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By Mike Smith
The 19th edition of the Black Bear Invitational did not disappoint, from the report of the starter’s gun in the Girl’s Middle School race at 9am, to the final race, the Men’s Varsity race at 11:50am, the running was fast, the racing was hard, and the competition was strong. 31 teams would make up the high school fields with an additional 14 middle schools as the course would see 1145 finishers on the day.
Middle School Races!
In the Girl’s Middle School race, Hampton Academy hit the ground running quite literally, winning with 41 points. HA’s Kate Burris would lead the field, winning in 12:15, followed by teammate Miley Blether (12:16) for a solid 1-2 punch. Dover MS’s Isabella McIntyre (13:06) would finish 6th overall to lead Dover to second place with 71 points. Oyster River Middle School, led by MacKenzie Cook and Haley Kavanaugh who placed 3rd and 4th respectively (12:29 & 12:36) palced 3rd with 88 points.
In the Boy’s Middle School race, the younger Khalil, Tyson, of Sanborn, would take the race out, run unchallenged to win in 10:52. This led his team to the title, winning with 73 points. Surprise second place team was Boynton, the middle school for Mascenic, with 97 points, led by Logan Lucas’s 7th place finish. As with the girls, Oyster River Middle School would place 3rd just 2 points behind upstart Boynton with 99 points. They were led by Cole Harwood who placed 4th in 11:45.
Next up was the Girls HS JV race. Concord’s Quincy Bolduc took the early lead after the mile and stretched away to win in 22:16, 20 seconds over Coe-Brown’s Natalie Sicard. Freshman Sicard’s 2 points helped Coe-Brown to a second place team finish with 62 points as Bedford nipped the host school by just 4 points after a back and forth battle over the entire course. Led by the Dinndorf sisters, Kaitlyn and Sierra, finishing in fourth and sixth, Bedford scored 58 points Matter of fact both Bedford and CBNA had three runners in the top 10 as Ava Underwood (9th, 23:18) supported the Dinndorf sisters while CBNA’s Rowan Carr (8th, 23:17) and Carly Hardy (10th, 23:26) scored valuable points for the Bears. Phillips Exeter Academy led by Kerstin Hyer’s 5th place in 22:58 would be third with 76 points. Bolduc’s Concord teammate, Gracie McHugh placed 3rd in 22:50 to complete the top 10.
In the Boy’s HS JV race, Hanover’s Trevor Siegel made a move to the front before the halfway mark, powering away from the field and winning in 18:13, good enough to finish 58th in the Men’s Varsity race and a twenty second margin over Concord’s Liam Conery. The jv team would be a preview of the varsity as Bobcat Invite Champs Phillips Exeter and Manchester Invite Champs, Coe-Brown would battle. Even though the host school placed 4 in the top 10 to PEA’s three, Phillips Exeter won with 47 points led by Jack Liu (4th, 18:47), Erik Porras (6th, 18:49), and James Long (9th, 18:55). Coe-Brown would come close, scoring 50 points led by my favorite co commentator Tyler Tkaczyk. who placed 3rd in 18:38. Supporting Tkaczyk would be Gavin Demas (5th, 18:49), Shane Cameron (8th, 18:54) and Tyler Rose (10th, 18:55). Winnacunnet’s Abel Ravencraft would complete the top 10 placing 7th in 18:54.
The Girl’s Varsity race looked to be a battle between some of NH’s best individuals, along with a number of teams looking to cement their position in the top ten rankings. Certainly not to be overlooked, but just outside the NH radar was Champlain Valley Union, known to those who know them as CVU. CVU is nationally ranked and has a long history of developing national calibur teams in Vermont, much the way Coe-Brown does in NH. Head coach Scott Bliss, who was recently written up in “New England Runner” for his success over the last 20 years, is a master mind at getting his teams ready for big time competition. This is why he brings his team down to Northwood to find the appropriate challenge for his teams. Last week at the Manchester Invite, CVU lost a close one to unranked Bishop Guertin with two of their top five out with “the sickness.” This week we would see a healthier CVU squad.
