Division Favorites – Bishop Guertin, Coe-Brown, White Mountains
Individuals to Watch – Morgan Sansing (Pinkerton), Jackie Gaughan (Exeter), Cassie Shea (Concord), Maegan Doody (Oyster River), Liz Danis (CBNA), Brooke Laskowsky (CBNA), Alli Pratt (CBNA), Sarah Nadeau and Maddie Clark (Hopkinton)
Any discussion about the 2015 girls Division I XC race has to start with the defending champions from Bishop Guertin (NH #2). The Cardinals return their entire top 5 from the 2014 squad that won Division 1, placed 2nd at the Meet of Champions, and finished 8th at the New England Championships. BG will look to seniors Heidi Ntengeri (12, 19:43) and Chloe Conway (12, 19:56) to lead them to their second straight Division 1 title.
Winnacunnet (NH #3) and Pinkerton (NH #4) will look to give the defending champs a run for their money. Winnacunnet won the title in 2013 and are bringing back 5 of their top 7 from the 2014 squad that finished a mere two points behind BG. The Warriors will need another top 5 finish from senior Mercedes McCoy (12, 19:37) in order to challenge BG for top team honors. The Astros boast the top 2 individual returners in seniors Morgan Sansing (12, 18:40) and Ariel Vaillancourt (12, 19:25). Sansing and Vaillancourt give Pinkerton the best 1-2 punch in Division 1, and if their 3, 4, and 5 runners can continue to develop, the Astros could leapfrog to the top of the podium.
After narrowly losing on the 6th runner tiebreaker to BG at last year’s Division 1 meet, Concord (NH #6) will look to rebound with a strong 2015 campaign. Senior Cassie Shea should challenge Sansing and Vaillancourt among others for the individual title, but Concord’s team success will ride on the development of their 3-5 runners. The Tide will need these athletes to move into the top 20 in order to challenge this year’s big three.
Beyond these four top teams, look for Merrimack (NH #7) to round out the top 5. The Tomahawks will try to use their depth and pack running to challenge the other top teams. Merrimack brings back five of their top 7 and will also add the 4th and 10th place finishers from last year’s middle school state meet. Rounding out the top 8 should be Manchester Central (NH #9), Exeter (NH #10), and Bedford.
The individual race should be a great battle between Pinkerton senior Morgan Sansing and sophomore Jaqueline Gaughan (10, 19:46) of Exeter. Sansing is the top returner and by most accounts the favorite after being runner up last year to Shannon Murdock. But Gaughan had an outstanding spring season, even beating Sansing in the Division 1 3200m race. While Gaughan and Sansing appear to be the favorites, do not count out Sansing’s teammate Ariel Vaillancourt or Concord’s Cassie Shea (11, 19:27). Vaillancourt is the second returner and Shea ran a great 11:06 3200m last spring. Also keep an eye on Mercedes McCoy of Winnacunnet, Heidi Ntengeri and Chloe Conway of BG, and Shaylyn Saunders (11, 19:53) of Alvirne.
Defending New Hampshire Champion and New England Runners-Up Coe-Brown Northwood Academy (NH #1)is once again the favorite. Although they graduated Hannah Parker and Katie Scannell, their 2 major leaders of the team, if this year’s squad can adjust to their new roles and stay healthy, they could be slightly better than last year. While they do take a hit on varsity-experienced depth, the program swept the top 5 places in the Division 2/3 JV Championships. Three of those five come back, including individual JV State Champ Ahna McCusker (10). Led by 4 very experienced seniors in Elisabeth Danis (12, 18:34), Brooke Laskowsky (12, 20:18), Meg Scannell (12, 20:39), and Julia Cormier (12, 19:59), the Bears have never had as much experience entering a season as they do this year. This coupled with junior Alli Pratt (19:09), a 6th consecutive D2 title would tie Hanover (2004-2009) for the longest streak in D2 history.
Potentially taking the mantle from Coe-Brown, if not this year, but possibly next, is Souhegan (NH #5). They continue to stockpile talent by returning all of their top 7 and adding the Middle School Large School runner up in Taylor Clark as well as her teammate Arielle Zlotnick, who placed a very fast 6th. This gives them at least 9 potential varsity contributors. As we all know success breeds success, and if they can gather momentum, watch out. They will be led by Madeline Hunt (11, 19:39), Shannon Earley (11, 20:56), Elise Lambert (10, 20:58), and Hannah Gillis (12, 21:11).
