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Northwood Shines at 2016 Manchester Middle School Invitational
The 2016 Manchester Middle School Invitational was held at Derryfield Park in Manchester. This Invite has become the annual prelude to the 42nd High School Manchester Invitational that will take place on Saturday. The future looks bright and sunny for New Hampshire Cross Country. The talent and competition that was on display was hotter than the 80 plus degree temperature at race time.
As expected returning 2015 Manchester Invitational Champion Addison Cox of Northwood made it two in a row. The eighth grader took the lead after the first loop and never looked back. She ran 13:27 to win by a comfortable margin over Hillside’s Fiona Doherty (2nd 13:40). Doherty was in a battle of her own against crosstown rival Morgan Nault (3rd 13:43) of McLaughlin. Early leader Morgane Orcutt (4th 13:58) of Rundlett broke the 14 minute barrier.
Andover’s Sophia Reynolds (5th 14:15)and Anna O’Reilly of Hopkinton (6th 14:17) also went back and forth along the hilly 2.1 mile course. Rounding out the top 10 were Elm Street’s Grace Jones (7th 14:26), Hopkinton’s Cailey Stockwell (8th 14:30), Rundlett 6th grader Avery Fitcher (9th 14:39) and Madelyn Petersen of McLaughlin (10th 14:43).
The team competition was very exciting, but in the end the race host, McLaughlin went on to win by 1 point, 81 to 82, over the gallant 2015 NH Small School State Champions, Hopkinton. Rundlett placed 3rd with 96 points, proving again this week that they are a serious contender for a state title. Hillside was 4th with 115 points, but may still be the deepest for 1st – 7th runners. Last week’s Milford Invitational Champions, Amherst (5th 137 points) struggled a bit, but that setback will only throw fuel on the fire for their quest for a Division 2 State Championship.
McLaughlin’s Championship team was comprised of Nault, Petersen, Jessica Carrier, Ryan Moran, Emma Rossi, Kayleigh Brunette, and Paige Graziano.
Northwood 6th Grader Aidan Cox stole the show by dismantling the Manchester Middle School Record with an unprecedented time of 11:31. Cox was firing on all cylinders, posting a time would have placed him third last year in the High School Freshman Race. Ryan Young of Londonderry ran a superb race of his own placing second in another head turning time of 11:47. Two more Londonderry runners, Matthew Griffin (3rd 12:05) and Will Heenan (4th 12:11) followed just ahead of Elm Street’s Christopher Keefe (5th 12:14).
Last week’s Milford Invitational Champion Brayden Kearns (6th 12:20) finished just ahead of cross town rival Luke Tkaczyk (really? Can I get a spell check on that last name? An extra vowel is still only $250 on Wheel of Fortune!), who placed 7th in 12:27. Tkaczyk’s fellow teammate and early leader, Porter Heigis placed 8th in 12:40. Rundlett’s Eben Bragg turned in a nice race placing 9th in 12:43. Joe Tierney of Hopkinton was the last to break the 13 minute barrier in 12:57 to round out the top ten finishers.
Who would believe that both races would be decided by one point? It was perhaps one of the most dominating and thrilling races I have witnessed by two teams in a middle school race. On this day the bar for middle school cross country was elevated a notch or two. The Northwood “New Kids on the Block” were out to prove that they are for real. Everyone is fully aware of the famed cross country tradition and the kids from Londonderry’s outstanding 4th place finish at USATF National Championship last year. Something had to give!
In the end Northwood ran almost to perfection winning with 40 points by packing their runners in just a little tighter than the much deeper Londonderry squad which scored 41 points. The difference was Northwood had their five in the top 13, and Londonderry had six in the top 20. It‘s not often that a team goes 2,3,4, and ends up finishing second, but I am sure the fine coaches from Londonderry will turn the disappointment into motivation. Fun fact, both Northwood and Londonderry would have placed 5th in last year’s high school Manchester Invitational Frosh Race.
Speaking of fine coaching, the staff at Rundlett of Concord has got it going in the right direction. The boys made the podium just as the girls did, placing 3rd with 97 points. For the second week in a row, Rundlett’s boy/girl combination look to be the strongest in the state. Hillside boys ran an outstanding race to place 4th defeating 4-time NH Small School Champion Deerfield 155-164.
The 2016 Manchester Middle School Invitational winning team, Northwood, was represented Cox, Tkaczyk, Heigis, Tyler Tkaczyk, Wyatt MacKey, Logan Mihelich, Max Heigis and Max Compton.