Division Favorites – Concord, Coe-Brown/Souhegan, Hopkinton
Individuals to Watch – Sophia Reynolds (MV), Chloe Trudel (Souhegan), Hannah Shepard (Keene), Brianna Malone (Portsmouth Christian Academy), MaryKate Finn (Bishop Guertin), Katherine Kennedy (Concord), Ginia Rufo (Pinkerton)
Over the past few years, Hopkinton has had a stranglehold on either the top spot or runner up one. You’d have to go back to 2016 to find the Hawks out of the top two. Last year they rolled the division, leaving a very good Campbell team 43 points in arrears. The Hawks lose only their #4 runner, returning seniors Anna O’Reilly and Cailey Stockwell along with juniors Hannah Bennett, Clara Locke, Natalie Noble and Gianna Covello. With a good summer of training, the Hawks could be circling above the division.
Campbell finished second last year, on the backs of five seniors. With only sophomore Kendall Reynolds returning, the Cougars are going to need to quickly reload if they want to claw their way back to MOCs in 2021. With 2019 Coach of the Year Jan Platt and her husband Justin at the reigns, if they can bring in some athletes they might just find themselves in the hunt.
Portsmouth Christian Academy (PCA) lose just three to graduation, but with Liza Corso moving on to the college ranks, the Eagles and D3 loses one of it’s biggest gamers out there. However the Eagles return defending champion junior Brianna Malone, senior Kiara Cooper and sophomores Julie Ngamcharoenthana and Caeley Brown. With quite the gap between #1 and #2 and 3, then back to #4, the Eagles have their work cut out for them if they are to soar to the top of D3.
Gilford girls surprised the D3 field in 2020, convincingly grabbing the fourth and final qualifying spot for MOCs. Led by #2 D3 returner in senior Cat Stow, with support from seniors Vannessa Genakos and Tessa Tanner with sophomores Sydney Eastman and Madeline Burdock, the Golden Eagles look to swoop in and garner the D3 crown.
Possibly the biggest mover could be last year’s #5 team, Mascenic. While the Vikings lost their #1 and #4 to graduation, they had a #3 through #8 that were fairly interchangeable. With their five freshmen from last year (sophomores Skye Lambert, Amelia Smith, Emma Schaumloffel, Gracie German, Florrie Schaumloffel) with a strong track season under their belts, and the senior leadership of Victoria Smith and Maya Callahan, the Lady Vikes might have what it takes to pillage a top three spot.
Looking to break into the top ten looks to be Saint Thomas and Conant. The STA Saints finished 2 points ahead of the Orioles, but Conant returns their entire roster and have better upfront returners. Led by the duo of junior Kylie Aho and sophomore Amarah Lapinsky, with support from senior Alleigh Lapinsky, juniors Lainey Holumbo and Laurel Bennett, sophomores Ellie Cassidy and Zoley Pothier, with the addition of freshman Neve Mormando, the Orioles stand a chance of breaking into the top five and possibly higher.
St. Thomas returns three sophomores in Kate Burrus, Rayna Thompson and Nadia Rusnak to lead the team, with the addition of senior Kate Albertelli, if the Saints can fill the spots lost to graduation, they’ll need to keep the faith in order to be in the hunt for a MOC berth.
Individually you’d have to tip your hat to Brianna Malone, as she finished almost 40 seconds up on #2 returner Gilford’s Stow and 45 seconds up on # 3 returner Bishop Brady’s Katie Palmeteer. Looking to make up the top ten would be Hopkinton teammates O’Reilly, Stockwell and Locke, Prospect Mountain’s Veronica Dowd, Newmarket’s Isabel Pentony, Monadnock’s Anna Bently, Gilfrod’s Vanessa Genakos and Conant’s Kylie Aho.
Over the past 10 years, only 2 schools have won the D2 State Championship, Coe-Brown and Souhegan. While both teams are certainly in contention in 2021, and favored, there are 2 other schools which have to be labeled contenders to wrest the title this season. Both Hanover and Lebanon were surprises in different ways in 2020. Hanover was the upset victor at the MOCs while Lebanon made their presence felt with a MOC berth at D2s.
Lets begin with the defending D2 Champs from 2020, Coe-Brown. Last year’s title concluded a decade which saw them claim 7 of 10 titles. Yes, they graduated 3 seniors led by the state champ Addison Cox who has matriculated to UNH, but the Bears still have the strongest top 4 returning in D2 in Sheldyn Fisher, Mallory Tayler, Bella Lemay and Amelia Edmonds. If they can find the final 3 members of their varsity, and have them finish relatively close, the Bears could repeat as D2 Champs.
