Competing in the New England cross country championships is a victory in itself. Placing in the upper half of the field compounds the sweetness of just being there. Staples boys cross-country team senior captain Ben Aldrich and Weston girls cross country senior tri-captain Kara Bucaro experienced both triumphant feelings last Saturday at the New England Cross Country championships at Thetford Academy in Thetford, Vt. even though they didn't make All-New England.

Aldrich placed 46th out of 270 runners in the boys division with a time of 17:44.6 in the 5K course.

"I'm pleased with the way I raced and I'm glad I made it," Aldrich said. "It was a competitive field and my goal was to place in the top 50 and I'm glad I made it."

His performance at New Englands didn't happen overnight and he began laying the foundation to his success in the preseason. He was also comfortable running on the course which goes into the woods and he ran a smart race as well.

"I've been training well all season and it got me to be where I want to be," Aldrich said. "I wasn't injured or sick this year, which helped. I didn't go at a fast pace or slow pace."

He hopes his performance gives him momentum for the upcoming indoor track season.

"I'm confident my cross country training will give me a basis for making states and I hope to place in the 2-mile, which is my goal," Aldrich said.

Bucaro (21:18.9) placed 58th out of 266 runners.

"I thought the course was a lot easier than I thought it was on Friday but when I raced it, the course was a lot tougher than I thought it would be," Bucaro said. "I didn't run my best race and I went out too fast but all and all, it was my first time at New Englands and I was glad to be there."

No one can say she was lethargic before the race. If anything, she may have been too revved up. In the end, she was pleased.

"I had a lot of energy," Bucaro said. "I was ready to go and ready to compete, which may have been the reason why I went out too fast. I'm very satisfied. Not many people made it and to place as high as I did is awesome."

She hopes to return to New Englands in March and is confident she can do it.

"After doing well in cross country, I'm ready to go far in indoor and I hope to get a relay or an individual to go up there with me, which is awesome," Bucaro said.