Meet Preview: 42nd Manchester Invitational


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Girls Small School @ 11:15am

Last year Hanover (NH-8) entered the Small School race as an underdog, but emer
ged the victor over the 2014 champion Maine’s Greely.  While Hanover returns everyone plus a very good freshman, Greely did lose two seniors in their top seven. However, the perennial powerhouse of the Pine Tree State is currently ranked #1 mostly due to its dynamic duo of Katherine Leggat-Barr and Carolyn Todd, who both placed in the top 10 last year. Despite this, Hanover seems to be the slight favorite due to their team packing and knack for running Derryfield well.  Don’t overlook
Harwood (VT #5) either.  They also return a great majority of their 3rd place varsity team and were only 2 points behi
nd Greely last year.  South Kingstown (RI -5), led by Eleanor Lawler, who placed 3rd last year, could also factor in.

Individually, U-32’s (Vermont) Rene Schwartz and Lawler are the top returners from last year’s meet, both running into the 18:20’s separated by 3 seconds!  Others from the 2015 Top 10 returning include Jaylan Fraser-Mines (Tyngsborough, MA), Abigail Hamilton (Yarmouth, ME), Harwood’s Erin Magill and Windham, NH’s Susie Poore.  Also running well and will be a factor is Danielle Slavin of Oyster River.


Boys Small School @ 12:00pm

With Oyster River (NH #5) staying in the Small School Race, they become the prohibitive favorite to take home the trophy, right?  Well, on paper it would seem the Bobcats, if at full strength, has the pedigree and experience to stand atop the podium come Saturday.  However, this is Manchester Invitational, and although Patrick O’Brien will post possibly a score of 1, top teams from two other states may have something to say about the outcome.  Most likely to challenge Oyster River would be Maine’s #2 Greely. Led by senior Max Stickney, they boast a 47 second pack time.  Harwood (VT #5) always seem to be in the thick of the small school action, as well as VT #9 Montpelier.

Individually, coming off a blazing 15:54 at Freestyle Farm indicates O’Brien is very fit and ready to roll.  He will be extremely tough to beat.  With that said, competing for a podium spot should be Matt Hynes (Montpelier, VT)), Stephen Looke (U-32, VT), Henry Jaques (Freeport, ME), and Monadnock’s James Elmour.


Girls Large School @ 12:30pm

After a three year Coe-Brown Northwood Academy reign, it seems as if there will be a new girls team champion crowned in the Large School/Elite Race.  Who that is?  Well your guess is as good as ours, but this particular race will certainly give a clear picture depicting a true set of NH rankings as the best of NH Division 1 and 2 (minus Hanover), and not to overlook Vermont and Maine’s top teams, will be locking horns.  Alvirne (NH #2) coming off a big win this past weekend by virtue of great packing, has the momentum among NH teams.  However, this is a different kind of race where low numbers are at a premium.  This race situation should favor the Leya Salis-led Bedford (NH#1), the Madeline Hunt-led Souhegan (NH#5), or the Maison D’Amelio-led Pinkerton (NH#3).

Top teams coming across state lines include the top 3 schools from Vermont, Milton, MA, and Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, NY. Leading the VT contingent, and on a roll after a victorious road trip to NY’s Queensbury Invitational is former 2012 MI Champs Champlain Valley, VT.  Sophia Gorman, 6th last year, will lead an experienced team who knows how to run Derryfield.  Don’t overlook Essex (VT #2) or Mt. Mansfield (VT #3). All in all, this may be one of the closest team races in MI history with 10 schools being ranked in their respective states.

Milton, MA, by virtue of their preseason #1 ranking in the Northeast, should be the favorite to take the team title.  Led by the sisters O’Leary and Bridget Mitchell, Milton has had a pack time of as little as 17 seconds.  Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, NY has won Manchester before, so their program is familiar with the challenges Derryfield presents.

Individually, the favorite mantle has to go to Exeter’s Jackie Gaughan. Breaking 17:00 on the track last year simply places her on another echelon.  We know Derryfield is hilly, but she ran in the 16’s!  No one else competing on Saturday can say that.  However Milton’s Bridget Mitchell boasts a PR in the 17’s and her teammates Colette and Elise O’Leary have both experienced the 18’s!  Also in this chase pack should be Bedford’s Leya Salis, Winnacunnet’s Kelly Arsenault, Souhegan’s Madeline Hunt, Champlain Valley’s Gorman, Gaughan’s teammate Violet Sullivan, Central’s Kaitlyn Tanguay, MV’s Kristie Schoffield, Coe-Brown’s Alli Pratt, and Pinkerton’s Maison D’Amelio.  How far along they are in their training to who simply is feeling it on Saturday will be among the multitude of factors determining their order of finish.


Boys Large School @ 1:00pm

Last week’s invitational at Nashua looked like it was going to be exciting and it did not disappoint. ONE point separated our top two teams! Thankfully, we don’t have to wait weeks and weeks to see the Concord vs. North battle again. The Manchester Invitational this weekend is going to showcase these two juggernauts battling for supremacy and they will not be lonely. The large school race has seven(!) of the top ten New Hampshire teams squaring off in what could be viewed as an end of season preview about who will get to attend New England’s. In today’s preview, we will talk about what we can expect from the top five teams, take a look at potential individual winners and finally examine some of the teams coming in from outside New Hampshire.

