Division Favorites – Bishop Guertin, Souhegan, Campbell
Individuals to Watch – Caroline Fischer (BG), Cali Coffin (South), Julia Robitaille (West), Lauren Robinson (Milford), Mya Dube (Kearsarge), Liza Corso (Portsmouth Christian)
With Campbell returning four of their top five from the championship team, one would expect the Cougars to be in the driver’s seat. Led by sophomore Cassie Hemming (soph., 20:11) and with sophomores Riley Gamache, Lindsay Brown, Meghan Whitnell, Izzy Risitano and Liz Breton, expect the girls from Litchfield to get it done. If they do, it would be Campbell’s third state championship in a row with Jan Platt at the helm, and could be the beginning of a dynasty the likes we haven’t seen since Hopkinton on the girls side.
If anyone is to upset the apple cart expect it to be either Hopkinton or Kearsarge. The Hawks of Hopkinton, with a dangerous one-two punch in juniors Emma Rothe (jr., 20:44) and Sydney Stockwell (jr., 20:48), will be looking to climb back to the top of the D3 ranks. With strong support from junior Lily Sabol and freshmen Addison Locke, Lilly Klinger and Kate Westbrook, the girls in green might have the maturation needed to sneak in and take the title. And with the consistency of third year coach Rob Rothe, expect the Hawks to be moving up.
The other team to keep an eye on is Kearsarge. With the best one-two punch in D3 in juniors Mya Dube (jr., 19:59) and Jenna Bears (jr., 20:29), if the Cougars from hill country can close the distance from their first runner to their fifth, they could become dangerous. Add in Lili Baer who saw incredible improvement this spring (3rd in the 3200) and Kearsarge might be your sleeper. We’ll know early in the season. With co-coaches Ernie Brake and Peter Angus among the best in the state, having had success on the boys side for the last couple years, the girls are benefiting from that excellence.
The next two teams from last year, Mascenic and Monadnock, would have a lot of work to do to unseat any of the teams above them, finishing 20 and 21 points in back of Kearsarge. Mascenic would seem to have the most upside, graduating only one; however, their #1 was one of the Division’s best in Samantha Bilodeau. Returning a strong core group with two seniors, three juniors, a sophomore, and some incoming freshmen from a solid middle school program, they should be contending for a top five spot in October. Monadnock graduated three off their roster, but their top two, second place sophomore Delaney Swanson (soph., 20:07) and thirteenth place junior Sadie Lorenz (soph.., 21:14), have what it takes to bring along a group of newcomers and possibly turn the tables on Mascenic.
Other challengers for a top five finish could include last year’s #6 team, Bow, and #7 Belmont. Bow has a strong group of girls and only lost two to graduation, and Belmont returns one of D3s best in Alice Riley (sr., 20:55) for her senior campaign. If either of these teams can catch fire. they might be able to climb into the top five.
If you’re looking for a spoiler, I would suggest choosing White Mountains or Portsmouth Christian. White Mountains seems to put it together every three years or so, developing the right combination of girls just in time for the championships. And PCA flew under the radar last year, only fielding a team of four fronted by phenom Liza Corso (soph., 20:28), if they get a few more bodies they could be dangerous.
Individually, look for Kearsarge’s Dube to be at the front of the field along with teammate Baers. Chasing Dube will likely be the duo of Rothe and Stockwell from Hopkinton, as well as the duo of Swanson and Lorenz from Monadnock. Others likely making up the top ten would be Campbell’s Hemming, Belmont’s Riley, InterLakes Maya Wiel-Cooley (jr., 20:12), Hinsdale’s Margaret St. John (jr., 20:20), PCA’s Corzo and Bow’s Sarah Ciotti (sr., 20:45.)
