Robert ''Doc'' Rappole isn't about to call it one of his favorite movies. In fact, ''Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby'' starring Will Ferrell, is a flick the Maple Grove cross country coach describes as ''terrible.''
But there's one line in it - uttered by Ferrell - that Rappole has committed to memory and he isn't afraid to tease his star runner and senior captain, Corey Wefing, about it.
''(Ferrell says) 'If you ain't first, you're last. You know, you know what I'm talking about?'''
P-J PHOTO BY SCOTT REAGLE
Anyone who has watched Wefing run the last five cross country seasons certainly does.
''When he's out there racing,'' Rappole said, ''he lays it all out there on the course. He doesn't bring anything back home. He has that natural talent, plus the real desire to compete.''
So when Rappole took Wefing, teammates Frank Zuroski and Ben Soffel, and the Maple Grove girls team to the Queensbury Cross Country Invitational last weekend, the results weren't surprising. Competing in the 5-kilometer Queensbury High School course in the Varsity Division 1 race, Wefing literally ran away from the field, posting a winning time of 16:01.76, a personal-best and nearly 30 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.
Granted, Wefing wasn't running in the seeded race where the fastest times were turned in, but he wasn't pushed at all and he led from the race's early stages. Besides, the easy win afforded Wefing an added bonus: He was able to take mental notes about the course, which will also serve as the site for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships in November.
''We've had a lot of second-place finishers (at the state meet),'' Rappole said. ''It's time for a winner, and he's certainly the kid who can do it.''
In elementary and middle school, Wefing showed tremendous promise on Bemus Point's entry in the Lake Shore Midget Football League. Possessing the speed and the hands, he would have ultimately been quite an addition to Coach Curt Fischer's varsity team.
But as Wefing began preparing to enter eighth grade, he decided to pursue cross country and forego the gridiron.
''Honestly, that's probably one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make in my life,'' Wefing said. ''I was born and raised to be a football player. I love football, it was a great sport to me, I had a lot of fun and I made friends that I still have today. ... I just felt something when I was younger that was pulling me to cross country.''
Noted Rappole: ''He made the right decision.''
It's hard to dispute Wefing's cross country resume.
The defending Section 6 champion and a returning first-team all-state selection, Wefing placed fifth in last year's NYSPHSAA championships (16:32.40). Right now, he's ranked No. 3 in the state among Class D runners and No. 28 overall, heading into the prestigious McQuaid Invitational in Rochester this weekend. A year ago, Wefing placed third in the seeded race with a time of 15:02 on the three-mile course.
''Hopefully, he'll have a good race this weekend, get in the low 15s or break 15 (minutes),'' Rappole said.
Noted Wefing: ''It's my last McQuaid and I definitely want to make it my best. I was third last year, I ran a really good time and I was happy with the race. Hopefully, I'll have the same feeling this year.''
After McQuaid, Wefing will set his sights on the balance of his Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association season, its championships and the Section 6 meet, which will be held at Long Point State Park on Nov. 1. Less than two weeks ago, Wefing ran a 16:05.37 there to finish second at the Red Dragon Invitational. It was his personal record on the 3.1-mile course.
''I'm pretty bummed (the sectional meet) won't be at Elma Meadows (its longtime home), because there's so much history on that course and it's so challenging,'' he said, '' ... but I'm also excited to have it at Long Point. It's so familiar to me and it's less than a mile from my house.
''We'll see what happens.''
Wefing is scheduled to make an official visit to DePaul University in Chicago the weekend of Oct. 13. Other trips to check out other colleges will likely follow. One date on his personal calendar that has been figuratively marked in red, however, is the state meet in Queensbury on Nov. 9.
''I can't help when I do workouts and when I'm on long runs thinking about the state meet and the potential to win it,'' he said. ''It's something I've thought about my whole life. It's been on my mind all summer and all the off-season.
''I can't make any promises, because you never know what's going to happen. There are a couple kids right behind me and a kid ahead of me by a few seconds, so it's going to be a close state meet. I'll be excited for it by the time it comes.''