North-South Invitational-458#1 Concord

In the last two weeks Concord moved from NH#9 all the way to the top of the rankings and it’s clear to see why. First, they scored a close win over Pinkerton and North at NHTI. Last weekend they held off a close North squad at Mines Falls. Their top three has looked pretty incredible through these wins led by senior Jamie Wilkes, but Oliver Spencer and Forest McKenzie have been right on his heels. Anytime a team can get three guys into the top ten of a big invitational, it’s going to make them pretty hard to beat. Concord didn’t just do that, but had their fifth man in thirteenth! If the other teams can’t move some guys in and split up this pack, they’re going to continue to take wins right into Division I’s. If there’s any reason to temper the enthusiasm about Concord it’s that their success has come on two very similar courses. Could the hilly Derryfield Park course expose some weakness in our top team?

#2 North

Last week we made the mistake of doubting North after a close loss to Pinkerton at the Cofrin Classic. They made sure to quiet any future doubt by finishing well ahead of Pinkerton and keeping it as close as possible with Concord at Mines Falls. David Vorbach and Connor Muise continued to show they are the best one two punch in the state taking first and fourth at the North-South Invitational. For North to win, these guys will need to keep putting in those kinds of finishes and fortunately for North they look more than capable after three invitationals of success. It’s the third through fifth runners who have their work cut out for them as they need to split up that strong Concord squad. Manchester may work in favor of North where having the potential race winner in Vorbach, with Muise not far behind, gives them a very low score through two. If a lot of runners start to create a bigger spread in Concord’s five, the Crimson Tide could suddenly see their score jumping up. Additionally, North put on a great showing at the VERY hill intensive Paul Letarte Invitational to start the season, so the hills of Manchester may prove to be a strength.

#3 PinkertonNorth-South Invitational-442

Pinkerton got bitten by the illness bug this past weekend after a couple of strong showings to start the season at Paul Letarte and the Cofrin Classic. They split those meets with North and looked primed to take a run at Concord at the North-South Invitational but finished back a bit from the leaders. That will be eager to get their name back into the mix for best team in the state this weekend. Calvin Graves has continued to be a dependable leader battling with Muise of North through the first couple of meets of the season. Pinkerton’s two through five has been a work in progress adjusting from week to week. A coach always loves to have a lot of guys fighting for those tops spots, but they’re really going to need these runners to up their game from last week to disrupt North’s and Concord’s excellent packs.  The good news for Pinkerton is that they absolutely have the runners to do it but is their health back at 100%?

#4 Coe-Brown

We don’t always get to see Coe-Brown competing with the large schools, so it’s fun that they made the jump up this year! While most of our top five have already met and fought it out, Coe-Brown will be attending their first Invitational of the season at Manchester. That makes them a little bit of a wild card in the top five. If we look to last year, Coe-Brown returned five of their top seven from a strong team.  They’ve attended several duel meets where they’ve had a great deal of success. They looked especially strong at Souhegan’s Freestyle farm last week, running some solid times in the high 16s and low 17s. Could they find themselves in the mix with the top three teams or will they join our “best of the rest” group with our #5?

#5 Londonderry

Londonderry is in a tough spot as they have a strong squad but can’t quite match up man-for-man against the top three teams. Top runner Chris Zaino turned some heads this weekend with a strong second place finish at Nashua, but Concord had their top five in before Londonderry’s second runner completed the course. If they see some big improvements from their other scorers, they could try and sneak ahead of one of the higher ranked teams. Maybe the hilly Manchester course and additional runners will help them close the gap on the leaders?

Individuals  North-South Invitational-420
North’s David Vorbach has taken everything thrown at him and currently looks pretty much unbeatable. At this point, the only guy he hasn’t beaten is Oyster River’s Patrick O’Brien and he will not be in the large school race so that battle will have to wait for another day. Who could challenge him? Londonderry’s Chris Zaino came out of nowhere to take an impressive second place at Nashua last weekend. A junior high standout, Zaino got sick his sophomore year and never really looked like the guy everyone was expecting to see after breaking the freshman record at Manchester a few years ago. It looks like he’s now found his groove and finished pretty close to Vorbach last weekend. With his new found confidence, will he challenge for the win? Alvirne’s Noah Bellomo came in as one of the guys to beat this season and while the Nashua Invitational didn’t go exactly as planned for him this past weekend, he will likely be back to form at Manchester. Both of these guys will have to think twice about letting Vorbach get the big lead he likes to take early in the race as so far it has left them with too big a bridge to gap in the final section of the race.

New Hampshire Visitors

One of the exciting things about running at Manchester is the strong teams from outside of New Hampshire who come to visit and take on our best. Defending meet champions Bishop Hendricken from Rhode Island have a strong squad year after year and with the #2 ranking in their home state, this season appears to be no exception. Vermont’s #1 (Champlain Valley) and #2 (South Burlington) usually bring some very strong individuals and often bring some strong teams that give our top squads a run for their money. Massachusetts will send their #8 team Brookline, who will be running in their first invitational of the season.  Keep an eye out for all these teams!

 

 

 

 

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