Division Favorites – Pinkerton, Coe-Brown, Kearsarge
Individuals to Watch – Patrick O’Brien (Oyster River), Noah Bellomo (Alvirne), Jonathan Allard (Keene), David Vorbach (North), Pat Bastek (Pinkerton), Cameron Starr (Pelham), Jake Movessian (Mascenic), James Elmour (Mondadnock)
The beginning of the cross country season is Monday! Hopefully, this preview finds everyone wrapping up a great summer of training and ready to show what they’ve got this fall.
Writing a preview for the cross country season is a lot of fun but comes with a lot of challenges. You never know who is coming back from the various teams and how far some of the runners have come. To try and figure out what we can expect, all the graduating seniors from the Division meets, Meet of Champions, and the JV State meets were removed, and that information was analyzed to try and make an educated guess on what we can expect. That said, there are always a few breakout stars who throw a wrench in the formula of any guess for an upcoming season and that’s what makes the whole process fun! Let’s dive into it.
Division 1 is unique in the fact that both the Meet of Champions and JV State Meet are contested at Mines Falls within a 2 week period. Therefore, to figure out what we’re working with, we take the results from those two meets, merge them together and remove the seniors. It’s not a perfect method but it gives a pretty good picture of the returners and lets us get a general idea of how scoring would turn out. All the times seen below are from Mines Falls.
#1 Pinkerton Academy (NH#1)– 62pts
It’s a little hard to believe that after graduating one of the fastest senior groups of all time that Pinkerton is still the team to beat, but here we are. Pinkerton has three top ten returners in Pat Bastek, Calvin Graves and Jon L’Abbe and that alone puts them in a really strong position to succeed. Additionally, they brought in an incredibly successful freshman class led by Joe Gagnon, who slots in as a solid four. Round out their five with Josh Noe at 26th at a 17:19 and you know you’ve got a team that will be challenging to take down. Maybe you’re thinking they may not have any depth behind five? Nope, their six and seven are the 28th and 29th returnees in D1. Four in a row for the Astros looks like a strong possibility.
#2 Nashua North (NH#2) – 71 Points
North is the team most likely to take the Astros down. They boast an excellent number one in David Vorbach, who is a likely overall ‘top-5’ guy. He is flanked by Connor Muise at seventh. Simon McIntosh and Sheamus Adams are both solid ‘top-20’ guys. If Guideon Prince, can make a nice freshman-to-sophomore year jump and hang with those middle guys, North could absolutely give Pinkerton a battle at the big meets.
|3||Vorbach, David||11||Nashua North||16:06.9|
|7||Muise, Connor||12||Nashua North||16:30.8|
|14||McIntosh, Simon||12||Nashua North||16:51.7|
|17||Adams, Sheamus||12||Nashua North||16:58.4|
|30||Prince, Guideon||10||Nashua North||17:22.8|
|34||Taper, James||12||Nashua North||17:26.8|
|36||Ireland, Max||11||Nashua North||17:34.5|
#3 Concord (NH#5) – 90’s for points?
Based purely off of last year’s results Concord is the #7 returner but a wild card came into play in Jamie Wilkes. Wilkes had a huge outdoor track season and the rumor mill claims he will be running cross country this season. He could turn out to be the best runner in D1 and jump them right into the talk with Pinkerton and North. They’re going to need a little improvement in fifth spot if they’re going to challenge the top two teams, but the potential is definitely there with a strong young squad. They look prepped to bring a strong team into 2017 as well! The addition of Wilkes seems to be the difference between being a contender and struggling to make it to the Meet of Champions.
1-5 Wilkes, Jamie 12 Concord 16:00?
#4 Keene (NH#6) – 113 points
Bit of a drop here to the next couple of teams. This should be considered dark horse territory, but these next couple of teams shouldn’t be counted out for sure. Keene has an outstanding top guy in Jonathan Allard who should get down into the 15’s this season, and Andrew Derry as a ‘top-10’ returnee makes them excellent through two. They’re helped by being backed up by a great squad of sophomores and juniors, who could definitely jump this team up the rankings if they can find their way into the top 20.
#5 Londonderry (NH#7) – 115 Points
Londonderry has a team largely made up of guys from the JV state meet as they graduated most of their strong varsity squad from last year. If they want to move up, they’re going to need Tim Zaino to move into the top-10, but they have a surprising amount of depth behind him for a team that lost so many guys. If they can find a fifth who can get up with their 2-4, they may suddenly find themselves up with those top three teams.
#6-7 Alvirne (NH#8) and Nashua South (NH#9)
These two teams are right on top of one another point wise. If Alvirne finds a strong 5th to round out a great 4 they could vault into the top 5 quickly. South lacks the upfront punch but they’re solid right down through 5. If each of them could move up a few spots they could take a lot off their scores.
Who is the number one returner? At Mines Falls it’s Alvirne’s Noah Bellomo. At Derryfield? Pinkerton’s Pat Bastek. Who’s our pick to win D1s? Bastek. He ran some great 3200s this past spring and Derryfield, as a course, tends to benefit the longer guys vs. the middle distance guys. Watch out for Concord’s Jamie Wilkes though as he is a total wild card who should be expected to shake things up at the top!
