Division Favorites – Concord, Coe-Brown, Mascenic
Individuals to Watch – Joseph Curran (North), Jake Velazquez (Keene), Torin Kindopp (Keene), Colin Donnelly (Winnacunnet), Jack Taylor (Winnacunnet), Andy O’Brien (Oyster River), Myles Carrico (Oyster River), Luke Tkaczyk (Coe-Brown), Dawson Dubois (Coe-Brown), Landen Vaillancourt (Mascenic)
Writing a preview for the cross country season is a lot of fun but comes with a lot of challenges. You never know who is coming back from the various teams and how far some of the runners have come. To try and figure out what we can expect, all the graduating seniors from the Division meets, Meet of Champions, and the JV State meets were removed, and that information was analyzed to try and make an educated guess on what we can expect. That said, there are always a few breakout stars who throw a wrench in the formula of any guess for an upcoming season and that’s what makes the whole process fun! Let’s dive into it.
Note: All times referred to in Division previews are from the 2018 Divisional Championships at Derryfield, while times referred to in the MOC preview are from the 2018 MOCs.
Mascenic squeaked out the win last year by two points over Campbell after coming in as the prohibitive front runner. Returning four from their very dominant 2017 team, including two freshmen that went #2 and #5, it seemed Mascenic was destined for greatness. While they sneaked out the win, they were far from dominant and had to work the entire season to get there. This year would look to be the same scenario playing out, with Mascenic returning five from their starting seven, something no other top four team can do and well ahead numerically than their next closest competitor on paper. Led by now-veteran junior Landen Vaillancourt (2nd, 16:38) and senior Dakota Somero (16th, 18:03), Mascenic looks to win their third in a row. With some strong support from sophomore Connor Traffie (4:57, 10:38) and senior Zack Allen (5:16, 11:18) while adding some solid recruits from the middle school program, expect the Vikings to be there come October as long as they put in their summer training.
Looking to make the jump to the top spot should be Campbell, Kearsarge and Trinity, the rest of the top four from last year. All solid programs, but Campbell loses #1, #2 and #7, Kearsarge loses #1, #3, #4 and #5, and Trinity loses #1, #3, and #4. Campbell looks to have a slight edge, returning Trevor and Tyler Scopelites (14th, 17:56 and 22nd, 18:10) along with Matt Dion (17th, 18:03) and Jared Petersen (61st, 19:49). Combine those varsity returners with a solid JV squad and they should have the firepower to get back towards the top of Division 3.
Trinity might be the next best team on paper, returning seniors James Barrett, Pat Dunn and Mica Buck, along with junior Louis Rosenthal (9th, 43rd, 44th, and 50th.) Trinity took the division by storm in its first year in D3, beating everyone at Sanborn Invitational last fall. They are well coached by DJ Ayotte and a team definitely on the rise. If they can find the magic at the end of the season, they could contend.
Looking at the results from last year, Kearsarge takes the biggest hit from graduation, but make no mistake, the boys from hill country will restock with new faces ready to step up. Last year they were led by Ben Boulton, who had been their #6 in 2017, and the masterminds up in Sutton will find diamonds in the rough to have Kearsarge in contention by the end of the season. The Cougars will be led by senior Edward Stowell (12th, 17:49) and sophomore Gavin Garzia ,who had a breakout spring 10:47 – 3200), along with a bunch of new faces.
The last team to round out the top five will likely come from the following four teams, Winnisquam, Hopkinton, Lebanon and Monadnock. Winnisquam finished fifth last year, but lost their #2 finisher at D3s and team leader Kyle Mann. However with leadership and experience by senior Rick Fournier (10th, 17:49) and Mann’s brother Riley (30th, 18:42), the Bears not only might have enough to get it done, but might be able to jump the entire field. The Bears jumped Mascenic in the 4×800 in spring track and if they can keep the momentum going, expect them to be in the mix for that top spot.
Also in the mix could be Hopkinton or Lebanon. Lebanon has a stronger front runner in senior Cody Davis (7th, 17:42), but loses it’s next two from last year’s #7 team and will really need their 4 – 7 to step up if they want to break into the top five. Hopkinton loses only one from last year’s team, but with no front runner (Michael Eggers, 33rd, 18:45) will need everyone to take a big step forward to be in contention.
It’s possible the team with the most upside is last year’s #8 team in Monadnock who returns their entire team. Led by junior Tyler Hebert (6th, 17:42), Harry Ryan and a bunch of young guns who’ve run under coach Clint Joslyn for their entire running careers, the Huskies could prove to be the spoilers of 2019.
