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In case you haven’t heard, New Hampshire is hosting the 84th New England Cross Country Championships this Saturday at Derryfield!!! All New England states except Massachusetts will be competing. Each State is allowed 6 teams and any other individual placing in the top twenty five of their respective state meet. The boys actually race first at 11:30am and the girls are slated to take off at 12:30pm. With the fall onslaught of rain, Derryfield will certainly be challenging. We think that is an advantage for NH! What do you think?? Check out our preview and feel free to comment below it all!!! We will be there snapping pics, recording races and conducting interviews!!! Good luck to all, and welcome Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut!
Boys – 11:30am
Less than a week ago, if you’d believe the rankings to be the true gospel then Bishop Hendricken of Rhode Island should waltz right into New Hampshire this Saturday and win the New England Championships easily. Maybe so, but they barely won their own State Championship this past weekend to bitter rival La Salle 30-35. With only a 24 second gap, Hendricken was led by Jack McMahon, Aidan Tierney, Matt St. Jean, Luke Henseler, and Nick Braz. RI State Champion Joseph dos Reis led the way for La Salle along with Jack McLoughlin, Max Dimuccio, Domenic Campagna, and Alexander Maxwell. Interestingly if last week’s race was scored on all 7 runners La Salle would have come out on top 73-79.
Truth is both of these RI teams are really good, but at 11:30 am the race clock starts at 0:00 for everyone towing the line at the famed Derryfield Cross Country Course.
With more rain on the way this week looks to be another mud fest. Not all teams will run their best. The team that shows up mentally tough with a “Sacrifice myself because the team comes first attitude” will come out on top. Now is not the time for second guessing or selfishness, it’s time to race with guts and fight for what you have been training for. No other race is more important than this next one.
Xavier Connecticut is the defending New England Champions. Last year they made it all the way to nationals. This experienced team is led by four top notch runners, Robbie Cozean, Peter Schulten, Dillon Selfors and William Curran. It is cruel simple math for them as their title defense is on the back of their 5th man. Hall, Tolland and 2016 New England Champion Staples were separated by 1 point each last week. Anyone of these teams could easily crack the top 5
State Champion Forest MacKenzie has led Concord to their second straight NH State Championship. Concord has dominated the state all year. They have knocked off all of the best teams in Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts. Bishop Hendricken handed Concord its only defeat this season at the Manchester Invitational. Eli Boesch Dining, Eben Bragg, Ryan Devine, Aidan O’Hern, David Cook, and Brayden Kearns need to have fire in their eyes. Concord has to win all the battles down the stretch. They must run tough all the way through the finish. Bottom line is every point counts. You just have to be the best team on that day for 15-16 minutes.
Realistically the next three teams from NH will look to crack the top 10. Oyster River surprised everyone last week at Meet of Champions by placing second. They were led by Myles Carrico, Andy O’Brien and Owen Fleischer. Just two points back was Division II State Champion Coe-Brown led by Dawson Dubois, Luke Tkaczyk, and Wyatt Mackey. Keene was 4th again by a 2 point margin. They were led by Jake Velasquez’s 3rd place finish, top NH freshman Torin Kindopp and older brother Aidan Kindopp. These three teams are very close. In fact based on average time, Keene was actually the fastest and Oyster River was the slowest with Coe-Brown stuck in the middle. Pinkerton led by Joe Gagnon certainly has the potential. Winnacunnet’s top four of Colin Donnelly, Jack Taylor, Austin Denis and Noah Taracena on most days can compete with most anyone in New England, but as mentioned it takes 5 to stay alive in the hunt.
Vermont State Champion Henry Farrington of Essex Vermont is hoping his team can deliver on a big surprise this year. Essex put 6 runners in the top 14 to easily win their state championship last week by an incredible 60 points. After winning the Maine State Championship by 30 points, Scarborough looks to make a strong showing.
This is the first New England Championships in quite a while that any of the five representing states could produce the individual winner. After placing 4th in the two prior New England Championships La Salle’s Dimuccio, a 9:15 2 miler is the top returnee. His teammate dosReis, a 4:17 miler exhibited his powerful kick last week to defeat Bishop Hendricken’s McMahon, a 15 flat 5k runner at New Balance Nationals as well as former USATF JO National Cross Country Champion and 3:54 1500 meter man, Sam Toolin of North Kingstown. Hendricken ‘s Tierney placed 2nd at the 2018 Manchester Invitational.
Connecticut’s top runner is State Champion Eli Nahom of New Milford, Freshman Gavin Sherry won the Manchester Invitational this year and has the season’s fastest time of 15:49 on this course. Cozean of Xavier has run 14:53 on the track, while his teammates Schulten, Curran and Selfors will all be tough to beat. Hall’s Trey Cormier has run 9:08 for 3200 meters and Miller Anderson has run 4:20 for the mile. They are two of the fastest on the track, we’ll see how fast they are mired in mud. Shelton’s Robert Dillon who has run 9:22 for 3200 was 6th last year in Belfast. Essex Vermont’s Farrington, U32 Andrew Compton, and Simon Kissam would all be happy with a performance like Danville’s Riley Fenoff 2nd place finish in this race last year. Maine State Champion Lisandro Berry-Gaviria of Mt. Ararat ran 15:35 at Belfast winning his race by 27 seconds and he looks to stay on a tear. Gabe Coffey of Bangor and John Auer of Falmouth look to place high.
The New Hampshire advantage: familiarity coupled with less than optimal racing conditions could be just enough of a difference maker in hopes of an individual title this year. Winner of the both the 2018 Division I and Meet of Champions, races in mud-covered conditions, should bolster the quest for a New England Title for Concord’s Forest MacKenzie. Strength over speed won out the last two weeks. It looks to be the same winning recipe again this Saturday.