Before jumping into this, the times listed in both D2 and D3 previews are from the 2015 Divisional Championships. Although two-time defending champ Coe-Brown Northwood Academy (NH#3) graduated two senior captains, they seem to be the clear favorite to win their 3rd consecutive title. With Zach Richards (12, 16:46), Evan Tanguay (11, 16:59), Tanner Richards (12, 17:01), and Davio DeLuca (12, 17:10), the Bears boast 4 of the top 10 returnees. Couple this with the depth and experience of three more seniors in River Groves (17:13), Jacob Snow and Chris Pratt, and CBNA becomes extremely difficult to pick against.
If any team has the talent and tradition to unseat CBNA, it is the Oyster River Bobcats (NH#4); however, 2016 will be a year of transition for the program. In the 2015 D2 Championships, Oyster River employed a savvy strategy of attempting to slow down the early pace to shorten the race. Although ultimately unsuccessful, the move represented the creativity of vastly successful Coach Greg Gephart and his knack for developing a race strategy befitting his team. After 20+ years at the helm, Coach Gephart has retired. Former Con-Val stud and 2003 NH Class I State Champion Scott McGrath has taken the reigns of a team deep in talent and youth. Returning and obvious favorite to repeat as D2 Champ is Patrick O’Brien (12, 16:17). If his young teammates can make a big jump this summer, they have the talent to run with Coe-Brown. Look for Noah Strout (10, 17:11), Parker Spinney (11, 17:16), Henry Keegan (10, 17:43), and incoming freshman Myles Carrico (4th in Middle School States) to be the team’s top scorers.
Looking past the projected top 2 spots, things starts to get nebulous very quickly, with many of the top teams from last year losing many of their top runners. Pelham seems to have the most back with the 6th and 7th returnees from last year’s D2 race in Allan Vallante (12, 17:02) and Cameron Starr (11, 17:04). Matter of fact, comparing the top 4 returning scorers across the division, Pelham looks quite strong with Jacob Dorman (11, 17:35) and John Msaddi (18:29). If they can find one or two more dependable scorers, they could threaten the podium.
Vying for the final MOC qualifying position seemingly are a slew of teams. Hanover, Kingswood, Plymouth, Souhegan, Kennett, and Goffstown all have the potential to further their seasons past D2s. Of those, Kennett (Nick Brown has graduated) and Souhegan (Garrett Earley, 17:06) have the most returners with five each from their respective 2015 varsity teams and are separated only by a couple of points. Through 4 scorers, vastly improving Plymouth can run with both the aforementioned perennial contenders.
However, Hanover and Kingswood both have solid packs, but both have graduated their #1 harriers. They appear to have the edge through their top 4 returning scorers and are also separated by only a few points. Goffstown may have the most potential to make up the most ground here. Don’t forget they were the runner-up in 2014 and they have D2’s second top returnee in Jackson Brannen (12, 16:24). With their 2nd and 3rd returners in Peter Hunt (12, 17:47) and Mason Foley (12, 17:49), if Goffstown can find a couple more scorers, they could contend for a top 6 finish as well.
Honestly, too close to call. Who did their summer homework? Who will remain healthy? Who will have the better season training plan? The answer to these questions will determine the final MOC qualifier and final team positions.
The obvious choice for preseason favorite remains defending champ OR’s Patrick O’Brien. Given his tremendous track and field season, coupled with his intelligent and unbreakable racing style, O’Brien is the heavy favorite once again. However, Goffstown’s Jackson Brannen has a knack for peaking well for the big meets and if it were not for O’Brien, he would be the strong favorite. Coe-Brown’s Zach Richards, Evan Tanguay, Tanner Richards and Davio DeLuca should all factor in the top 10. As will Pelham’s dynamic duo of Cameron Starr and Allan Vallante. Look for Souhegan’s Garrett Earley, Sanborn’s Lane Thompson (12, 17:09), and OR’s Noah Strout to also contend for the coveted top 10.
The Kearsarge Cougars (NH#10) outpointed the men from Mascenic last season and there should be no reason to believe the Cougars are not the team to beat this season as well. Led by Tim Cunningham (12, 17:05) and Aidan Brooks (11, 17:30), the Cougars should be in the driver’s seat. Kearsarge will get back the services of Mason Benedict as well, who had to sit out the 2015 D3 meet with an injury after running as the #2 all season. If that’s not enough to toss the odds in their favor, they will add to their substantial depth with incoming freshmen Daniel Simek and Hayden Christenson, who placed 16th and 17th respectively in last year’s Middle School State Championships.
If it wasn’t for Kearsarge’s meteoric rise in 2015, Mascenic would likely appear to be the favorite. However, the Vikings will likely have their hands full staying in the runner up position. With the loss of their #1 runner in Avery Traffie, the Vikings don’t have that 1-2 punch they have been known for in recent history. The fate of the Vikings will be on the shoulders of a still green group of sophomores and freshmen. If they can get the ball going early and develop some experiences, they could challenge Kearsarge for the top spot. If they don’t, they could easily slide down the division. They do get the services of the #9 finisher in the Small School MS Meet in Dakota Somero and teammate Zack Allen.