The past 2 years, the Souhegan Sabers have reigned supreme over Division 2. While 2016 was in dominant fashion, the rest of D2 seemed to close the gap last year as Souhegan’s margin of victory was ten points with the top 3 teams separated by only 18 points. 2018 sees the Sabers returning seasoned veterans in Arielle Zlotnick (sr,, 19:52), Marissa Romano (jr., 20:14), and Mackenzie Hayden (jr., 20:45). With D2 Middle School State Champ Chloe Trudel joining this crew, the Sabers shoul be the favorite to complete the 3-peat.
Looking at returning runners, it seems as if three teams are hot on the heels of Souhegan as Coe-Brown, Oyster River and Con-Val all have been building. The past two seasons, Coe-Brown has been the runner-up to Souhegan after winning the D2 title six consecutive years. Led by All-New England performer Addison Cox (soph, 19:08) and junior Abigail O’Connor (jr., 19:47), the Bears are relatively young and certainly rising again. With sophomore Ella Malone (soph, 20:55) and senior Autumn Graham (sr., 21:39), they may just have the right mix to return to the top of the podium by season’s end.
Oyster River has certainly continued to improve over the past couple years as they have quietly built quite the cross country team. Even with the graduation of Danielle Slavin, the Bobcats sport a solid top 5 comprised of sophomore Sophie Sullivan (soph, 20:35), and juniors Lily Doody (20:25), Kadence Murphy (20:47), Olivia Lenk (20:54), and Madison Hoppler (21:42). With the addition of Abby Berglund, 12th in the D2 MS Championships last year, Oyster River will also boast valuable depth necessary to make a push to the top.
2017’s most improved squad, Con-Val returns six of their top seven while showcasing one of the stronger 1-2 punches (see Manchester West twins!) of D2. Look for Seniors Clare Veverka (sr., 19:34) and Rachel Hurley (sr., 20:10) to continue more of the same as they are very consistent. If seniors Schuyler Michalak (21:04), Sarah Newell (21:31) and sophomore Marina McMahon (22:42) can bridge the gap to Veverka and Hurley, the Cougars can claim their second title in school history and first since 2001.
With four teams battling for the podium, look for three more teams to battle of the final qualifying Meet of Champion spots. Of the three, Portsmouth has a solid returning class led by Ellen Baker (sr., 19:42). Along with sophomore Angela Hagstrom (21:12), and senior Anna Govoni (21:48), the Clippers should make the trip to Nashua. Milford, led by Lauren Robinson (sr., 19:28), made the MOCs last year for the first time, will look to make it two in a row. They will be looking to the pack of Leslie McGrath (jr., 21:56), MaKayla Sullivan (sr., 22:06) and Lori DeMambro (sr., 22:28) to move up. Led by the consistency of senior Leila Trummel (19:36), Hanover will need the remainder of their top 5 to move from the 22’s into the 21’s to stamp their tickets to Nashua.
Individually, the easy pick for favorite is defending D2 and New England champ West’s Julia Robitaille (sr., 17:52). Last fall saw Robitaille have one of the best seasons in NHXC history! Even after an abbreviated spring, she still managed to place an very close 2nd in the 1600 at New Englands. Expect her to bounce back in a big way this fall. After a tremendous spring campaign, Milford’s Robinson has to be considered #2 in D2. Breaking 11:00 in the 3200 solidly prepares her for the XC season. West’s Corinne Robitaille (sr., 19:22) experienced her first xc season in 2017, which culminated in an All-New England performance. With one season under her belt, and another summer of training, could we see a sister 1-2 finish? Look to Coe-Brown’s Cox to make her presence felt as she also gained valuable experience as a freshman last year which saw her excel on all types of courses and levels of racing. As D2 is rich with talent and experience, look for Con-Val’s Veverka and Hurley, Hanover’s Trummel, CBNA’s O’Connor, Portsmouth’s Baker and Souhegan’s Arielle Zlotnick to make up the top 10, but don’t be surprised to see a runner from Oyster River in there as well. -NHCC
Bishop Guertin seems to be the easy pre-season favorite after getting second in 2017 by only 6 points and returns everybody except their #5 runner from Division One. The Cardinals 4 girls returning that potentially could be in the top 10 including the Division One favorite Caroline Fischer (jr., 18:56). Fischer was struggling with some medical issues during her sophomore year, but the spring season showed that she is back on the rise and should be a powerful force this fall season. Fischer will lead fellow juniors Caroline Towle (19:28), Haley Schmitt (19:40) and sophomore Kate Messer (19:57). Add to those 4, the D1 JV State champion Katelyn Grise and they will be very tough to beat.
