By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- Left behind early by Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons cross country's top five runners, Amsterdam's Matt and Nick Raponi used Tuesday's Senior Day meet at Amsterdam High School to focus on the most important piece of racing to them: Beating one another.
"Before each race, I always say to him that I'm going to beat him," a smiling Matt Raponi said.
But Tuesday was not Matt Raponi's day, as Nick Raponi finished in sixth place -- one spot ahead of his twin brother -- in the dual Big 10 meet between Amsterdam, Bishop Maginn and ND-BG. Amsterdam lost to ND-BG, 15-46, while the Rams defeated Bishop Maginn, 15-Incomplete; Bishop Maginn fielded just two runners in the race and thus could not qualify for an actual score.
While beating Bishop Maginn (0-8) was never going to be too taxing for the Rams (4-2), competing with state-ranked ND-BG (6-0) proved to be as much of a chore as Amsterdam had expected.
"Going into the meet, we knew what we were up against," said Wilary. "We set the goal to be to improve our times and to focus on ourselves. ... They just went out there knowing it was a big hill to climb -- no pun intended, with it being cross country -- and they still went out there and gave it their all. None of them took it easy."
ND-BG's Matt Lange finished the 2.6-mile race in a brisk time of 14 minutes, one second. Four of his teammates finished right behind him, with the Raponis then coming in next, with Nick Raponi finishing in 14 minutes, 37 seconds and Matt Raponi finishing in 14 minutes, 50 seconds.
Also coming in the top 10 for the Rams was Josh Turo, who needed 15 minutes, 44 seconds to clear the distance.
"The boys all ran hard," said Wilary. "They didn't say 'We can't beat them, why should we even try?' Instead, we were out there running hard and doing our best."
Nick Raponi said it was a tall task to chase after ND-BG's top runners, but that he felt more than up to it.
"At first, it seemed kind of overwhelming," he said. "But I felt great during the race. Usually there's a point where I start to get tired -- during the second lap, on the hill -- but today I didn't have to slow down. I felt great. I thought I might actually catch [the ND-BG runners] and beat some of those four guys in front of me."
He did not, but he did hold off his brother, giving Nick Raponi the Senior Day bragging rights over his brother.
"They're a lot of fun to watch," said Wilary. "They're fun to coach because they always want to beat each other and there's always a competition between them. Typically, Nick wins the race, but Matt's beaten him quite a few times this season, so there's been some trash-talk back and forth between the two of them about who is going to win each time."
The standings this year -- according to Tuesday's winner: Nick Raponi 4, Matt Raponi 2.
But neither brother was willing Tuesday to divulge what some of their trash-talk consists of, as one of the many traits the brothers share -- shyness -- refused them to allow for a look inside their pre-match banter.
Their coach said one thing is for sure: The trash-talk is all good-natured.
"It's incredibly polite," said Wilary. "They're both really good kids."