Souhegan seems to have the best shot at dethroning the champs and will be going for their 4th title in the last 6 years. Led by senior and 2019 D2 Champ, Chloe Trudel and last year’s best freshman Stephanie Svendsen, the Sabers will potentially have 2 in the top 3 as low sticks. Couple this with returners Emma Jarnigan, Audrey Littlefield, and Madeleine Glover, who all finished between 21:33 and 22:00, and the Sabers will be looking to return to the top of the podium.
While Hanover never really snuck up on anyone during the 2021 campaign, they did pull off the major upset at MOCs! And while they have graduated Riley Roach, the Marauders return plenty led by Sarah Glueck (D2’s 5th returner). Along with Ann Rightmire, Lauren Eiler, and Charlotte Tagupa Hanover has 4 in the top 30 returners and will start the season on the heels of both CBNA and Souhegan.
Hanover’s Upper Valley rival, Lebanon did sneak up on everyone in 2020 to place 5th to qualify for MOCs! Well, the Raiders return 6 of their top 7 led by seniors Zoe Chinn and Sofia Amaro the 12th and 13th returners. Then they have three more solid returners in senior Brianna Debanico, and juniors Isabella Hastings and Ella Gressner, who if they can improve to crack the top 20 in the 21s, they will certainly be contenders as well. Qualifying again for MOCs is in their wheelhouse for sure.
Battling for the final MOC slot should be Kearsarge and Kennett. Kearsarge, led by Molly Ellison, is under a new coaching staff but has a great returning four. Kennett, led by senior Amy Burton, with long time coach Bernie Livingston at the helm always have a strong sense of team will find themselves contending.
Individually, Trudel, also last year’s runner-up, will be a favorite along with MV’s Sophia Reynolds. Last year, Trudel battled with Cox to the end posting a very fast time of 18:28 on a snow laden course. Reynolds, the 2018 D2 State Champ has been steadily returning to that form over the course of last year. This is great for fans as they can continue to push each other to newer heights. Don’t be surprised if Trudel’s teammate, Svendsen joins the fray at some point in the season. Coe-Brown’s Sheldyn Fisher and Mallory Taylor along with Hanover’s Sarah Glueck will battle for the top 5 slots as Coe-Brown’s Bella Lemay and Amelia Edmonds will be racing with Molly Ellison and Amy Burton for top 10 finishes as well.
As we begin the 2021 cross country season, all teams are moving forward and there are no restrictions to our meet schedule or meet protocols. Coaches are excited about the upcoming “normal” season but also a little nervous that at any point things could change. Fingers crossed that we can continue on with our cross country season with no restrictions, no waves and all invitationals a go.
As we rank the Division 1 girls teams for the 2021 season, we must remember that top returning individuals and teams did not include two of what could have been the top teams last fall in Division One. Pinkerton Academy and Keene were not allowed to compete at the championship meets at the end of the 2020 season and would have made a huge impact on the results. They have no top returners listed but definitely would have had some there.
Concord is the easy favorite to repeat as Division 1 Champions after winning in 2020 by 7 points over Exeter but returns 6 of their top seven girls. Included in their returning varsity are all five scoring varsity in the returning top 15. Senior Katherine Kennedy is the second best returning runner and will lead Concord to a likely D1 crown. Not only do the Crimson Tide have sophomore Alina Pincoske, junior Molly Nyhan and senior Abby Goulas returning, but add in one of the top freshmen, Sherry Smith and this gives Concord a strong core which will be very tough to beat.
As mentioned earlier, Keene and Pinkerton were not at the Division One Championships in 2020 but after looking at their early season results from 2020 and their spring season results either one of these two teams could be one of the top few teams at the 2021 meet. Keene returns senior Hannah Shepard, who beat Hanover’s Riley Roach early in the 2020 season and Roach ended up 5th at Meet of Champions running 19:06 at Mines Falls. That gives Keene a very strong front runner who could run with anyone in Division One. Following Shepard are veterans Reagan Hoy , Sofia Guardiano, and Abby Martin along with incoming freshman Corinne Stinson giving Keene a varsity five that could all be under 21:00.
Exeter looks to be the next team returning 5 of their varsity from their runner up team of 2020. Leading the way will be 3 returnees in the top 15 including junior Meadow Gregory, senior Ali McFarland and sophomore Lily Poteet. Caitlin Murphy and Sydney Lavelle are their next returnees but they would need to close the gap to the top three if they want to compete for the podium again in 2021.
Pinkerton had a strong beginning to their 2020 season before being shutdown with lots of new young kids ready to compete. Early in September in their rivalry meet against Londonderry, freshman Ginia Rufo was the individual winner cruising to a fast early time. Fellow freshmen Isabelle Groulx (5th in 3200m at MOC) and Contessa Silva gave them a very strong and unpredictable top three to go with their typically deep, consistent team, makes them a possibility for a top three team.