If anybody is going to knock BG off the throne, it will probably be defending D1 Champion Pinkerton Academy. Pinkerton graduated their #3 and #5 from 2017’s team, but still have three girls returning that ran under 20:00 at Derryfield Park. Led by Junior Meghan Cross (19:35), seniors Ciara April (19:44) and Jordan Vaillancourt (19:58), no other team has strong of a top three. However, they will need to find a 4th and 5th to compete for the title. The Astros will look towards sophomore Katie Boucher (22:09) and junior Ashley Ahern (22:37) to help them defend their title.
Nashua South was third in 2017, almost 100 points behind the top two teams, but has their top 6 returning . Look for them to be much stronger. Leading the charge will be one of the states fastest returnees sophomore Cali Coffin (19:10). Coffin will be fighting for the individual D1 title and gives South a very strong start. Senior Lydia Mathson (20:03) and junior Maya Krishnan (20:41) give them a strong returning top three. Add Kendall Bush, off a strong spring season, who will be doing cross country for the first time this fall, Nashua just needs to find a fifth and they will be right in the mix to get onto the podium. Strong summer training from returning varsity members junior Jaimee Conmy and senior Madeleine Keefe could make all the difference.
Manchester Central was 5th last year and returns the Pepin sisters Katelyn (19:48) and Keegan (19:49) giving them two in the top ten. Emma Krantz (21:37) and Carley Crain (21:38) are returning varsity that ran under 22:00 in 2017. Fiona Doherty and Ella Tarsta were 3rd and 6th respectively in the middle school state meet, so they can add some missing pieces to give Central a chance to improve on their fifth place finish.
Bedford could be the most improved team for 2018 after finishing 9th last year but returns their entire varsity seven. The Bedford team were all freshmen and sophomores and now have some experience in the championship meets, along with their dominant D1 JV State Championship team, they could surprise some teams.
Exeter, Salem and Merrimack seem to be the next teams that will be vying for the remaining qualifying spots for the Meets of Champions. Exeter was plagued with injuries in 2017 but will have strong front runner Violet Sullivan healthy again and ready to fight for the top few individual spots. Salem has the #1, 2 and 4 finishers from the D1 Middle School Championships joining their team, so they will be young but don’t count them out. Merrimack was 4th in 2017 but graduated 4 of their top 5. However, they were 2nd in the JV state meet, so look for them to be rebuilding.
Individually, Fischer is the favorite but South’s Coffin won’t let her have the title without a fight. Bishop Guertin’s Towle, Schmitt and Messer and Pinkerton’s Cross, April and Vaillancourt will all be fighting for the top 10 possibly top 5 spots. Expect Central’s Pepin sisters, Exeter’s Sullivan, Morgane Orcutt (Concord), Arianna Braccio (Nashua North) and Jessica Fontaine (Alvirne) to battle for the remaining top 10 spots.
Without a doubt 2017 was one of the more entertaining years with regards to the last two meets, MOCs and New Englands, in recent memory. What we witnessed as athletes, fans and coaches was a phenomenal seesaw battle among teams which resulted in two NH teams at the top to steps of the podium at New Englands while placing 4 teams in the top 7. Both weeks had surprises. At MOCs, D2 Champ Souhegan rose to the occasion to win in an upset of sorts over favored D1 Champs Pinkerton by only 5 points to repeat as MOC champs. While the next week, Pinkerton made it look easier to win a New England title than an MOC title by claiming their school’s first female New England crown. On top of that, Bishop Guertin, which placed 5th the previous week at the Meet of Champions, snagged the runner-up plaque in Maine! MOC champ Souhegan wound up 5th with Coe-Brown 3 points behind in 7th.