CVU wasted no time getting things going, with Alicia Veronneau and Alice Larson up front, dictating the pace. Along for the ride was Bedford’s Carly Rinko, Concord’s Morgane Orcutt, Kearsarge’s and D3’s wundergirl Mya Dube, Winnacunnet’s MacKenna Whelan and recently cleared Addison Cox from Coe-Brown. Veronneau would remain at the point, forcing those in the chase pack to either go with her or store up their reserves for the finish abdicating first to Veronneau. The latter was at hand with Veronneau winning in 19:19 over a hard charging Dube in 19:37. Next in would be Rinko of Bedford, Larson of CVU, and Orcutt of Concord. Rounding out the top ten would be Whelan, Cox, Jasmine Nails and Finnegan Mittelstadt of CVU and Molly Nyhan of Concord.
CVU would win this one easily, with four in the top ten and five in the top 30. Concord would win the battle of the NH schools, 82 points over Coe-Brown’s 88 points. Phillips Exeter would beat out Bedford, 130 points to 138 points.
In the Men’s Varsity race it looked to be a battle of most of the top runners in the state of NH. MI45 Small School champ Landen Vaillancourt would be taking on MI45 Large School NH#1 Coe-Brown’s Aidan Cox, MI45 Large School NH#2 Colin Donnelly of Winnacunnet, and MI45 NH #3 CB’s Luke Tkaczyk. Add in MI45 Small School NH’s #2, #3 and #4 in Oyster River’s Myles Carrico, Sanborn’s Jared Khalil and OR’s Andy O’Brien, you’ve got a who’s who at the top of the NH public school’s standings. Toss in private school Phillips Exeter, and their top three of Will Coogan, Varun Oberai and Conner Chen, along with Concord’s Eben Bragg and Ryan Devine, you’ve got yourself what most would call a race. In the end, Donnelly and O’Brien would be on site but not racing, making sure to balance illness and recuperation.
800 meters into the race a very large front pack had assembled behind Trinity’s James Barrett who insured the opening pace would be an honest one before the combination of Tkaczyk, Vaillancourt, Coogan, Khalil, and Cox took control. Barrett would fade to 44th, his early exertion exacting it’s toll over the the course. However his honest pace aided in thinning the field and by the return to Grand Junction, PEA’s Coogan had assumed the front, with Vaillancourt, Cox and Tkaczyk in tow, Coogan would extend his lead to to the single track, followed by Vaillancourt, Cox and Tkaczyk 30 meters in arrears.
Vaillancourt would make some of that ground back during the single track and the return to the track, but Coogan would be too good, finishing in 16:17 to Vaillancourt’s 16:21. Tkaczyk would prove to have better leg speed over Cox with the teammates finishing 3rd and 4th in 16:26 and 16:28. Concord’s Eben Bragg would finish in fifth (16:35) having worked his way through his competitors. Rounding out the top five would be Khalil (16:38), Pinkerton’s Luke Brennan (16:38), Windham’s hard closing Rohan Rai (16:40), Oberai (16:51), and Carrico (16:53).
As with the JV race the varsity team race came down to PEA and Coe-Brown. Again, a seesaw battle ensued as Coogan (PEA) won only to be countered by Tkaczyk and Cox placing 3rd and 4th. But PEA bobbed and weaved with Oberai and Connor Chen placing 9th and 12th. The Bears would claw back with the duo of Wyatt Mackey (13th) and Dawson Dubois (16th) who had worked together the entire race. Although PEA’s Jinwoo Kang would put 5 seconds on CBNA’s fifth scorer Logan Mihelich, the host school had enough team racing to win by ten, 59 to 69. Pinkerton would be the best of the rest with 99 points while Concord (113 points) and Oyster River (167 points) would round out the top five.