Bishop Guertin was a distant fourth in 2020, but returns five of their varsity including top returnee Mary Kate Finn. Finn is coming off a very strong spring season winning the 1600m and getting 3rd in the 3200m, so she seems to be ready for another strong fall season. Fellow senior Fiona Doherty is also coming off a strong spring track season as well with a 3rd place finish in the 1600m and 2nd in the 800m at D1. This could be the strongest 1-2 punch in Division One. Senior Madeleine Moynihan makes the top 15 returnees from 2020 giving them a competitive top three, but if they want to sneak into the top three they will be looking for their fourth and fifth to be closer to their top three.
Other possible teams looking for a qualifying spot for the Meet of Champions will be Bedford, Dover and Nashua South. Bedford returns front runner Fiona Lee having a strong freshman year of running including a great spring season. Since they graduated 4 of their varsity 7, their success is dependent on their rookies. Dover had a strong 2020 season and returns 5 of their top 7 including sophomore Isabel McIntyre as a top ten contender and hoping to bring her team to the Meet of Champions once again. Nashua South returns 6 of their varsity 7 but needs to find another front runner to give them a low number to help them get an MOC bid.
Individually, Bishop Guertin’s Finn will be looking for her first individual crown as the top returnee. Concord’s Kennedy and Keene’s Shepard will be looking to make that difficult and should give her a good race. Bedford’s Lee, Concord’s Pincoske, Pinkerton’s Rufo and Exeter’s Gregory will all be battling for a top five spot. Look for Bishop Guertin’s Doherty, Concord’s Nyhan, Exeter’s McFarland, Dover’s McIntyre and Nashua North Dantia Braccio to find it out for the all important top ten positions.
Last year, the top 3 teams were separated by only 11 points. Looking at who has what returning makes us feel this can happen again with a couple more teams involved! When considering every team’s top 4 returners, the team competition becomes quite close between six schools. Of course this depends upon each finding that magical 5th, but this is one way to look at it in an attempt to design a preview all the while keeping in mind Keene and Pinkerton, both with strong teams in 2020, did not participate in the postseason.
Right now on paper, based on who is returning, we have 4 teams separated by only single digits in Concord, Exeter, Bishop Guertin and Souhegan. But we also have Coe-Brown, who ran MOCs without their #3 runner, so she is not included in this score. We also have a Dover team crashing the party presently within 20 points of the top pack of 4. So, if we include Pinkerton and Keene in this list, we have 8 teams for 6 of the New England slots right now in August.
How do we make choices on an order of finish?? What is required to do well at MOC’s? Low sticks and a tight pack! So right now, we have to consider Souhegan with Trudel and Svendsen as the best 1-2 punch in the state totaling 7 points through both. But then we have to also consider Bishop Guertin with Finn and Doherty totalling 13 points through two. On paper, Souhegan has the edge after their fourth and if that pack can shrink all the more, they should be in the drivers seat.
Actually having slightly better score through four was both Exeter and Concord. Exeter led by Gregory, McFarland and Poteet and Concord led by Nyhan, Kennedy, and Pincoske will have to depend on their 4-5-6-7 runners who will determine their place of finish. Summer training, followed by ability to keep everyone healthy will be huge factors here.
One has to feel for the programs of Pinkerton and Keene due to their lack of opportunities in 2020, but this will make both schools quite eager and focused in 2021. We will take that chance. At least one of these programs will finish in the top 3. Will it be Keene, led by Shepard or Pinkerton led by Rufo, both of whom looked quite strong in the early 2020 seasons.
Then we have a couple relative wild cards with Coe-Brown and Dover. As mentioned prior, Coe-Brown did run shorthanded at MOCs, but they also graduated 3 strong senior leaders, one of whom won the individual title last year. Can the Bears come together and find a new identity? They certainly have the experience and strong now experienced varsity runners in Fisher and Taylor. Watch out for the Green Wave of Dover! They built momentum off of the end of last year. If McIntyre can continue to develop pulling other returners along while adding in a surprise or two of continuing developing runners, Dover will have a realistic shot of making New Englands!
Individually? Wow, talk about parity. As of this post, there is simply no clear favorite entering the season. Yes we have past state champions of Reynolds and Trudel in D2, but we also have the continued progress of Finn, Kennedy, Braccio and Shepard in D1 as well as D3 Champ Malone. We do know one thing, no one wants to be around Malone in a kick. Throw in Pinkerton’s Rufo, Souhegan’s Svendsen, and Concord’s Nyhan and we have around 10 who can be considered contenders. And, after all this is NH Cross Country, so we will assuredly have that surprise or two or three. Kids who make the jump via a strong summer of training to become familiar names!
Good luck to all!