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Andrew Perreault going the distance in dual sports for Lew-Port

Andrew Perreault has been on quite a run this fall sports season.

The senior set the pace for an undefeated Lewiston-Porter cross country team that is on the verge of repeating as Niagara Frontier League champions for the first time in school history, while starting at outside midfield for a Lancers soccer side that is ranked among the Top 10 large schools in Western New York and plays Williamsville South on Thursday in the Section VI Class A-2 final.

A grueling preseason regimen conditioned Perreault to handle the dual-sport demands and hit his stride for the postseason.

Starting with 8 a.m. soccer practice, followed by a 10:30 a.m. cross country workout and another soccer session at 3:30 p.m., Perreault logged up to 18 miles daily during late August, according to his Fitbit tracker.

“They were long days but it ended up working out,” Perreault said after winning his senior day cross country race last week at Beaver Island State Park. “Putting in all those miles in soccer on top of the miles I was doing at cross country has made me better in both sports.”

Going the extra mile

Perreault joined the Lew-Port cross country team last fall after the NFL implemented a new rule allowing athletes to play two sports concurrently. He was already a three-sport athlete, playing soccer, basketball and running on the varsity track team since eighth grade.

“Last year it was tougher to find a balance between the two but after I did it for a year I figured out a better way,” Perreault said. “This year I put it together better and I’m feeling good right now.”

Perreault’s on-field endurance has helped lift Lew-Port’s soccer team to a 15-2-1 record.

“At his position, you’re going end line to end line and there is a lot of demand in terms of endurance and running large amounts of space,” Lancers coach Rick Sweeney said. “His ability to push himself and cover territory and be fast late in a game after carrying large amounts of minutes has been big for us.”

In what is technically his secondary sport, Perreault has won every NFL race. After winning its first league title since 1995 with a 15-1 record last year, Lew-Port is 8-0 for the first time since 1987 and ranked seventh locally heading into Saturday’s NFL Championships at Beaver Island.

At the Alden Bulldog Stampede on Oct. 13, Perreault broke a three-decade-old Lew-Port record with a 5K time of 15 minutes, 50.42 seconds, placing third overall and second in the small school class while lowering his personal-best by 40 seconds. He is currently the top-seeded Class B runner for sectionals.

To comply with league rules, Perreault declared soccer his primary sport for the season. If there are any scheduling conflicts, soccer gets preference. But Perreault has been able to attend most cross country practices.

“The coaches have helped a ton,” Perreault said. “They’ve scheduled practices around each other. And if I can’t make it to cross country practice, I find another time to get a run in.”

Running from sport to sport

“This is the first time Lew-Port has ever had a dual-sport athlete in the same season,” cross country coach Jen Raby said. “It’s about compromise and working together to find a schedule that benefits him where he’s getting the best out of cross country and soccer and not burning himself out.”

Perreault has attended cross country practices before playing in night soccer games. Last month, he played the full 80 minutes in Lew-Port’s 1-0 win against Grand Island before taking a 90-minute ride to Genesee Valley Park for the McQuaid Invitational.

“I changed in the car, ate in the car, took a quick nap, got there about 30 minutes before my race and got a quick warmup in,” Perreault said. “I was only three seconds slower than I was the week before,” placing 40th out of 2,600 runners. “That was when I knew I could definitely be better this season than I ever thought I would be.”

Perreault’s biggest athletic achievements so far have come during track season. He won a Section VI title and placed third in the state in Class B in the 3,000-meter steeplechase last year, while anchoring a sectional champion and state-qualifying 3,200 relay team. Along with those school records, Perreault holds a third in the 1,600.

Initially, Perreault started running track in seventh grade to improve his endurance for soccer. But after he earned his first sectional patch as a freshman and qualified for states in the steeplechase his sophomore year, he realized running would be the sport he’d pursue in college.

Before the rule change, Perreault was reluctant to run cross country.

“I’ve been playing soccer since I was 4 years old at Niagara Pioneer,” Perreault said. “I played it my whole life with my friends and I didn’t want to quit.”

Now, Perreault doesn’t want his final soccer season to end, even if it affects his tapering strategy for cross country’s championship season.

“It’s been crazy, but it’s definitely been a fun time,” Perreault said. “We have a really good soccer team this year. We all play together really well because we grew up playing. We are pretty stoked. We think we can win the section. But we’ll see. There are a lot of other good teams out there.”

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