By Mike Smith
The Jamie Martin Invitational is one of the early season contests where athletes get the opportunity to stretch their legs and test themselves against the competition for the first time this season. With the start across the town commons and a course that’s practically pancake flat, it gets the season going like being shot out of a cannon. The course record hasn’t been challenged in recent times, with Scott Clark’s 15:30 left standing the test of time.With the seemingly yearly threat of late season lightning storms there could be a push to rename the meet the Thunder Clap Classic.
Last year saw the races dominated by Manchester West’s Julia Robitialle, the ConVal girls, Campbell’s Jeffrey Allen and Trinity. With Robitialle and Allen graduated, we’re sure to see a different winner on the individual side. With ConVal graduating their fantastic three in Clare Ververka, Rachel Hurley and Schuyler Michalak while Trinity graduated Danny Donovan, Alex Cermak and Hunter Cote it is also likely new team champions will be crowned. Emerging to take the top spots individually should be Kearsarge’s Mya Dube and Mascenic’s Landen Vaillancourt, as the highest placers post season last year; however, this is early season and it’s not the best plan to be firing on all cylinders at this time.
Also, don’t count your chickens before they hatch. While Dube and Vaillancourt seem to have the upper hand, there is some solid competition lurking in the weeds. Dube’s biggest challenge could come from teammates Jenna Bears and Lili Baer, both coming off a solid spring season that helped the Cougars win the D3 Spring Track crown. With Campbell’s Cassie Hemming along with teammates Megan Whitnell and Michelle Freeman looking for top ten finishes, we could see the team championships come down to a clash of the Cougars from the flat lands and the Cougars (Kearsarge) from the hills. ConVal won last year but have graduated their top five opening the door for last year’s #2 and #4 teams to step through. Last year’s #3 team, Milford, lost the services of D2 monster Lauren Robinson (graduation) and will be looking to restock with a youth movement behind sophomore Abby Halloran. Hollis/Brookline finished fifth last year and will be looking to improve on last year’s finish.
In probably the most interesting storyline of the meet is the clash between Sanborn’s Khalil brothers and Mascenic’s Landen Vaillancourt. Older brother Dylan is fearless and willing to attack any race and any competitor from the gun, while younger brother Jared handed Northwood’s Aidan Cox his only losses as a middle schooler making his bid as the #1 MS runner of 2018. One could only think that the older would want to show the younger who’s the alpha on the team at the school’s big invitational. Toss in D3’s giant slayer Vaillancourt who pushed D3 champ and NH All Star Jeffrey Allen to the limit come last October and you’ve got yourself a race! Don’t forget about Khalil’s teammate Owen Stocker, Milford’s Caleb Korthals, ConVal’s Harrison Kim as they will be looking to make up the top five list.
Another battle is a-brewin’ in the team race. Last year Trinity took the team title, followed by Kearsarge, Campbell, ConVal and Mascenic. By the end of the season Mascenic had clawed its way to the top of the D3 heap and on paper would look to be the favorite. But that’s why we race and while they graduated only 2 (#2 and #6) they appear to be without the services of their returning #2 and #4. It seems they’ve restocked fairly well, but we’ll find out on Tuesday. Likely leapfrogging the field to challenge or simply steal the title is host Sanborn. With arguably the best 1-2-3 punch entered, Sanborn will be at the finish line waiting for the dust to settle. Trinity, Kearsarge, Campbell and ConVal will all be looking to rely on some new faces to “piece the puzzle” together and certainly could factor in if Mascenic or Sanborn stumbles out of the gate.