By Mike Smith
Under threatening skies, the 2019 version of this year’s Cougar Classic would take place in the fields and trails of North Manchester. With Derryfield School playing host to nine schools, 44 runners in the girls race and 72 in the boys race, while the weather looked to dampen the runners, it couldn’t dampen the competition. With a number of D3’s top individuals and some of the top teams, the competition was strong on the newly revamped Derryfield course.
This year’s version of the course, looking potentially to become their new standard course, while hilly and challenging in spots, allowed for some strong running, with solid footing on well maintained trails. Gone is the sand pile section and the sand pit section, and while some of the laps overlapped, the flow of running traffic was good allowing the top runners and the back of the pack alike to have room to race.
In the girls race, Portsmouth Christian’s Liza Corso and Brianna Malone wasted no time getting to the front, drawing each of the team’s top runner out with them on the opening field lap. With these two being two of the best in D3, the early pace strung the racers out practically single file before the girls exited the first of the upper field loops. PCA appeared to be without their #3 runner in Ella Malone and that proved to be true as PCA wouldn’t have enough girls to score as a team.
With Corzo and Malone out front, Malone serving as a guide on the ever changing, always rolling course, the duo would get out to the front and stay there, but not away from the rest of the racers. Newmarket’s Isabel Pentony would front the chase pack that would include Mascenic’s Quinn Aldrich, PCA’s Lily Kjendal and Conant’s Kylie Aho. The order would stay this way until the final loop of the upper athletic fields where Corzo, with the speed that made her a threat on the track last spring opened a seven second gap on Malone, winning in 20:38. The order would stay the same through six, with a hard charging Emma Pyles of Derryfield running away from Newmarket’s Hannah Edgerly and Mascenic’s Sophie and Maya Callahan over the final last mile.
Newmarket would win the battle of places over Mascenic, able to place their #1 runner and #2 runner in front of Mascenic’s #1 and #2, and their #3, #4, and #5 in front of Mascenic’s #4 and #5, to win 33 points to 42 points. Conant, with 3 in the top 15, would finish in third with 57 points.
In the boy’s race, Mascenic’s Landen Vaillancourt would get out slow, running the first 200 meters in about 10th place. Halfway around the first field loop a front pack of Mascenic and Conant runners would emerge, both teams aware they were looking at each other as two of the top teams in D3. By the time the teams exited the field loops, headed up the hill, onto the trail section, the competitive fires caught fire and by the time they headed down the steep gravel downhill, the battle was on. Connor Traffie was the first to go to the front to rachet up the pace, stringing the field of contenders out behind him.
When the runners emerged back to the athletic fields at approximately two and a quarter miles, Vaillancourt had assumed the lead, moving smoothly and efficiently away from his pursuers. Traffie would emerge up the hill in second, with Conant’s Matt Bernier and Chris Taylor maintaining their connection to Traffie. Also zeroed in but on the two Conant runners was Mascenic’s Zack Allen followed by Conant’s Ethan Weinhold and Mascenic’s Jethro Somero and PCA’s Sam Harrington. With less than a mile, it would be interesting to see how the battle panned out.
Vaillancourt would enter the upper fields with a significant lead which would only extend to 32 seconds by the finish, over Traffie, in 17:13. Bernier and Taylor would try to use their closing speed over the final grass lap but Traffie was rolling and the top four would finish that way. Allen, having his best run of the year would follow them in with Weinhold, the Somero and Harrington to follow. Mascenic’s Josh Movsessian and teammate Ryan O’Shea would follow.
Conant would insure that victory was hard fought, but with seven in the top eleven Mascenic would win this one with 24 points. Conant would put their scoring five in the top 14, with Mascenic and Conant placing 12 of the top fifteen finishers, insuring a battle on October 26th. Home team Derryfield would be the best of the rest, scoring 100 points to Epping’s 109 points.
With it’s difficult but honest course and strong competition, the Cougar Classic is one of those races that lives up to its name.