Last year’s surprise runner-up Oyster River (NH #8) is seemingly D2’s third best team entering 2015. The Bobcats are certainly strong up front with track All-American and reigning NH State Champ Maegan Doody (12, 18:21), and Danielle Slavin (10, 20:16). The last 2 years, Coach Fergus Cullen has had the knack for peaking the team perfectly for D2s to exceed pre-meet expectations. If they are to do that again this year, the Bobcats need to stay healthy and employ solid pack running for their 3-5 spots. Up for this task should be Megan Wu (11, 21:59), and Kinley Guerino (12, 22:44). The return of Katie Schmitt (11, 20:27 in 2013) will also help the Bobcats stay towards the top of Division 2 and NH.
After the top 3 teams, there seems to be a pack of 5 that will be battling for the final Meet of Champions berth. Leading that pack should be Hanover. They return their top 3 runners in Hannah Wittmann (11, 20:51), Elsa Nordstrom (10, 21:00), and Kirsten Miller (11, 21:48). Although, the Marauders may not have another runner under 23:00 returning, this is still Hanover, and they always seem to factor in by Division Championship time.
The team with a strong potential to move up is Hollis-Brookline, who not only returns six of their top seven, but also adds freshman Kay Partridge who placed 3rd in the Middle School Small School Championships. She joins her sister Madylin (11, 22:34) who was a part of a strong pack with Lauren Cole (12, 22:38), and Pauline Zimmerman (11, 22:41). If these three could drag little sister Kay along to close the gap on their top runner Sarah Cramton (12, 20:16), they can also earn a spot to the MOCs!
Other potential teams to make MOCs include Windham and Kennett. In a statistical dead heat, the edge seems to be with Kennett. Always guided by Coach Bernie Livingston and family, Kennett is young and extremely well coached. They always seem to improve over the course of a season. Do not sleep on the Eagles!
With the obvious favorite being 2-time defending D-2 Champion Maegan Doody, the real question is can anyone challenge her. Last year Doody supplanted herself as NH’s best and qualified for Nike Cross Nationals. Look for her to continue to improve and represent NH extremely well at New Englands and Nike Cross in the coming year.
At the same time, D2 continues to be full of talent. If anyone is to upset Doody, it could be NH 3200 meter Outdoor Champ and 2014 Nike Cross Nationals individual qualifier Elisabeth Danis. After all she is the last active NH high school runner to defeat Doody. Last year, Danis’s summer training was curtailed because of an ankle injury. It will be interesting to see just how fast she can get now with a full summer of mileage supporting her fall campaign.
Don’t forget about Merrimack Valley’s Kristie Schoffield, who demonstrated incredible range in track becoming the New Hampshire Champ in the 400. Prior to her D2 race last year, she was considered one of the favorites to give Doody a race. Coe-Brown’s Alli Pratt (11:00 in the 3200) could also factor in with a strong end of season campaign. Look to Madeline Hunt (Souhegan), Sarah Cramton (HB), Rebecca Zylak (G), Coe-Brown’s Julia Cormier, Brooke Laskowsky, and Meg Scannell (CBNA) to round out the top 10.
With the top three individuals gone to graduation, the individual title will be up for grabs, however it looks like the team title will likely stay with the defending champions, White Mountains. The Spartans won the division by some excellent pack running, placing their top five in the top thirteen. Losing only one of their top five, Jessica Schanlaber to graduation, they will replace her with 22nd place 9th grader Peyton Giles. This provides the requisite fire power to get the job done.
Monadnock finished second last year behind a surging White Mountains squad. They will likely find themselves there again, led by Kayla Blair (12, 21:02). Having the best supporting cast other than White Mountains, they should be in the driver’s seat for that runner up position.
If any team is going to challenge Monadnock for the #2 spot, it would be Bow. Coached for the second year by Barb Higgins, the Falcons lose no one from their starting lineup with the youth movement improving every meet last season. Sohani Demian (11, 21:37) and Dominique Biron (10, 21:31) led the ladies at D3’s, and along with veteran Olivia Krause will lead them again.