2018 Division I Mile champion Jake Winslow of Exeter was All New England last year and will be a legitimate contender this year along with Keene’s Velasquez, Division II Champion David Reynolds of Merrimack Valley and Mascenic’s Landen Vaillancourt. Guys that can reasonably compete for all New England honors are Nashua North’s Joseph Curran, Winnacunnet’s Donnelly, Oyster River’s Carrico and Division III Champion Jeffrey Allen. Concord’s Boesch Dining and Pinkerton’s Gagnon need not dwell on their past two weeks performances if they want to rise back to the top.
Last year, NH girls flexed their muscles for the 2nd consecutive year against the best of New England when Granite State teams placed three teams in the top 5 and 4 in the top 7 with the surprise New England Champion Pinkerton leading the way and Runner-Up Bishop Guertin only 20 points back. And who can forget West’s Julia Robitaille’s surprise individual title??? Can we expect more of the same this year, especially since we seemingly have home course advantage?
Maybe so, but with different names?? Right now Exeter is topping the polls here in NH with Coe-Brown, last year’s 7th best team, only 3 points back at last week’s MOCs. While West’s Julia Robitaille is back to defend her title, she is joined not only by her sister Corinne, but also by 2018 MOC Champion, new kid on the block, Merrimack Valley freshman Sophia Reynolds. As close as NH girls teams have been this season, we cannot count out any of the other qualifiers Con-Val, Pinkerton, Oyster River and Souhegan. Similarly, look to returning 2017 All-New England members Caroline Fischer (BG), Lauren Robinson (Milford), Addison Cox (Coe-Brown), Meghan Cross (Pinkerton) as well as 2018 MOC top 10 finishers Keararge’s Mya Dube, Souhegan’s Arielle Zlotnick, BG’s Caroline Towle, Con-Val’s Rachel Hurley and Clare Veverka.
Regarding team competition, NH squads certainly have an uphill battle as 2016 New England Champs, and multi-year Vermont State Champion (they just won their 10th consecutive!), as Champlain Valley Union will be gunning to return to the top of the podium. No stranger to Derryfield as they are a perennial competitor at Manchester Invitational (2018 Large School Champs with a 19:59 avg), CVU is the current Northeast Region #1 ranked school and favored to also qualify for a trip to Nike Cross Nationals later this month at Nike Cross Northeast Regionals. Led by Alice Larson and Ella Whitman, they have to be the favorites, if not heavy favorites given their incredible depth (3-5 runners separated by 15 seconds in the mid 20’s at Thetford!) along with their experience in the anticipated muddy/hilly conditions (they are a Vermont team after all!!!).
This is New Englands though, so look for CVU to be challenged by several teams, several state champions!!! Portsmouth, Rhode Island led by Elizabeth Sullivan had a quite impressive day on the course down at Ponaganset. Sullivan dropped an 18:40 with her teammates close behind her in 19:05, 19:23, 20:03 and 20:34. We also have to look at Maine’s state champion Bonny Eagle. Led by Delaney Hesler and Amy Beaumier, they have consistently had pack times around 1:10. They placed 6th at the 2018 Manchester Invitational with a 20:34 average. Could their trip to Derryfield in September pay off?? Connecticut had a bit of a surprise as Danbury seemingly upset 2018 MI Small School Champ Immaculate by 1 point. Immaculate, led by Angela Saidman (19:41 at MI), had a team average of 20:26 back in September. Danbury, led by Lauren Moore who placed 6th in the Large School at MI in 19:02, should now be considered a factor. They placed 4th with a 20:29 team average at MI, and were edged by Glastonbury which placed 3rd in that race.
To be true contenders, NH teams certainly have to improve on their MI performance which saw CBNA as the highest finisher (8th). However, if history serves us, NH teams have had the knack in past years, especially most recent ones, to vastly improve over the course of a season. Ingredients include having at least 1 All-New England member and of course a pack time not too far over one minute. Teams with that potential certainly include #1 Exeter led by senior Violet Sullivan. Two weeks ago they won the D1 runner-up plaque, something they haven’t done in 40 years. This past weekend they won the MOCs, a first in their school’s history. What will they do for the encore??? If #2 CBNA, led by Cox’s low number, fires on all cylinders, shrinking that pack time some, they will certainly contend for a top 5 finish. Pinkerton (NH#4) also has the beginnings of fulfilling that formula with Cross and they have a team with experience and the history of racing Derryfield quite well. The one outlier to this formula could very well be NH #3 Con-Val. If their terrific top three Veverka, Hurley and Schuyler Michalak could all make the All-New England team, don’t rule them out!
Individually, look at home-grown NH talent to be major factors. MOC champ Reynolds will no doubt mix it up with the region’s best. Watch for her to make a strong move over the second mile, up in the hills. West’s Robitaille sisters will certainly be in the front pack along with BG’s Fischer; however, the favorite has to be Pomperaug CT’s Kate Wiser, who won the MI44 Large School race in 17:49 beating South’s Cali Coffin by 10 seconds. Maine State Champ Falmouth’s Sofia Matson is also one to watch as should be CVU’s Larson (Vermont State Champion) and her teammate Whitman. Look for Portsmouth’s Rhode Island State Champion Sullivan to factor in and if Kearsarge’s Dube can match her level of racing to her MOCs level, she could also surprise. Finally, keeping in mind this is New Englands at Derryfield, so look for Granite Staters Robinson, Hurley, Veverak, Towle, Zlotnick and Cox to factor in the chase pack! Regardless, welcome to NH, good luck to all and LET’S GO 603!!!!