Across New Hampshire this week, cross country coaches have been telling their runners that every place counts in the championship meets, that it could come down to one member of their team out-kicking one runner on another team.
Some athletes may be tempted to think, “Yeah sure coach. That almost never actually happens.” But know this: Many of those coaches speak from experience. Sometimes happy experience. Sometimes painful experience.
The odds of a tight race may be a lot higher than you think. Over the past 10 years, there have been 60 state titles won at Derryfield Park (3 divisions, boys and girls). Sixteen times in those 60 championship races, the difference between first and second, or second and third, was five points or fewer. That’s a difference of one place per scoring runner on a team. It’s happened in just over 25 percent of championship races – and an average of more than once a year.
Twice, state championships were awarded on a sixth runner tie-breaker. Two other times, the runner-up plaque was decided on a tie-breaker.
Two years ago, there was an incredibly close three-way contest in the D-1 girls race. That year Bishop Guertin and Concord tied with 73 points, and Winnacunnet was just two points behind with 75. Guertin won the tie-breaker. Winnacunnet didn’t make the stage despite having a great team.
So when you’re making that last, sharp turn around the maple tree and heading for the finish line, know that your team winning or losing really could come down to whether you out-kick that other kid or not. One team goes home with each member of the team knowing their effort may have been the difference maker. Another team goes home knowing they could have won it – but didn’t. Which bus would you rather be on? Give it your all.
Here is the list of the 16 times in the past 10 years when state championships and runner-up plaques were decided by five points or fewer:
|2015||D-3 Boys||Kearsarge 100, Mascenic 101|
|2014||D-1 Girls||Bishop Guertin 73, Concord 73, Winnacunnet 75 (29-54 tie-breaker)|
|2014||D-3 Boys||Mascenic 76, Derryfield 76 (39-53 tie-breaker)|
|2013||D-1 Boys||Pinkerton 97, Nashua South 141, Timberlane 143|
|2012||D-1 Girls||Londonderry 89, Bishop Guertin 94|
|2012||D-1 Boys||Bedford 57, Pinkerton 98, Londonderry 99|
|2011||D-1 Boys||Bishop Guertin 87, Londonderry 88|
|2011||D-2 Boys||Oyster River 81, Souhegan 86|
|2010||D-1 Girls||Central 72, Bishop Guertin 83, Keene 86|
|2010||D-1 Boys||Central 92, Pinkerton 96|
|2009||Class L Girls||Central 65, Keene 67, Bishop Guertin 70|
|2009||Class I Girls||Hanover 69, Merrimack Valley 73|
|2008||Class L Girls||Central 89, Pinkerton 101, Bishop Guertin 101 (37-45 tie-breaker)|
|2008||Class I Girls||Hanover 52, Merrimack Valley 122, Bow 122 (54-62 tie-breaker)|
|2006||Class L Girls||Pinkerton 137, Central 138|
|2006||Class MS Girls||Mascenic 52, Hopkinton 55|
Compiled by Fergus Cullen, the Oyster River girls coach. email@example.com