Division Favorites – Concord, Coe-Brown, Hopkinton
Individuals to Watch – Cali Coffin (Nashua South), Sophia Reynolds (MV), Chloe Trudel (Souhegan), Addison Cox (Coe-Brown), Liza Corso (Portsmouth Christian), Alie McFarland (Exeter), Carly Rinko (Bedford), Morgane Orcutt (Concord)
With last year’s champion, Kearsarge, moving up to Division 2, the door is left open for a new champion in 2020. Kearsarge pulled off the surprise victory over a very good pack running Hopkinton team (top 5 in the top 18), 53 to 57. Coming in third was Campbell well back with 129 points closely followed by Portsmouth Christian with 131 points.
With Kearsarge moving up it would seem Hopkinton is in the best position to lead the charge in D3. While Hopkinton suffers from the loss of seniors, Emma Rothe, Sydney Stockwell and Lily Sabol from their 2018 championship team, they return a very solid 1-5. Returning sophomore Hannah Bennett, juniors Anna O’Reilly and Cailey Stockwell and senior Cate Westbrook, along with a strong support staff of JV runners, the Hawks appear likely to be in the driver’s seat once the season gets underway.
The Campbell Cougars know how to win and that will help them in their bid to regain the top of the podium in 2020. Led now and also back in 2017 (when they won their second title in a row) by senior Cassie Hemming, the senior laden team has the opportunity and experience to get the job done. With seniors Megan Whitnell (16th), Riley Gamache, Lindsey Brown and junior Brooke Sullivan Coach Platt will get the Cougars from the flat lands ready to rumble.
The team with potentially the greatest amount of upside is Portsmouth Christian Academy. With the best 1-2 punch in D3s with D3 stalwart Liza Corso and her wingman Brianna Malone, the Eagles look to continue to ascend the mountain. With senior support in Ella Malone and Lily Kjendal, if PCA can develop a strong fifth they could be hard to beat.
Quietly working in the shadows of the big three has been the Mules of Newmarket. Led by junior Isabel Pentony, the blue collar ladies from the banks of the Lamprey River keep making steady strides among the D3 ranks. Considering they placed 15th in 2017, 6th in 2018 and fourth last year, the Mules trajectory is headed in the right direction.
Other teams to watch begins with the Monadnock Huskies who finished 6th last year, one spot out of a Meet of Champions berth. It will be a tough road for them to move into the top five having lost senior leadership in Sydney Eccleston and Sadie Lorenz, but that doesn’t mean there’s not opportunity working in Swanzey. Notoriously difficult rounding out full squads, coach Clint Joslyn begins the season with five returnees, led by 9th placer senior Delaney Swanson and sophomore Anna Bentley (23rd.) Add to the mix junior Liliana Chirichella, and sophomores Coral Dubriske and Sydney Bowers, Monadnock starts the season in a better spot than most years.
Another team to watch will be Mascenic. With certainly the best recruiting class in school history, the Vikings potentially add six freshmen from the Tri County championship team that would have finished fourth across all divisions. Add them to the mix of seniors Quinn Aldrich and Sydney Bane as well as juniors Maya Callahan and Victoria Smith, expect the Vikings to look to vault into the top five.
Rising quietly through the ranks, finishing 8th as a team last season, are the Conant Orioles. Led by sophomore Kylie Aho (28th) the Bill Edson coached Orioles will likely rise in the rankings. With seniors Sarah Smith, junior Alleigh Lapinsky, and sophomores Lainey Holumbo and Laurel Bennett, as well as the addition of MS Small School 12th place finisher Amarah Lapinsky, the Orioles are in the hunt for a trip to Nashua South on November 7th.
As far as individuals go, PCA’s Corso should lead the pack. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her teammate Brianna Malone following up in second either. The rest of the top ten should come from Hopkinton’s Bennett, O’Reilly, Cailey Stockwell and Westbrook, Campbell’s Hemming and Whitnell, Monadnock’s Swanson and Bently, Bishop Brady’s Abby Shagena, PCA’s Ella Malone, Mascenic’s Aldrich and Canaan Memorial’s Hannah Cote.
With all the uncertainty surrounding sports going into the 2020 season, the crystal ball used for previewing is unusually dim. Two things are easily spotted however, the first being that there is unusual parity between most of the teams, the second being that one team stands out clearly through the murk of unpredictability. Assuming that all teams and all eligible athletes return to run, it looks to be an entertaining season as we see who is ready to roll come the end of October.
After a one-year hiatus from the top of the DII rankings, Coe-Brown seems to be the clear-cut favorite to return to the top spot they are so familiar with. Led by two girls who ran sub-20 at DII’s last fall (senior Addison Cox – 19:50, sophomore Sheldyn Fisher – 19:57), the Bears return 6 of their top 7 from the team that came surprisingly close to the top of the podium at the end of 2019. Mallory Taylor (20:09), Tessa Millette (20:54), Samantha Lemay (20:50), and Amelia Edmunds (21:19) all return from the runner-up team. But competition to make varsity will be fierce as they also bring back their top 4 runners (all placing in the top 5) from the JV State Meet Championship team. While knocking Coe-Brown off the top of the podium may not technically be an impossibility, it’s the next closest thing.
