In turn, Agbottah and Nassi are helping his cross-country team.
Agbottah, a junior who battles asthma, and Nassi, a sophomore, are still learning to run the longer distance, but both are contributing as the Lions' No. 4 and 5 runners, respectively.
``What I have this year, that I never had, is real quality Nos. 4 and 5, and even a 6, 7, 8 and 9,'' O'Donnell said. ``We usually go four or five, and then one gets injured and there goes the season.''
So far, the season is going well. The Lions are off to a 3-1 start, and O'Donnell knows the future may be even brighter.
``They're starting to understand that they can do this,'' O'Donnell said. ``And as they go through the season, they're going to get a whole lot better. They've only been running for three weeks.''
In Saturday's Challenge Cup at Holy Cross High, Agbottah finally got through a race without stopping. At West's practices, she usually does fine, but when she gets in a meet, she pushes herself too hard and the asthma slows her down. This time, she learned to pace herself, O'Donnell said.
Still, the Lions' best performance of the day came from their No. 1 runner, Kim Wolozen, the only senior in their top five runners. Wolozen, who struggled last year after a stellar sophomore season, finished ninth, covering the 3.1-mile course in 20 minutes, 49 seconds.
Unresolved race. When Schalick freshman Amy Thibodeau crossed the finish line eighth in the team's scoring and ninth overall, the Cougars thought they had defeated Kingsway, 25-30, Tuesday in a meet that will likely decide the Tri-County Conference title.
Later that night, they were told they had lost. By Wednesday, they had won again. Now, they're not sure.
Thibodeau was in third place when she became ill and pulled up about 125 meters from the finish. She composed herself and managed to finish. However, Kingsway coach Milt Fredericks argued that Thibodeau had received ``illegal assistance,'' according to Schalick coach Jamie Bagley. The alleged transgression? Too much encouragement from spectators who had run up to her.
The meet official contacted a rules interpreter that night and disqualified Thibodeau, resulting in a 27-28 loss. The next day, though, Schalick athletic director David Ewart contacted the officials association rules interpreter. The meet official then called Bagley to report that the Cougars had indeed won.
``All I know for sure is that our girls ran a great race,'' Bagley said.
The meet will be discussed again during an athletic directors' meeting Thursday.
Two for two. Buena High senior Stephanie Maxwell said she was gearing her schedule toward the weekend meets. Apparently, she has gotten it in gear.
Maxwell won the Challenge Cup Saturday at Holy Cross High a week after winning the Kiwanis Invitational at Williamstown High.