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Results Courtesy of LancerTiming
After a biblical week of rain, the 2018 Meet of Champions was destined to be one to remember. Grey and rainy skies gave way to cooler and blustery conditions that had athletes, spectators and team tents running (or blowing) for cover. While the course would hold up better than Derryfield Park did with it’s six Divisional races last weekend, there would still be plenty of mud and standing water on the course that would insure all course records would stay intact. But the wet, cool weather could not dampen the competitive fires of the athletes making the racing red hot.
Top returner West’s Julia Robitaille of West wasted no time by throwing down the gauntlet from the gun, gapping the field by 15 meters at the 400 meter mark. The chase pack included Merrimack Valley’s Sophia Reynolds, West’s Corinne Robitaille, Kearsarge’s Mya Dube, and Bishop Guertin’s Caroline Fischer. There was a strong second pack about 5 seconds back including ConVal’s Rachel Hurley, Coe-Brown’s Addison Cox, Exeter’s Violet Sullivan, BG’s Caroline Towle, Milford’s Lauren Robinson and Souhegan’s Arielle Zlotnick.
And the order would stay relatively the same through the mile, with Reynolds gapping Fischer, a small gap to Dube and Corinne Robatialle, and the rest of the chase pack. The pace was pretty hot as the soft conditions, gave way to solid ground in the second mile along the canals in Mine Falls. Had racers gone too early with those lying in wait best prepared for the second half? Time would tell.
As the ladies returned along the canal headed into the two mile mark, Reynolds had assumed the lead with Julia Robitaille trying to hold on. Behind her Fischer was working to hold off Corinne Robitaille with Dube trying to maintain contact. Behind them the rest of the field was sorting themselves out, with Robinson, Zlotnick, Hurley, Sullivan, Towle and Cox trying to bridge up to the leaders. By the time they hit the fields however, Reynolds had created some separation and looked strong headed to the finish with under a 1000 meters left to run. Julia was gamely holding on after her early race gamble as sister Corrine now had her in her sights and was giving chase. Fischer was keeping up her turnover but was gaining no ground on those in front of her and looked as if she might get caught by Dube! Incredible racing!!
In the end it wouldn’t happen. Reynolds would hold up and finish strong in 17:59, over a minute off last year’s course record by Jackie Gaughan. Julia Robatialle would finish in the second slot again (18:12.9), but just barely, with sister Corrine finishing just 0.3 seconds behind. Fischer, ever the competitor, would find another gear over the remainder of the race to finish fourth (18:23.) Dube would have to battle it out for a top five finish with a hard charging Robinson, finishing 18:33.2 to 18:33.3. The remainder of the top ten would be Zlotnick in 7th (18:39), Hurley in 8th (18:41), teammate Clare Ververka in 9th (18:43) and BG’s Towle in 10th (18:51.)
Comparing conditions with last year, 2017 saw 4 below 18:00 and 29 break 19:00. This year, Reynolds was the lone harrier to break 18:00 with only 11 breaking 19:00. What a mudfest, but great racing!
The team battle would be a close one, decided by three points. While winning their first State Championship plaque of any kind in 40 years last week, Exeter came 3 points shy of winning the D1 title. Well, this week they flipped the script winning their first MOC title in school history by 3 points! Employing a strong second half of the race, Exeter (NH#2) would best D2 Champions Coe-Brown (NH#3) scoring their top five in the top 60 in the race, totaling 118 points to Coe-Brown’s 121. D2 Runner-Ups ConVal (NH#4) would use some strong running up front to finish in third (155 points) knocking last week’s D1 champs Pinkerton into fourth with 167 points. Strong pack running and great races by all of their runners would launch the ever-resilient Oyster River (-) all the way to 5th with 179 points. Souhegan (194) would make is four Division 2 teams qualifying along with the aforementioned two D1 teams to represent NH at New Englands.
In the boys race it was anticipated that the Concord boys, both individually and team wise would be leading the field and winning the championship after last week’s romp in D1s, beating runner up Keene (NH#2) by almost 40 points. D2 champs Coe-Brown (NH#6) were looking to take a crack at all five of the D1 teams ranked ahead of them on this week’s poll. With the topsy turvy weather for the past week anything was possible.
The race got out solidly with no one interested in taking the front alone like the girls race. Forest MacKenzie and Eli Boesch Dining of Concord were in the front pack, managing the race at the 500 meter mark, with all the contenders in tow. D2 champ David Reynolds of Merrimack, Joseph Curran of North, Jake Velasquez of Keene, Colin Donnelly of Winnacunnet, and Jake Winslow of Exeter were in the immediate chase pack but the entire field was just a few meters back as well. By the mile things looked pretty much the same with Mascenic’s Landen Vaillancourt joining the front pack and just a bit more separation to the rest of the field. With approximately one mile of solid footing ahead we should see the real race heat up out on the trails in Mine Falls.
As the leaders emerged on the uphill portion of the canal trails heading into the two mile mark, MacKenzie had assumed the front with Winslow content to sit in his slipstream. Velasquez and Reynolds were trying to maintain contact with the front, as was Vaillancourt and Velasquez. Curran and Donnelly were within striking distance of Vaillancourt and Myles Carrico of Oyster River had moved up to join a contingent of Coe-Brown’s Dawson Dubois and Luke Tkaczyk, Campbell’s Jeffrey Allen and Sanborn’s Dylan Khalil.
Knowing Winslow has probably the best speed in NH, MacKenzie slowly turned the screws over the last 1000 meters of grass and mud, getting away from Winslow, finishing in 15:48, an incredibly solid time on an incredibly soft course. Winslow would arrive at the line sixteen seconds later (16:04) with Velasquez finishing two seconds later (16:06.) In a battle for fourth that raged over the final 1000 meters, Reynolds passed Vaillancourt on the finishing field only to have Vaillancourt come back at the line, narrowly missing (Reynolds 16:09.4 to Vaillancourt’s 16:09.5), marking the second week Vaillancourt has been in an epic battle.
Curran would finish sixth(16:14), with Donnelly back nine seconds in seventh(16:23.) Another battle raged for the final top ten spots with Carrico (8th, 16:28.3), Allen (9th, 16:28.8) and Khalil (10th,16:28.9) separated by 6/10th of a second.
One indicator of how slow the course ran was how many individuals broke 16 minutes. While MacKenzie was the only one to do it this year, 14 had done it in 2017. Yesterday, only 36 harriers broke 17:00 compared to 78 the previous year.
Concord (NH#1) would come out on top in the team battle, scoring 83 points. The surprise was in second and third as the top two D2 teams proved their conditions last week certainly had an impact on this week’s rankings as D2 Runner-Up Oyster River (NH#7) bested D2 State Champion Coe-Brown for second by two points, 124 to 126. Keene (NH#2) would finish another two points back in fourth with 128. Pinkerton (NH #3) and Winnacunnet (NH #5) would round out the last two qualifying spots with 156 and 165 points respectively.
Next week, NH Cross Country host the rest of New England at Derryfield for the 84th Annual New England Championships! The last time NH hosted New Englands, back in 2013, a NH team won a NE title. Here’s to hoping for similar results on our home turf!!! LET’S GO NH!!!!