Then things get murky. Souhegan are the defending champions, and are led by the defending individual champion, junior Chloe Trudel (18:42). They do return three more from the championship team with sophomore Masho Primmer (20:48), Emma Herrero (21:03), and Adrianna Zlotnick (22:23), but then they have spots to fill. Depth has always been a strength for Souhegan, and this year looks to be no different, with 3 solid runners from their JV team ready to move up into those spaces. Add in a few likely contributors from the middle school program, and Souhegan looks like the strongest contender for “best of the rest” status.
Merrimack Valley returns a very solid team on the preview papers; however, it is likely that 2019 4th-place finisher Sophia Rebenciuc will not be competing in 2020. That brings the team down to just 3 returners from the top-7 of a year ago; junior and 2018 State Champion Sophia Reynolds (19:18), sophomore Samantha Kimball (21:15) and sophomore Violet Webb (22:13). It would take some summer surprises from the non-varsity runners for MV to compete for a top position.
Oyster River, Kennett, and Hanover all return solid compliments of runners and should all compete for a top-6 finish at DII’s. Each of them could even challenge for the fairly open runner-up slot with a solid, healthy season. Kennett looks like the early favorite in the group, led by junior Amy Burton (20:56). Three other runners ran sub-22, the only team of this group with 4 under 22. Develop a speedy 5th, and look out! Oyster River only brings back 3 from varsity 2019, led by senior Marlee Yoder (21:02), but have ample depth, with 4 girls running in the 22’s at JV States. Hanover, led by Charlotte Tagupa (21:38), brings back 5, including the fastest fifth runner not including Coe-Brown. Eternally in the mix, 2020 should be no different for the Marauders, and they certainly have as good a shot as others at snagging the number two spot on the podium.
Each of the rest of the teams from the top ten a year ago also return good numbers from solid individuals, and should be considered dark horse contenders for a top-6 placing. Lebanon, led by junior Zoe Chinn (20:47), John Stark, led by junior Brianna Langdon (21:01), and Kingswood, led by senior Rosemary Carpenter (21:19) all find themselves in similar positions; the elusive hunt for a 4th or 5th runner to round out the team.
Finally, Kearsarge makes it’s long-awaited return to DII after a very successful run in DIII, including a team championship in 2019. They have solid leadership in senior Lili Baers (20:27), but lost quite a few to graduation and only return 3 from last year’s varsity team. While they may not be competing for a top spot, it’s unwise to overlook a defending champion team.
Individually, defending her 2019 individual title Trudel (18:42) of Souhegan looks to be the favorite. Not a clear-cut favorite, however, as 2018 champion Reynolds (19:18) of Merrimack Valley will be motivated to return to her winning ways. Addie Cox (19:50) of Coe-Brown, will be looking to close out her high school career in style after a tough 2019 campaign. Her results from the spring certainly look promising! These are sort of the big three, but anyone can have a great summer. Looking to upset the front, and at least compete for an All-Division spot, are Sheldyn Fisher (19:54), Mallory Taylor (20:09), Tessa Millette (20:54), and Samantha Lemay (20:56), all from Coe-Brown; Baers (20:27) of Kearsarge, Chin (20:47) of Lebanon, Primmer (20:48) of Souhegan, Amy Pattalena (20:49) of Hollis-Brookline, and Burton (20:56) of Kennett. Add in the unknown transfers and 9th-graders, and it looks to be another competitive race!
As I think back to mid-March when we were all anxiously awaiting the decision about spring track I never would have thought that we would still be wondering some of those same things in August. Yet here we are on August 14th hoping that our fall season will continue to move forward and these kids will get to finally compete after more than 6 months since the last NHIAA high school competition. So writing this preview is unique…we don’t have spring track results and we have no idea which schools will even be allowed to have a XC season. So as I sit and put my thoughts down on paper, I decided to pretend we are all in and moving forward and everything is as it should be.
Looking at the 2019 Division One Championships, it looks like it will be awfully difficult to dethrone the Concord girls. They squeaked out a 12 point win last fall over Bishop Guertin and they should be stronger this year. Concord only graduated their #7 girl from that Championship team and have all five scorers as top 15 returnees. Leading the way should be Morgan Orcutt (12), Sophie Hopkins (10) and Katharine Kennedy (12) all who will be fighting for the top five in Division One. Orcutt was the second Division 1 finisher at 2019 Meet of Champions (14th) and New Englands (51st), so she definitely knows how to lead and peak when it counts. Alexis Christie (10) and Molly Nyhan (10) will give Concord 5 returning runners under 19:30 at Mines Falls, which is hard to see any other team in the state be able to match that, never mind anyone in Division One.
Exeter and Bishop Guertin would be the next group in Division One battling to make the podium for the runner-up trophy. The early nod goes to Exeter with a strong returning leader in Ali McFarland (11). McFarland is the 2nd fastest D1 returner and is coming off a strong indoor season helping the team to an indoor track title. Grace Jordan (12) is a top 15 returner and will give Exeter a strong 1-2. Grace Mercier (12, indoor state 1000m champion), Meadow Gregory (10) and Anna Madden (12) will give Exeter five girls under 21:00 at Derryfield. Add to those veterans potential newcomer, top 10 middle school large school state meet finisher Lily Poteet and it gives them an edge over BG.
