When Jim Fontaine first met with his newly formed cross country teamat Anne Arundel Community College last week, he called each member atrue pioneer.
The reference had little to do with the school's nickname.
"They're the founding fathers," said Fontaine, Anne Arundel's trainer of 13 years and the man in charge of resurrecting the program.
With a lack of interest among students causing the program's demiseunder Bruce Springer in 1987, Fontaine has turned participation intohis primary objective.
And he's unrelenting.
"Regardless of their experience, we want numbers," he said Wednesday afternoon, addressing the media and fellow coaches at a luncheon in Severna Park.
Later that day, before a two-hour practice, he said, "We want lots of people. I don't care if they're little old fat ladies. I just want people who can go the distance and enjoy running.
"For some reason, a lot of young people don't turn on to running until later in life. I'm just trying to get them interested, get them to find out how good it is for them and how much fun it is."
Word must be getting out. Fontaine had 14 runners sign up -- eight men, six women -- and he says he's "as happy as a pig in slop."
"I feel like a politician. I've been calling people and practically begging them to come run for us," he said.
Sophomore Doug Murphy was among those happy to oblige.
Murphy, 18, is a former All-County selection at Broadneck who seta school record as a senior with a time of 16 minutes, 46 seconds ina 3.1-mile run at Queen Anne's.
"I wound up asking a lot of thesepeople to run, so it feels like I helped set the team up," Murphy said.
"One problem is when we go out running, everybody else is running as a team, and I'm slightly ahead of them, and that's kind of weird for me. I've been running all summer to get ready for this, and a lot of people just started last week."
Fontaine said, "I'm predicting him to go pretty far. He's in tremendous shape, he's got endless enthusiasm, very energetic, always up. He's a joy.
"We've had sometime trials already, and if he keeps on doing what he's been doing, he's going to finish in the top five in the state," said Fontaine.
Sophomore Katie Laidley probably won't, but that's not the reason she joined the team.
The Severna Park graduate wants to get in shapefor the basketball season, "and this is a sport for a lifetime," shesaid.
For now, she'd be satisfied if she could "stop being last all the time" during jaunts around the college.
Laidley isn't the only novice. Chad Kellenbenz was a wrestler at Broadneck. Ryan Murphy and Sharon Orendorf play lacrosse.
"We have some people that I really love because they never have run a whole lot, but they're cross-training athletes, and out of the goodness of their hearts they're coming to help our team and get in shape for other sports," Fontaine said.
"Everyone is important on our team, even the people who come infifth and sixth place. It's the little people who really help."
Also providing help are members of the Annapolis Striders running club-- including Anne Arundel assistant coach Earl Scott -- who train with the team each Wednesday.
"I've been hoping for years that they would get (the program) back," said Scott, 51, a groundskeeper at thecollege who has run in 11 ultra-marathons (50-milers) and 16 marathons.
"If I could have a group like this every year, I'd love it. They're all excited about doing it."
Fontaine said, "He and I have the same philosophy. We just want these kids to come to love running as much as we do. And winning will take care of itself."
Perhaps not right way.
The Pioneers open Sept. 7 at Essex Community College,renowned for having a dominant women's team.
The home opener is Sept. 27 against Columbia Union.
"We have a nice course out here, five miles for the men, three miles for the women," Fontaine said.
"We have a nice nature trail through the woods. It's beautiful. Thereare covered wooden bridges in there where you can run through. It's a nice stress release."
Not that Fontaine is feeling much stress these days.
"As a trainer, you're always in the background. But now, I'm right there," he said, bringing his hand within an inch of his face.
"My adrenalin is so high, I'm already looking forward to next season."
Also running for the Pioneers is sophomore Yvette Lee, a four-year member of Severna Park's cross country team and an All-Metro pick as a senior.
She's joined on the women's side by Kellie Smith of South River, who placed second in her age group in the Bay Bridge Run in May, Jeannie Pierce of Connecticut and Heidi Bugher of Oklahoma.
The men's side also includes Broadneck graduates Joe Duganand Mark Mallonee, Eric Cramer (Arundel), Andy Adams (Old Mill) and Andy Kim of South Korea.