Hopkinton will have the best returning one-two punch in the division in Sarah Nadeau (12, 19:53) and Maddie Clark (11, 20:09), and with the addition of Kailey Stockwell, they should be able to hold one of the top five spots. With some improvement by some of their other veteran’s, the Hawks may find themselves climbing in the polls.
Moving up through the rankings could be Mascenic. It’s been a few years since the Mascenic program has been able to get five ladies to run, but with returning top 20 finisher Samantha Bilodeau (10, 21:53) along with an influx of freshmen from a growing middle school program led by Maddie Labrie, 4th place finisher in the Small School Middle School Championships, the ultra-young squad could make the jump to a top five finish.
As mentioned above, with the top three harriers graduated, the individual championship is seemingly up for grabs. Obviously the preseason favorite should be Hopkinton senior Sarah Nadeau. The 2013 individual champ has the most experience on the big stage, placing 4th last year, as well as 7th her freshman year. Possessing similar amount of experience in championship racing is her teammate Maddie Clark, was the runner-up in 2013 and 5th last year. If anyone is to break up the Hopkinton duo look to White Mountains’ Alex Curtis and/or Kaitlyn Nelson.
Last year, Coe-Brown placed 4 in the top 7 places to win Meet of Champions for the 4th consecutive time with 36 points. While they graduate only one out of their top 5, that one is Hannah Parker. Parker, along with her co-captain Katie Scannell, have essentially been leading the team for 3 years. If this year’s seniors can adjust to their new leadership roles, while having others transition to varsity level competition, the Bears should win their 5th consecutive MOC title and remain in the mix at New Englands and Nike Cross Regionals. Looking at the resumes of the athletes returning, those are still realistic goals for this team as well.
If the Bears should falter, or fall to the injury/sickness bug, look to Division 1’s Bishop Guertin to challenge for the state’s top spot. Returning everyone, BG employed tight pack running to ascend to the top of D1 last year. If that pack can simply get faster, they can be very dangerous. If last season is any indication, BG will improve over the course of their season, are well coached, and should be quite strong especially on the Mines Falls course.
After the top 2, there seems to be three teams that can be very close. Winnacunnet, Pinkerton, and Souhegan will be vying for the 3-4-5 positions. Of these 3, Winnacunnet seems to have the edge; however, if the Sabers can move their pack closer to Madeline Hunt, they could finish much higher. Do not fall asleep either on the Amy Bernard-coached Pinkerton. They have one of the best 1-2 punches in the state, which is highly effective at MOCs, and have always been able to fill in their top 5 with strong runners throughout the season because of their phenomenal depth.
There seems to be a pack of teams vying for the final qualifier for New Englands. Those teams include Concord, Merrimack, Oyster River, Central, Exeter, White Mountains (if all team members race) and Bedford. All of these teams have a strong returning core group or a couple possible single-digit scorers, so it will depend upon the impact of newcomers and/or which team’s returnees improve the most.
Individually, last year’s race saw 13 girls in the 18’s with Maegan Doody (OR) running an extremely patient race to win in 17:51. Five of those top 13 graduated, but there are a handful of returnees that can sneak under the 19:00 barrier on very fast Mines Falls course. So, look for a similar amount of athletes bettering that mark. One can never argue against a 2-time defending champion, who happens to be an All-American in the 1600, to be the favorite. Doody enters the senior year of her very successful high school career as the prohibitive favorite. As mentioned above in the D2 preview, another individual NXN qualifier, Liz Danis (CBNA) seems to be the closest right now.
As with every year however, there are always surprises and additions to the lead pack. Look to Morgan Sansing (Pinkerton) and Jackie Gaughan (Exeter) to lead the chase pack which should include the likes of Alli Pratt (CBNA), Kristie Schoffield (MV), Brooke Laskowsky (CBNA), Sarah Nadeau (Hopk), Maddie Clark (Hopk), and Cassie Shea (Concord). As with every year count on some mystery freshman or out-of-state transfer to attempt to crash that front pack and round out the top 10.