|2017 Meet Information|
By Fergus Cullen – ORHS Girls XC Coach
The first of the big invitationals takes place Saturday when 20 schools compete in the Bobcat Invitational.
This is the meet where teams stop living on last year’s laurels and their on-paper potential, and start showing what they can actually do this year. It’s also an opportunity for teams and individuals that may have been overlooked to put themselves on the radar with a break-out performance.
Hosted by Oyster River, the Bobcat is an old meet with a new location. With more than 600 athletes expected, the meet is literally the biggest event of the year in the town of Madbury (pop. 1,771).The new course at Tibbett’s Field and the Powder Major Forest is 100 percent grass, trail, and running path. It is very spectator-friendly; a fan can view the race five times and also see the start and the finish.
Teams attending are: Division 1’s Dover, Spaulding, and Winnacunnet; Division 2’s Goffstown, Hanover, Kennett, Kingswood, Lebanon, Merrimack Valley, Milford, Oyster River, Pembroke, Sanborn, Souhegan, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Trinity; and Division 3’s Campbell and Hopkinton. Also making the trip to Madbury are Fitch High School of Groton, Connecticut, and Tilton Prep.
The course runs through the old farm once owned by John DeMeritt (1728-1826). Back in 1774, inspired by Paul Revere’s ride to Portsmouth, a group of Seacoast patriots raided Fort William & Mary in New Castle and made off with some 100 barrels of gun powder. Some of that powder ended up stashed somewhere on DeMeritt’s property, and that powder is said to have supplied the patriots at the Battle of Bunker Hill the following year. Whatever the precise facts, Demeritt went down in history as the Powder Major. Much of his farm recently went into conservation through the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which is permitting this meet.
Races begin at 10:00, starting with JV boys. JV girls run at 10:40, followed by varsity boys at 11:20 and varsity girls at noon.
The girls meet includes five teams that qualified for the elite Meet of Champions a year ago. These include defending D2 and Meet of Champions titlist Souhegan of Amherst; defending D3 champion Campbell of Litchfield; and Hanover, host Oyster River, and Merrimack Valley. Three of these schools are currently ranked in the NewHampshireCrossCountry.com Top 10: Souhegan (#4), Hanover (#7), and Oyster River (#8). Souhegan is favored to win.
Seven of the 18 returning individual qualifiers to New Englands a year ago will toe the line at Bobcat. Top individuals to watch include Milford’s Rebecca Durham, who last week smashed the course record at Hollis-Brookline by running 18:39 to win the Korcoulis Invite by nearly two minutes. (The previous record was held by HB’s Emma Newton, class of 2014, who now runs for Tulane.) Other top girls include Arielle Zlotnick and Jane Leighton of Souhegan; Leila Trummel of Hanover; Lauren Robinson of Milford; and Oyster River’s Dani Slavin (who won a season opener on this course two weeks ago), Olivia Lenk, and freshman Sophie Sullivan.
The boys race features four MOC qualifiers from a year ago: Host Oyster River, Souhegan, Kennett, and Campbell. Of those, Oyster River (#3) is currently ranked in the NewHampshireCrossCountry.com Top 10.
Oyster River is the clear team favorite. The Bobcats were already ranked #1 in D2 coming into the season with a strong group of veterans returning from last year’s D2 runner-up team, including Max Stenslie and Henry Keegan. Then OR added Illinois transfer senior Kieran Murphy. Murphy, who looks a little like Clark Kent, has established himself as the team’s #1 runner, having won both his races this season, including last week’s Korcoulis Invite in Hollis. OR has two freshmen in its varsity, Owen Fleischer and Andy O’Brien. That name sounds familiar.
Jeffrey Allen of Campbell should break up the Oyster River pack. Also looking to place in the top 10 could be Morgan Boughman of Hanover and Wyatt Pooler and Cam Stinchfield of Kingswood. Look for athletes from Kennett, Trinity, and Winnacunnet to factor as well.