If there was ever a dark horse it would be Belmont. Belmont went on to succeed Mascenic for two years after the Vikings had won three straight in 2005-2006-2007. Since then, Belmont has had issues with numbers and have been looking for that magic to make the jump again to challenge for the top of the division. With Scott Clark at the helm (formerly of Sant Bani, the smallest school in NHIAA cross country) expect the Red Raiders to move up the rankings. Expecting them to make MOCs this year is a big ask but expect their star to be rising.
Individually expect Mascenic’s Vaillancourt to be the man in the driver’s seat, on paper almost 75 seconds faster than any other returner. If he is challenged, it could come from teammates Dakota Somero and potentially Josh Movsessian, originally part of Mascenic’s fantastic freshmen duo, if he’s done his summer homework. Also in the mix will be Monadnock’s Hebert and Harry, Lebanon’s Davis, Trinity’s Barrett, Winnisquam’s Fournier and Mann, Kearsarge’s Stowell and Campbell’s Trevor Scopelites and Dion.
In Division 2 boy’s cross country, division is the operative word this season. There are two teams that on paper are far out ahead of everyone else. This is not to say the rest of the division is bereft of talent; far from it. However, the two teams in question might very well combine for 8 out of the top 10 spots at the championship race and that is the real separating factor. Had enough of the mystery? Ready for the big reveal? You already know where I’m going here; Coe-Brown and Oyster River look to continue their dominant distance tradition and are the clear favorites for a 1-2 finish in some order.
Coe-Brown is the favorite at this time; They return six of their top seven from last year’s championship team, with Dawson Dubois (12, 16:49), Luke Tkaczyk (11, 16:55), Wyatt Mackey (11, 17:08), and Logan Mihelich (11, 17:12) making a formidable top 4. Add Patrick Hill (11) and Carter Sylvester (11) both 18:09 and both with strong Spring Track seasons) and that team should have enough to win the title. However, the Bears are not done improving themselves. Joining them will be rising freshmen Aidan Cox and Tyler Tkaczyk, who finished 1st and 7th respectively at this year’s D3 Middle School Championships. Both have a chance to be high impact additions, and with Cox running a 9:46 3200 as an 8th grader, Coe-Brown looks like they are planning to stay on top for years to come.
Oyster River is fielding an excellent team as well this season, returning five of their top seven from last year’s D2 runner-up squad. Andrew O’Brien (11, 16:48) is coming off a breakthrough Spring track season, and Myles Carrico (12, 17:10) is a dangerous runner that sources say is training seriously over the summer instead of his typical routine of racing himself into shape over the course of the season. This sets up a very real possibility of a deadly 1-2 finish for the Bobcats. Add Henry Duisberg (12, 17:36), Rowan Brown (11, 17:51) and Owen Fleischer (11, 17:56) combined with members of a perennially strong JV team, Sophomore Dillon Labonte, who posted a 10:08 3200 at DII Outdoor State meet. and rising freshman Chris Jernigan (5th at D2 MS Champs) and Oyster River looks to be a for certain top two team in the division. Their 3-5 guys will have to step up if the Bobcats hope to run down a tightly bunched and “low stick” oriented Coe-Brown team but if anyone can pull off an upset it will be Oyster River.
The next best team on paper is Hanover. The Marauders seem to be in a “no man’s land” where they are well ahead of the next best teams in the division, but with OR and CB potentially eating up most of the low numbered places, they will have a very challenging time cracking the top two. There’s no shade being thrown here; Hanover is an excellent team. Returning six of their top seven from last year, they are led by Sam Murray (10, 17:29), Daniel Bandler (12, 17:37), Daniel Frost (11, 17:41) and Matthew Bonner (12, 17:59). Adding in Jack Lange (11, 18:33) and Trevor Seigel (12, 18:40), Hanover is poised to take advantage of any stumbles from teams ahead of them and also have the grouping and talent to hold off most if not all challengers to the 3rd spot at the championship race.
Next in line looks to be Sanborn, a team seemingly on the rise. Returning an incredible seven out of seven from their 6th place team from last year, they have a great 1-2 punch in Dylan Khalil (11, 16:59) and Owen Stocker (11, 17:35) to help, but will need help from returning 3-5 runners Ian Marsh (12, 18:42), Noah Cavallo (10, 19:02), and Andrew Pugh (10, 19:03) to stay in that coveted top 6 zone. Greatly helping their cause will be incoming frosh Jared Khalil, the D2 Middle School Champion. In fact, we are only one year away from having all 3 Khalil brothers on the same team! Sanborn doesn’t have much margin of error however, as the next team on paper is only one step behind them in terms of talent and depth.
Con-Val returns five of their top seven from last year’s 5th place D2 team. The Cougars will be looking to build on that success led by Harrison Kim (12, 17:33), August Kotula (11, 18:26), Danny Veverka (11, 18:27), Haven Deschenes (11, 19:07) and Tyler Beard (10, 19:17). Their 2-5 guys will need to be at their best to hold off the next team on the list and are looking to see if an incoming freshman or two could help them out.