What does all the 2017 fun have to do with previewing the 2018 MOCs?? A lot! Looking at returning athletes and teams, it seems as if the top five teams are separated by only 30 points, the top six teams spread is only 40 points, and if you want to go to top 7, it is a 60 point range. Relative to MOC scoring and previewing in August, that is not a wide spread.
At this point, it seems as if Bishop Guertin and Pinkerton hold the edge over the rest. On paper, BG returns 6 of 7 from the 2017 NE runner-up team. If they can apply their experiences from last year and continue to develop, they could be standing on the podium. Pinkerton did lose some to graduation, but they are the Trail Blazers. As Coach Amy Bernard and company proved last year, they have the knack to be racing their best when it counts the most. While the MOCs seemed to be their Achilles heel with regards to actually winning the title, kudos to them for always fighting to the end and even more, for persevering and becoming the New England champs last year. We would not be surprised if we see similar results by the end of the season this year.
With the emergence of Cali Coffin as well as the addition of Kendall Bush (see PA’s Britney Johnson last year), look for Nashua South to rise in the MOC team rankings in November. The low number is a requirement by everyone’s top runner to be able to crack the top five. South has that and if they can move their pack up into the top 30 or so, they can threaten as well. Coe-Brown experienced that benefit last year as the state’s other top freshman, Addison Cox, provided that low number. If the O’Connor and company can continue to develop, the Bears will be right in the mix.
Do not overlook 2-time defending champ Souhegan. While they graduated their low numbers, so-to-speak, they are long on experience and always seem to race Mines Falls very well (see 2016 and 2017 MOCs). Be assured Coach Jeff Wilson will have them ready at the right time.
Oyster River and their strong pack racing will also be a force to be reckoned with. If one of their top five can break away and crack the top 10, watch out!!! Con-Val is asymmetrical to Oyster River, as they have the potential for 2 low numbers, but will be counting on Veverka’s and Hurley’s supporting cast to qualify for New Englands as a team.
Individually, let the good, or shall we say fast, times roll! One might think the year after Jackie Gaughan, the most decorated and fastest XC female in NH history, graduated (16:51 last year!), things would drop off. Not so fans!!! 2017 saw a whopping 29 girls under 19:00 with Gaughan in the 16s and 3 others in the 17s. 2018 could be a repeat of this as West’s Julia Robitaille ran 17:05, BG’s Caroline Fischer (17:47) and South’s Coffin (18:00) also return. Factor in estimated improvement for Cox, Meghan Cross (Pinkerton), Lauren Robinson (Mildord) and Corinne Robitaille (West) and we may have a cross country team of 7 in the 17s. Considering all of this, the state could actually be faster.
The obvious favorite is Julia Robitaille. She has the knack of putting away races early on, we should expect more of the same. Expect her to be quite hungry for this after an abbreviated spring. Also expect a war for the next several places as Milford’s Robinson, and South’s Coffin are coming off phenomenal track seasons. Expect BG’s Fischer to be right that mix. Given the summer to balance the effects and treatment of Lyme disease, we expect her to respond in a large, positive fashion. Do not overlook CBNA’s Cox or Pinkerton’s Cross either. Both are smart and strong racers looking for a real breakthrough. Both come from programs, which race best in the championship races and both have proven they are the large reasons why.
A darkhorse could be Kearsarge’s D3 Champ Mya Dube. Over the past year her talent has gained valuable high level racing experience. She has an incredibly strong kick, so if she is around at the end, watch out. Looking to crack the top ten will be Exeter’s Violet Sullivan, Souhegan’s Arielle Zlotnick and Marissa Romano, Concord’s Morgane Orcutt, Bedford’s Carly Rinko, North’s Arianna Braccio, Central’s Pepin sisters and Con-Val’s Clare Veverka and Rachel Hurley.
2017 Division Races (2017 MOC Race Below)