the day was a razor-thin 27-28 decision over Honesdale.
"That's really big for us," said a smiling Coach Fagan. "It's been a long time since our boys beat them, so I'm extremely proud of them."
With these wins, Western Wayne improved its overall record to 10-4.
Next up for the 'Cats is a road trip to Dunmore for yet another cluster meet. That one is slated for Tuesday, October 1.
At the Line
Vaccaro set the pace on Tuesday at Forest City.
Adam covered the challenging 3.1-mile course in 17:55. That time was good for an individual title and a comfortable cushion over his closest competitor.
Page 2 of 3 - "One of the best things about Adam is that he comes to practice and works hard every single day," Coach Fagan said.
"He trains mostly by himself, so he has to be very disciplined. We're expecting big things from Adam this season."
Vaccaro was chased home by Andrew Lopez of Scranton, who finished as runner-up at 18:07.
Tyler Debrino of Forest City was third with a time of 18:11, while Honesdale's Ben Wilken (18:25) and Mark Tetonis (18:39) rounded out the Front Five.
Western Wayne's Haskey Fleming also cracked the Top Ten, finishing sixth at 18:45 and earning high marks from his mentor.
"This was a breakout day for Haskey," Coach Fagan said. "He really has a lot of potential as a runner and he's starting to live up to it."
Next in for Western Wayne were the Curtis Brothers. Adam crossed the line 11th overall (19:09), and Zack was 12th (19:10).
"Those two are kids are very competitive with one another," Coach Fagan said. "They push each other at practice and they push each other during races. And, that's good for us as a team."
Christian Sauter shut down the scoring, placing 17th in a time of 19:39.
Marod Dobrzyn also turned in a solid effort for the 'Cats. Although not involved in the final team scoring, the first year runner met his own goal by posting a Top 50 finish (47th).
Page 3 of 3 - Lady 'Cat
Western Wayne's girls varsity cross country team is battling a severe numbers problem this fall.
Julia Alvarez battled her way to a 15th place finish, stopping the clock at 24:24.
"Julia is a self-motivated runner," Coach Fagan said.
"Most of the time, she only has one other girl to run with, so she works very hard on her own. Julia is just a great kid."
Thanks to Alvarez's solo performance, the Lady 'Cats were able to claim a first win of the season, dealing host Forest City a 15-50 setback.