The Duxbury boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams kicked off their seasons on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon in Pembroke last week in a tri-meet with the Titans and the new Patriot League entry of a combined Quincy/N. Quincy squad.

The Duxbury boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams kicked off their seasons on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon in Pembroke last week in a tri-meet with the Titans and the new Patriot League entry of a combined Quincy/N. Quincy squad.

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Jonathan McKinley.

The Dragons were considered an underdog to Pembroke, especially on the Titan’s newly designed and challenging 5K course, while Quincy remained a mystery in its first Patriot League meet.

Pembroke and Quincy paced the boys’ race, but sophomore Jonathan McKinley took the lead in the last 1000 meters to win in a time of 16:08, followed by Pembroke’s Paul Cina in 16:21 and Quincy’s Matt McGroarty. Duxbury’s Billy Jewel (5th/16:50), Mark Brust (7th/17:25), Paul Dacey (8th/17:48), Greg Bray (10th/17:52) and freshman Jason Angell (12th/18:04) completed the scoring to secure opening-day wins over Pembroke (26-30) and Quincy (20-38). 

The Duxbury boys have plenty of experience with senior co-captains Brust and Dacey returning, while sophomore sensation McKinley provides the Dragons with the kind of firepower they’ll need to battle perennial cross-country powerhouse Whitman-Hanson for the Patriot League crown.

Hanover and Hingham also are expected to be strong competition for the Dragons.

“We have five or six runners who have made some significant improvement over the summer,” said Coach Mark Dunn. “If everyone stays healthy, I think we have a good shot at being one of the top five teams in our division, and that would earn us a trip to the States.”

Pembroke was also considered to be a tough opponent for the Dragons, but Dunn likes what he saw in the opener and it has raised his expectation level for the rest of the season.

“McKinley really worked the hills this summer with his brother, and probably worked harder than any cross-country runner I know,” said Dunn. “He was so far ahead of Brust and Dacey in this meet, that I have to think he might just be one of the top 25 runners in the state right now.”

The emergence of McKinley, although not a big surprise after he won the McIntyre Invitational last year at Franklin Park, takes the pressure off Brust and Dacey, who very well may find themselves as the team’s #3 and #4 runners after the arrival of Billy Jewell.

“Jewell’s performance pretty much has him passing some of our veterans,” said Dunn. “I’d say we are looking much stronger after watching him finish fifth last week.”

Junior Ben Kimball also did well at Pembroke, finishing 17th, while classmates John Hemingway, Tom Guilfoyle, and Greg O’Neil are expected to work their way into several meets according to Dunn.

After taking on Whitman-Hanson yesterday, the Dragons will host Silver Lake on Friday at 3:30 p.m.