All for one, one for all

Andrew Gostovich, Stephen Kasko and Martin Riddell epitomize Haddonfield boys cross country’s team-first culture.

Martin Riddell, Stephen Kasko and Andrew Gostovich are hoping to cap off 2019 by guiding Haddonfield boys cross country to a third consecutive Group 2 state championship. The three seniors came up through the program together and are among the Bulldawgs’ top runners in 2019.

Watch a Haddonfield boys cross country race in 2019 and there’s a good chance you’ll see a trio of seniors leading the way.

Andrew Gostovich, Stephen Kasko and Martin Riddell have shared similar journeys in their cross country careers. The three all came up through the Haddonfield Middle School cross country program. They’ve all won races ranging from dual meets to Riddell’s back-to-back victories in the South Jersey Group 2 sectionals. All three have also embraced an important, team-first mantra.

“You gotta do it for the boys,” Gostovich said.

The competitive nature and tight bond Gostovich, Kasko and Riddell share is essential to Haddonfield’s success. The Bulldawgs are aiming for a third consecutive Group 2 state championship in 2019 and the three seniors recognize they will need to perform at their peak in November if Haddonfield is going to achieve its goal.

Gostovich, Kasko and Riddell aren’t just close in a figurative sense, the three run similar times in a lot of races throughout the season. It’s not uncommon to see the seniors battle for first place at the end of a dual meet or push each other to a top-10 finish at a weekend race.

“I feel like it’s a very supportive relationship,” Kasko said about the friendship he shares with Gostovich and Riddell. “We try to push each other during workouts. We try to push each other during runs.”

“Going off and running by yourself every single day just isn’t fun,” Riddell added. “Having other people who can run with you makes it a lot better as a sport.”

In 2019, Gostovich, Kasko and Riddell finished within a second of each other in the first three conference meets of the year. In a two-mile conference meet on Sept. 3, Gostovich finished in first and Kasko in second with both runners clocking in at 10:09 and Riddell finishing one second behind in third. In the first five-kilometer race of the year the following Tuesday, it was a similar result. This time, Kasko was in first and Gostovich in second, both with a time of 16:53. Again Riddell was in third place.

“We don’t let Martin win dual meets,” Gostovich said jokingly about Riddell.

“I’ve gone three years without winning one,” Riddell added with a laugh.

The dual meet finishes are more than just friendly competition, it’s a way for all three runners to push each other and keep improving during the early part of the season .

“It’s fun, because it’s your teammate,” Kasko said. “You come to the line, you’re sprinting against them. You know you’re going to be joking about it in five to 10 minutes.”

This type of friendly competition is what long-time head coach Nick Baker loves most about the program and his runners.

“We promote the friendly atmosphere, but this is a varsity sport,” Baker said. “Your commitment to being the best runner you can possibly be is going to make us a better team. That’s what we’re looking for from them.”

Being the best sometimes means going above and beyond. When it comes to working out over the summer, all three talked about how the team makes a commitment to run together.

“Me and Martin swim in the summer,” Kasko said. “We both have jobs. Gostovich has basketball. People have camps and vacations. But if you can make practice with the team, you’re going to be at practice with the team.”

“We have a lot of people who are just passionate about running,” Riddell added. “It’s always fun to show up here at 3 p.m. each day and see the boys all getting ready and excited.”

The best way to encapsulate Gostovich, Kasko and Riddell’s team-first mentality may be through their goals for the season. All three of them put a potential third straight state championship ahead of possibly winning an individual race on their goals for the season. As nice as it may be to win individual medals, all three seniors see cross country first and foremost as a team sport.

“If I had the choice of running alone or with my team, I’m running with my team,” Kasko said. “One hundred percent. Any day.”