Bishop Guertin has a big job in replacing the dynamic 1-2 punch of Fischer and Towle, but they usually find a way to reboot. They have four strong returning varsity runners with MaryKate Finn and Fiona Doherty being in the top 15 returnees. Add fellow juniors Elizabeth White and Madeleine Moynihan and they have four runners under 21:30 at Derryfield. Knowing that BG has always had success in finding other strong runners to join their returning girls, they should have a shot to challenge Exeter for the runner-up spot.
Keene, Nashua South and Bedford all have a strong leader but lack the depth on paper. Keene has three returnees under 21:00 at Derryfield including Hannah Shepard (20:02), Reagan Hoy (20:24) and Sofia Guardiano (20:54). Nashua South has the top D1 returnee in Cali Coffin with teammates Meghan Conway (20:29) and Jenna Lecklider (21:38) ready to improve from their 6th place finish last year. Bedford has the 3rd best returnee in senior Carly Rinko coming off a great indoor season running three strong events to help her team place 3rd. Senior teammates Alexis Mahoney (21:17) and Jamie Karr (21:36) gives Bedford a strong three. From this group I may give Bedford the early nudge since they were also the easy victors at the D1 JV state meet.
Other teams fighting for the final Meet of Champions spot starts with Salem, led by Natalie Coryea and adding the easy large school middle school champions (5 of the top 7 were 8th graders). Pinkerton Academy you can never rule out as a threat. The Astros were plagued with injuries last fall, if they can stay healthy with Makenna Alden leading the way, they could surprise some people. Londonderry has returning junior Grace McDonough to lead their second place D1 JV state meet team and they also could sneak into the top seven and qualify for MOCs at Mines Falls.
Individually, it seems to be Coffin’s time to finally take the crown which has eluded her for years. However, McFarland and Rinko are tough competitors and won’t give it to her easily. Concord’s top three of Hopkins, Orcutt and Kennedy will be looking to put three in the top five. Nashua North’s Dantia Braccio is coming off her D1 individual 1500 indoor title and will challenge the top group. Keene’s top two of Shepard and Hoy should make it into the top ten along with Merrimack’s Adele Alexander. Exeter’s Jordan and Concord’s Christie will also be hoping for a spot in the top ten.
After a 2018 which saw super muddy conditions slow the packs down considerably yielding only 11 athletes break 19:00, 2019 was a return to a bit of normalcy as 18 athletes broke that particular barrier. From the top 25, almost half of those top finishers were graduating seniors, so expect an entirely different make-up of the top pack in 2020. Unlike last year however, 2020 sees a clear favorite in Concord as they return their entire 3rd place team. Led by veteran Morgane Orcutt, on paper the Crimson Tide has a decent cushion as their top 5 all are among the top 21 returners. They will be tough to beat.
The team closest seems to Concord’s D1 competitor Exeter. Led by McFarland, Exeter also returns much of their 2019 team with their top 5 among the top 31 returners. Based on returning finishers, defending champ Souhegan is next best, and keep in mind they have Trudel who squeaked under 18:00 last year as the runner-up finisher. Expect the Sabers to make a push towards the top again.
Again based on finishers from last year’s race, Coe-Brown is 4th on paper. However, keep in mind Cox did not finish last year. Plug her in with a solid race, while it might not be enough of a push to catch Concord, it is enough to contend with Exeter and Souhegan.
Keene, Bishop Guertin, Hopkinton and Portsmouth Christian Academy all are within 6 points of one another based on returnees. The edge would have to go to Keene and BG as they are more familiar with Mines Falls and typically have low sticks which is hugely advantageous at the MOCs. Regardless, MOCs is one of the most exciting races of the year annually as the separation of many teams are by only single digit points!
Individually, the aforementioned Trudel is squarely the favorite to win in 2020. She had an incredible race in 2019 posting a blistering 17:59. While she is the favorite, she has a slew of experienced, tough competitors hot on her heels. Look for PCA’s Corso, MV’s Reynolds, and South’s Coffin to lead the charge. Factor in Corso’s teammate Brianna Malone, Concord’s Orcutt, Exeter’s McFarland and Bedford’s Rinko to be right in the front pack as well. Other names to watch as contenders include North’s Braccio, Cox, and BG’s Fiona Doherty. As always there will be surprises!!!
Hopefully one of the surprises is actually being able to hold the event. There are many different approaches which would follow current guidelines ensuring a safe event does take place. Which format will be chosen is yet to be determined, but it is vital we seriously consider holding dual meets, state championships and MOCs when thinking of student-athletes and their overall well being. Canceling another season, including state championships, comes with heavy, heavy consequences which should not be taken lightly. We have already posted an article outlining 3 easy steps to hold a dual/tri meet safely. Look for a post this week on how to hold larger meets safely.
Good luck, train hard and stay healthy everyone!