Edward Little seniors Reece Rodrigue, left, and Russell Allen are two of the top cross country runners in the KVAC.

AUBURN — In the beginning, Russell Allen and Reece Rodrigue wanted to be sprinters. Through paths of their own, both have found an affinity for cross country.

“I ran cross country my eighth-grade year because I needed to do a sport,” Allen said. “Then I came into my freshman year and was like, ‘What else am I going to do? I’ll do it this year, too.’”

Rodrigue was quick to fall in love with the 3.1-mile distance.

“Originally, I wanted to be a sprinter,” Rodrigue said. “But, we did some workouts and I found out I’m better at pacing myself over long periods of time … Now I do cross country and I love the 5K, it’s my favorite distance.”

The two senior captains are now the top-two runners on the Edward Little cross country team.

“It’s funny, I actually just found a piece of paper from middle school that said Russell started as a sprinter and a high jumper, and now he’s an amazing distance runner,” said Red Eddies head coach Ryan Getchell, who has coached the runners, in some capacity, since middle school. “To see him and Reece, when they run, a lot of times they just make it look so easy.”

After four years together, Allen and Rodrigue have found themselves as two of the top runners in the KVAC and atop their team. Both use the other to improve.

“We try to work off each other the best we can,” Rodrigue said. “He’s normally ahead of me in the sprinting workouts because he’s primarily a middle-distance runner, so he’s faster. On the longer runs we go off each other, keeping pace, and just trying to get each other better.”

While the captains have different running styles, Allen knows how good of a tool Rodrigue can be.

“There are some meets where I like to get out a lot quicker,” Allen said. “Reece sometimes comes out conservative, but I know that by the end he’s going to be either right on my tail or he’s going to pass me at some point. He’s always right there.”

This season, Rodrigue beat Allen at their home course at Auburn Middle School by 13 seconds, but that was followed by two straight wins by Allen over his teammate, one at Leavitt and one at Oxford Hills on Friday with a time of 18:30, which was good for third overall. Head coach Ryan Getchell, the third head coach of the Red Eddies cross country team in the last four years, loves the competition.

“Russell and Reece are typically together in races,” Getchell said. “They’ll be together as much as they possibly can and they use each other and help each other to get through the race, but there does come a point where it’s like, ‘OK, now we gotta go and whoever’s gonna win it is gonna win it.’ They embrace it.”

Work ethic is a strong suit for the captains, who always go above the required workouts, sometimes because they feel they aren’t being challenged enough.

“When we have workouts we are pushing each other, going hard as we can,” Allen said. “Especially not having a lot of quantity in workouts we are trying to put a lot of quality in and hit every time in every set.”

While Allen and Rodrigue have had to adjust to three different coaches over their high school career, not having to worry about your top runners and their training is a huge advantage for any coach, and Getchell has taken notice.

“There will be some days where our minimum requirement to run is 3 miles because that’s what you do in a race,” Getchell said. “But those guys say, ‘We want to run more, we want to get that mileage under us, we want to be prepared so that way we can go out and do well and be successful as a team.’ They like the competition.”

Allen is coming off an ankle injury that kept him out most of his outdoor season his junior year, so the weight training that the Eddies are enduring has helped him prepare for cross country, as well as his favored seasons of indoor and outdoor track.

“We have centered a lot more on lifting and definitely mileage has been really important for us,” Allen said. “We are just now starting to get into the tougher workouts that are going to help us more at the end of the season.”

“The big goal for me is track season,” Allen added. “I like cross country, but it’s not my favorite event out there. Especially coming off an injury, I’m really working for indoor and especially outdoor.”

On the other side, Rodrigue is hoping to peak at the end of the cross country season and make a splash in his main event.

“I want to focus on being the best that I can for states,” Rodrigue said. “New Englands is a long shot, but I’ll try for it.”