Close on the heels of Mascenic should be Monadnock. The Huskies return the services of top ten runners James Elmour (12, 16:33) and Braeden Hout (12, 17:02), along with the rest of the squad that finished 4th in 2015. Monadnock will be looking to pick up where the Lady Huskies left off in 2015.
Over the past two seasons Derryfield has shown the knack, not only to produce strong individual contenders, but solid teams. The 2015 team finished 5th, making Meet of Champions gaining a second year of experience in the state’s biggest meet. Led by Ben Garfield (12, 17:18) and returning all but one athlete, expect them to be fighting for one of the top spots.
Two teams that have been devastated by graduation will be Inter-Lakes and Hopkinton. With two of the best in the state lost to graduation, Inter-Lakes loses 3 of their top 4, while Hopkinton loses 3 out of the top 5. These teams will have to find some magic to contend. Luckily Inter-Lakes picks up freshman Eli Misavage (10th) and Hopkinton get the services of freshman Joseph Tierney (15th) and Shepyrd Murdough from their respective Middle School teams.
A team to watch might be Campbell. Led by Jeffrey Allen (10, 17:06), with no one lost to graduation and with a second year of consistent coaching, this could be your sleeper team. The Cougar girls squad snuck into the top five last season to compete post season, so if the boys follow their example, they could find themselves in the mix as well.
As for the individual title, Jake Movsessian (Mascenic, 12, 16:26) is the top returner (16:25) and with a strong spring campaign behind him, he should be the one to beat. Looking to press him will be Monadnock’s James Elmour and Braeden Hout, along with Conant’s Dane Seppala (12, 16:56). Also, if newcomer Tyler Mclaughlin of Moultonborough, who took to track as a distance runner like a fish to water, makes a smooth transition from soccer to cross country, he should be in contention as well. Rounding out a very solid chase pack should be Kearsarge’s Tim Cunningham, Campbell’s Jeffrey Allen, Laconia’s Logan Brough (12, 17:10)and Derryfield’s Ben Garfield (12, 17:18).
Meet of Champions
Ok, disclaimer warning. With 9 of the top 10 finishers from 2015 graduated and defending champ Pinkerton also feeling the effects of matriculation, attempting to predict what will happen at the 2016 MOCs is, well, ridiculous. With Coach Mike Clark and the depth of his program, one cannot pick against Pinkerton Academy when it comes to this race.
However, a pack of Division 1 and 2 teams seem poised to make a run (pun intended) at the Long Red Line. Between 2015 Division 1 Championships and Meet of Champions, Nashua North, Alvirne, Keene and Nashua South all exchanged positions and all return most of their varsity teams. Therefore, the team team that can stay consistent, and build momentum into the MOCs will beat the rest…right? When comparing courses, Derryfield v. Mines Falls, hilly v. flat, we don’t think momentum exists between these two great weekends. whichever team is better on flat courses and executes their game plan will be triumphant.
D2 contenders Coe-Brown and Oyster River both look to be heavy factors on this day. As with last year, CBNA boasts one of the best packs in the state and will, again, work to move that entire pack up the rankings, or at least one or two runners to crack the top 10-15. If they can do that and keep the pack together, they could threaten for the top spot. Oyster River has the inverse challenge with the individual favorite most likely scoring only 1 point. The closer the Bobcats 2-5 runners can be to the Bears, the better they will place.
With the addition of track stud Jamie Wilkes, and the young up and comers like Oliver Spencer and Forest Mackenzie, look to Concord to be the party crashers here. Depending upon the transition to the varsity level, Londonderry could also make big waves come November.
Individually, OR’s Patrick O’Brien is the clear favorite to win. He is the majordomo entering the 2016 NH XC season. The hope is he places extremely high at New Englands and then qualifies for a national meet. He would is a great representative for the Granite State!
Although it seems O’Brien may win comfortably, there will be major battles waged for the remainder of the top 10. However, they are seemingly so tightly packed that your guess is as good as our’s. Alvirne’s Noah Bellomo had a tremendous track season and is now a state champion, BUT that was in the 800. Keene’s Jonathan Allard, North’s David Vorbach, and Pinkerton’s Pat Bastek were all under 16:10 at MOCs in 2015, and if Concord’s Jamie Wilkes can transition smoothly to the trails he will be a threat. Pelham’s Cameron “Rising” Starr ran the race of his life to be D2’s next best returnee; however, this will be an entirely different atmosphere and race. D3 harriers Jake Movessian (Mascenic), Dane Seppala (Conant), and James Elmour (Monadnock) all have shots for the top ten as do D2’s Jackson Brannen (Goffstown), Zach Richards (CBNA) and Davio DeLuca (CBNA). Further, one cannot count out the rising studs like Concord’s Oliver Spencer or Campbell’s Jeffrey Allen to crack the top ten as well.