Souhegan is always a team in the mix for a berth to the Meet of Champions (MOC) and is led by Mason Silk (11, 17:53), Ethan McFee (11, 18:00), Thomas Headington (12, 18:38), and Andrew Strauss (10, 19:28). Add in promising sophomores Nolan Dickinson and Peter Headington as well as incoming frosh Kariso Anderson (3rd D2 MS Championships) and the Sabers look like they could be a top six team again jockeying for any one of the 4-5-6 spots at the D2 Championship race.
There are a few teams circling the outer edges that might surprise us:
Windham has a solid top 3 with Rohan Rai (11, 17:38), Jacob Kuczynski (12, 18:21), and Cole Flenniken (11, 18:39), but the Jaguars will need more help in the 4-5 spots to be a factor. Bow is led by Colin Lessard (12, 18:10) and Gabriel Neff (12, 18:25), but the Falcons will need a lot more support to crack the top 6 teams. Portsmouth has Ari Montville (12, 18:36) and rising freshman Avery Crowell (4th at D2 MS Championships) up front, but the Clippers have to see a lot of improvement from a lot of guys to be in the mix.
Individually, the early season nod goes to Myles Carrico of Oyster River simply based on his progression last year and his subsequent Indoor Track accomplishments as well. Myles started the 2018 XC season running in the 19s (not a typo) and ended up with a 16:28 at MOC! What could his trajectory be if he started this season in XC shape and not baseball shape? His teammate Andrew O’Brien is a contender for the individual title as well, as are Sanborn’s Dylan Khalil, and also any one of the Coe-Brown triad of Dawson Dubois, Wyatt Mackey and Luke Tkaczyk.
Good luck and good health to all teams and individuals!
Interesting OR/CB rivalry tidbits over the last 10 seasons:
- Combined, the two teams have won 8 of the last 10 D2 titles. (4 each)
- At least one of the two teams has finished 1st or 2nd in each of the last 10 seasons
- The two teams have finished in some combination of 1-2 for the last four consecutive seasons.
- When CB and OR go 1-2 in either configuration as teams, the average number of points separating the 2nd place team from the 3rd is 55 points.
- When only one of the teams is in the 1st or 2nd spot, the average number of points separating the 2nd place team from the 3rd is 20 points.
- The 2nd place team in every one of the last 3 seasons has scored 61 points.
This time last year we were looking at a one team race and they did not disappoint. Concord had by far the best team scoring just less than half of the runners-up an outstanding team from Keene. Will we see the same kind of domination this fall?
NOPE. This year looks to be the complete opposite with THREE points separating our top returning teams. It was actually tough writing this year’s preview as every time it felt like I knew who the top team was, I’d see something new that made me think someone else is the team to beat. The teams we’ll write about could even be looked at as 1-A, 1-B, 1-C… it’s really that close. Is your team in the mix? Let’s take a look and see what each team’s strengths and weaknesses are as they currently stand.
Concord may have lost some of the top runners in the state, but come into the 2019 season as the team to beat. With four varsity returners in the top 20, including Ryan Devine i(12, 16:49) n the top 10, they will only need one new runner added into the mix for them to be very difficult to beat. Concord’s team was very deep last year and their JV squad has several people who could move in to fill that fifth spot. Additionally, they have several incoming freshmen who placed well at the Junior High State Meets last year. Watch out for Brayden Kearns (11, 17:04), who looked like he was on the precipice in outdoors this past spring as well as senior David Cook (17:13).
Winnacunnet returns five of their varsity members from last year including three potential top ten runners. Colin Donnelly (12, 16:41) and Jack Taylor (12, 16:38) are two guys that should compete for the top spot in the Division and Noah Taracena (12, 16:50) will look to make his way into the top five. After that, things get a little trickier for Winnacunnet as their next runner clocks in at 36th place.They had several runners perform well in last year’s JV state meet, who will look to move into the upper varsity. Closing that gap between three and four will be a necessity if they want to take the very balanced Concord team down.
Three years ago Londonderry’s middle school team went 1-2-3 at the junior high state meet and looked like they could be seeing the start of a dynasty. Since then, injuries have plagued the group of now juniors keeping Londonderry from truly showing what they’re made of. Could this be the year they show what they can do? Londonderry has four returners in the top 21 of the division including a top five returner in Will Heenan (11, 16:30). Keep an eye on Matt Griffin (11, 17:17) to compete for a top ten spot after an excellent outdoor track season and for a Ryan Young to really give the Lancers a boost. Could they also get a boost from incoming freshman Sean Clegg, who won the junior high state meet this past fall?
