There is an ongoing youth movement within the Niagara Falls Boys’ Cross Country Skiing Program.
Eighth-grade student Ryan Janese has led the Wolverines under head coach Izzy Martinez this season, helping them go 5-2 in the Niagara Frontier League fixtures ahead of Saturday’s championship.
Janese is in her first year of varsity competition after spending her seventh year campaign in junior college. Usually for young male riders it takes a little time to adjust to varsity competition, in addition to fighting seniors and juniors on the course.
Those rookie bits haven’t been that bad, however, as Janese turned heads in the league in her debut season.
In three of the four tri-matches this season, Janese was second. He won his first tri-meet against Lewiston-Porter. At the East Aurora Invitational Janese finished 22nd with a time of 17:38 and was the youngest rider in the top 25. At the McQuaid Invitational Janese finished with a time of 17:42. Both invitations were 3 mile races.
Recently Janese finished ninth at the Sunset Stampede with a time of 18:09. The race included runners from 19 different schools in a 3.1 mile hike.
The success surprised even Martinez, who said he couldn’t remember the last time an eighth grader had Janese’s success.
“I’ve been here 33 years and I can’t remember ever having a eighth grader with the potential to be an NFL all-star, and I mean the first-team all-star,” Martinez said. “Right now in our league he’s only lost to three boys which would place him fourth among the best kids in the league. And, again, there is a potential for the kids to catch him, but there is also a potential for him to catch the other kids before him.
For Janese, running was something he had chosen at random.
Each year, the Niagara Falls City School District hosts a 1.6 km run for its elementary students. It was during this event that Janese, as a student of Maple Avenue, discovered a skill he had never known how to possess.
“In sixth grade I did the mile run and took second and just discovered an unknown running talent,” said Janese.
For any youngster coming into the varsity team, there might be a feeling of intimidation when they see students in the upper class. Martinez felt that Janese had intervened without any intimidation, aided by athletic training.
“He wasn’t intimidated and I think that’s because he plays sports like hockey and lacrosse, which are very physical,” Martinez said. “For him, you give him a number and it’s time, so to speak.” He really is a competitor.
For Janese, however, there were avowed nerves.
“Yeah, just because there are a lot of seniors at the top and I was just trying to stick with them,” he said with a chuckle.
Janese attributes his success to the other sports he plays. Hockey and lacrosse both require a lot of endurance.
“Both of these help with endurance and that goes a long way in almost any sport you play. These two sports made me stronger and my legs stronger to develop this sport, ”said Janese.
According to Martinez, playing other sports is essential to the success of any athlete.
“A well-rounded athlete is the best type of athlete. I’m not too fond of guys who specialize as it can lead to a boring high school existence. You want to get involved in other sports. When I was a wrestling coach I pushed my kids to do other things and it’s the same with my long-distance runners. So for me it’s important to be well balanced, ”said Martinez.
Moving forward, Martinez said the sky is the limit for Janese, who still has four college seasons ahead of her. Martinez said he could see Janese grow into a “15 minute guy”. But, first of all, the next step for Janese is the NFL meeting on Saturday at Beaver Island. The eighth grader said his goal for the competition is to try and catch up with the guys he’s lost to and hopefully finish in the top three.