An interesting issue arose leading up to the October 10 Derryfield Cougar Classic, cross country's annual home meet. Portsmouth Christian Academy (PCA) coach Mike Shevenell contacted the coaches to ask for help with a challenge they were facing for running the Derryfield course; his top female runner, Liza Corzo, is legally blind. While it was exciting for her and for the PCA team that she was already expected to win the race, running out front gives her no one to follow and her condition leaves her unable to follow the course on her own. She needed some kind of guide.
The coaches contemplated the possibilities and, in the end, found the best option for Derryfield’s hilly course and challenging trail conditions to be another runner. So we joined the challenge of helping PCA find a runner fast enough to keep ahead of and guide Corzo.
And then the magic of the running community kicked in...
On the day of the Cougar Classic, Derryfield Advancement Coordinator Greg Lange, an accomplished marathoner, guided Corzo for the first half of the race. Derryfield Assistant Cross Country Coach, Andrew Sears, an accomplished cross country and distance track and field runner, guided her for the second half. They both made it look easy. Although finishing behind her own PR, Corzo took the girls’ race, holding a nearly three-minute gap in front of the second place finisher. With this victory under her belt, Corzo was expected to be in front of the girls’ race again at the DIV Conference Championships on October 19.
The Granite State Division IV Conference rotates each year to a different Division IV cross country school, and this year was hosted by Derryfield. Established by Division IV Athletic Directors because there are simply not enough Division IV schools with full teams to allow the NHIAA to hold a separate championship, this race serves as the "unofficial" state championship race for Division IV Cross Country teams.
Extending the search for assistance for Corzo in this race, Derryfield coaches again reached out to many cross country friends, and Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Assistant Cross Country Coach Nick Aguila responded. NCAA rules are very strict, and their assistance could be perceived as college athletes pacing a high school meet, putting them in an unfavorable situation. However, after some investigation, Aguila learned from Shawn Greens, Assistant Director for Athletics Compliance at SNHU, that because this was such a good cause, they would file a waiver with NCAA to allow it.
With the NCAA’s approval, the SNHU Cross Country team was able to lend a hand, helping at the finish, cheering runners on the course and supporting this visually impaired runner.
In addition, Greens also offered to help Liza, her family and her coach get in contact with Marla Runyan, the wife of Greens close friend. Runyan can certainly pass on some great wisdom, as she is a legally blind American track athlete from the greater Boston area, a three-time national champion in the women’s 5km and two-time Olympian. She is the first legally blind American track and field athlete to ever make a U.S. Olympic Team!
We are incredibly grateful that SNHU Cross Country was able to help out, and even more inspired that a few inquiries to help a visually impaired athlete competing on the Derryfield campus has delivered such a great resource to that runner and her family.
Derryfield Cross Country’s regular season ends on October 27 when the top seven runners will compete in the "official" State Championship meet against all Division IV and Division III teams at Derryfield Park. Senior Matt Michaud and Junior Emma Pyles are strong hopefuls to take a top 20 spot, which is required to earn entry at Meet of Champions on November 3.