Keene has probably the strongest returning one two punch in the state. Jake Velazquez (12, 16:21) is the number one returner and last year’s super freshman Torin Kindopp (10, 18:36) is a guy who could take his teammate down for that coveted top spot. Keene has two other varsity returners in the top 30 in Nico Ramirez (12, 17:44) and Sergio Sartini (12, 17:44), so their question is going to be how they round out their top five? They have a top ten runner from the JV race, who could move up. They also have a top three finisher in the middle school state meet, who could jump into the varsity. Also, Keene is always tricky to evaluate as they don’t go to many of the central NH meets, so we may not know how strong they really are until they get to the divisional meet.
Pinkerton is always the king of depth and this year shouldn’t be an exception. They return four guys in the top 26 and had a really strong showing at the JV state meet last year which should give them a great shot at filling in the spots left by graduates. Nolan Preble (12, 16:53) always seems to come alive when the end of the season comes, but sophomore Luke Brennan (10, 17:03) may be the guy to watch after an outstanding spring track season saw him battling with some of the guys who will compete for the top spot in the state. Look for him to move into the top ten.
Like the team championship, the individual side of the race should see a lot of competition for the top spot. Jake Velazquez is the top returner from last year after having an outstanding end including a finish at the Meet of Champions that leaves him the top returner in the state. It might sound like he’s an easy pick to be the winner but North’s Rory Curran is someone who absolutely needs to be considered. He ran one of the fastest 3000s in state history during the indoor season last year and should be right with Velazquez. Londonderry’s Will Heenan dealt with some injuries early on but came on strong toward the end to be the third returner. If he can stay healthy he could be one to watch. Velazquez’s teammate Torin Kindopp had an incredible freshman year and he’s another one who needs to be considered for the top spot. Winnacunnet’s Jack Taylor and Colin Donnelly round out the guys to watch as the five and six returners. Donnelly had a really excellent run at the Meet of Champions and is the fourth returner in the whole state.
Meet of Champions
With the graduation of Concord’s top studs as well as 3 of the top 4 individuals, the complexion of the MOCs will certainly change. Last year at preview time, we were looking at sure favorites with the Crimson Tide and names like MacKenzie, Winslow and Reynolds at the top. This year it seems will be a changing of the guard.
Teamwise look for D2 to possibly rise to the top as last year’s 2nd and 3rd place teams respectively, Oyster River and Coe-Brown, return the most on paper. And although Coe-Brown looks as if they have slightly more in the stable, Mines Falls seems to be Oyster River’s home away from home the last couple years. That’s what we love about how NH operates their state championships between the Divisions and MOCs. Two distinctly different courses, hilly v. flat, allowing for a genuine sample of who had the best XC team in the state! It doesn’t get much better than this!
As much as the top 2 spots may be a toss up, so could the next 3 occupied by D1 teams Concord, Keene, Winnacunnet. On paper their returners are separated by only 9 points. Concord seemingly with a three point edge over Keene and Winnacunnet not far behind. Again these are based on last year’s MOC results, which is only from 1 race in tough conditions. Because of this and incoming varsity help, which can be highly unpredictable, anything can happen. Don’t be surprised if one or more of these schools are sitting closer to the top.
Two teams with vast potential to really do some damage are two of the most storied schools in NH history in Londonderry and Pinkerton. Over the past almost 30 years, these rivals have had some epic battles. Now we see their returners in a tie. Londonderry coming off an injury plaqued 2018, while Pinkerton looks to reload. Again, don’t be surprised if one or both of these proud schools finds their way to the top.
Individually, we are expecting a similar, competitive affair, and only hope the course conditions do not mirror 2018 because the talent level this and next year will only continue to showcase itself. Top returner on paper is Keene’s Jake Velazquez, but he has plenty of company. He should be coming off a war at D1s with North’s Rory Curran and Winnacunnet’s Colin Donnelly, but expect D3 majordomo Landen Vaillancourt to stick his nose in it to break up the D1 party. Matter of fact, D2 may be more represented in that front pack with Sanborn’s Dylan Khalil, Oyster River’s Myles Carrico and Andy O’Brien, Coe-Brown’s Luke Tkaczyk, Dawson Dubois.
The front pack should be even larger as one can’t count out the Concord boys of Eben Bragg and Ryan Devine, or Keene’s Torin Kindopp, Londonderry’s Will Heenan, Pinkerton’s Luke Brennan, and CBNA’s Wyatt Mackey. Finally don’t sleep on incoming freshmen Jared Khalil (Sanborn) and Aidan Cox (CBNA).
By our count, that is a pack of 17 on a course with no hills. Expect this to disintegrate late into the race and don’t be surprised if the pack swells to 20+ as the top runner pool is deep in the 603! Here we come New England!
Good luck to all!