ST. ALBANS — Moments before the team ran up and down Hard’ack eight times on one of the first fall nights when you could see your breath, Mike Mashtare and his team of Green Mountain Athletic Association runners went through their usual warmup routine that consisted of running a half mile and stretching.

What may have seemed like an average group of middle and high school students was far from it. In last year’s GMAA competitions, the boys 11-12 team won the New England championship, then moved on to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and won the regionals. Those successes led to a fourth-place team finish at the National Championships in Hoover, Ala.

Many of that team’s participants will join next year’s BFA-St. Albans cross country team, which will instantly boost the program’s standing in the Division I ranks.

“As these guys gain experience from doing programs like this, it makes our program much more competitive because they have raced at such a high level already,” said Mashtare, also BFA’s cross country and track coach. “Once they come into high school, they have got miles and miles under their belts and they’ve got experience. Unlike in past years where we have had some talent but we don’t have the experience so it takes them while to figure out the racing.”

For more on the GMAA team, pick up a copy of Monday’s Messenger or subscribe to our digital edition.