Derryfield Park will once again be the center of the New Hampshire Cross Country universe when the NHIAA conducts the Division Championships this Saturday. Below are the previews to all six races in the order they will compete.
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Look for Recaps, Post Race Interviews and Race Videos after the meet, over the weekend!
Girls Division 2 – 10:00am
It will likely take more than last year’s 28 points to do it, but Coe-Brown (NH #2) looks poised to upset conventional wisdom and take the DII State Title for a 7th straight year. Graduating 4 of their top 5 from the 2015 team, they figured to still be in contention for a top-6 placing and trip to MOC’s, but few would have expected their immediate return to the top of the podium. Led by DII’s top returning runner, Alli Pratt, they have seen huge improvements from Sarah Dupuis, the only other returning runner from last year’s varsity, and Eleanor McDonough, their top returning JV runner. Key to their success, however, is the emergence of two new runners; 9th grader Abigail O’Connor, only 63rd in last year’s Small School Middle School state meet, and newcomer Hannah Daly, a senior.
Hanover (NH #8) and Souhegan, last year’s 2nd and 3rd placing teams, are the only ones with a legitimate threat to deny Coe-Brown the title. Hanover looked like the early pick for the title, but with top runner Hannah Wittmann not running this year, the dynamics changed. They do return Leila Trammel, however, and freshman standout Lucy Gluek, both quite capable of placing in the top ten. NH has learned to never count Hanover out, of course, as they usually bring their best to Derryfield at the end of October.
The team with the best shot to knock off Coe-Brown could be NH #5 ranked Souhegan. Led by Senior Maddie Hunt, who is having a sensational year, they are a very experienced team who have both speed up front and depth behind. Arielle Zlotnick and Jane Leighton have not been far behind Hunt, and should also challenge for top-10 finishes. Putting 3 in the top 10 would put a title within reach. In addition, according to the D2 merge of all the Manchester Invitational races, Souhegan was only 14 points behind Coe-Brown. Plug in freshman Marissa Romano, who did not run Manchester, as their #4 and the Coe-Brown win would have been shrunk to 4-6 points!
After the top three there is a bit of a gap back to NH’s #10 ranked team, Oyster River. They have been running very well this October, however, and they have likely closed the gap on Hanover. Danielle Slavin, the 3rd returning DII runner, is running well, and the emergence of 9th-grader Olivia Lenk have made them a threat to the top 3. Depth seems to be a strength recently, so they should be able to absorb an off day from one member of the team better than most.
The uncertainty really starts to build when you look at the remaining two MOC positions. With very little graduation from any team besides Coe-Brown, most of the teams in the top 10 from 2015 will return to the top 10, with a goal of landing one of the two remaining MOC spots. Con-Val looks to be in the best position of this pack, placing ahead of Kennett, Portsmouth, and Milford at Black Bear. They were only 8th on the Manchester DII merge, but ran two potential scorers in the freshman race. With a strong pack and led by Clare Veverka, they seem to be in good shape.
Next on the list is Kennett, 5th in 2015. A strong pack has helped them onto the podium at several races this year, notably a win at Great Glen and a win at Waterville. With no front runner, they will instead rely on the entire team to deliver a top 6 finish. Portsmouth is a very similar team to Kennett, with no true front runner but incredible depth, as evidenced by their win at the DII JV State Meet. Looking at their times at home, you can see striking improvement from race to race.
The dark horse candidates are Milford and Merrimack Valley. Milford has the huge bonus of having two girls who should be near the front; individual contender Rebecca Durham, and last year’s 18th finisher, Alex Matsis. The low sticks will be crucial to their success, as there is a big gap back to 5th. Merrimack Valley also has an individual contender in Kristie Schoffield, but their success will really depend on the rest of their top 5. A strong showing at the Capital Area Championships last Thursday shows that the team is moving in the right direction. For either of these teams to advance will require them to beat teams they have not beaten thus far in 2016, a tall order.
Individually, 2016 will be a fantastic race. With no obvious favorite, there are as many as 9 individuals who have possibly set a goal of winning the title. If one had to pick a favorite, it might be the previously mentioned Maddie Hunt of Souhegan. Derryfield has not been kind to her, but if she can channel the runner who won at Pelham in a crazy fast time and was the top DII finisher at both the Thetford and Bobcat Invites, she will be hard to beat. Next on the list is Julia Robitaille of West, 10th last year as a freshman. She was first on the DII Manchester Merge from the Manchester Invite, and had a couple other quick early wins in September. West has been absent from results published since Manchester, so Julia remains a bit of a mystery heading into Saturday. Alli Pratt of Coe-Brown is the top returning runner, and has shown no signs of slowing down. 1st at Kennett and 8th overall at the Brown Invite in a very quick time, Alli always does well at the meets that count and will be there at the end. Rebecca Durham of Milford won the Battle of the Border, was second behind Hunt at Pelham, and was the top DII runner at Black Bear. She’s definitely in shape to run a fast time come Saturday. Merrimack Valley’s Kristie Schoffield doesn’t have the fast times of the other girls, but she’s had quality finishes at tougher courses, winning both Plymouth and Capital Area by sizeable margins. If it’s close at the end…
Susie Poore of Windham is running better than ever, and has the potential to upset. She was the 2nd DII runner behind Durham at Black Bear, and was 4th on the merged Manchester results. 2015’s 3rd returner, Danielle Slavin of Oyster River doesn’t have the wins of the other girls, but has solid finishes at Plymouth (2nd), Kennett (2nd), and Bobcat (3rd). She always seems to get better and better as the season progresses. Finally, don’t count out either of Hanover’s top two – Lucy Gluek or Leila Trammel. With 1-2 finishes at CVC’s and Belmont, they haven’t been pushed in a while. This will be one worth watching!
Boys Division 2 – 10:40am
As with recent years, especially the last three, it looks like the top 2 spots are a lock this season, and some familiar faces are still at the top. Coe-Brown (NH #3) seems to have the upfront talent and depth to take home the 2016 title for the third consecutive year, which would be their second three-peat (2003-2005) in program history. After an impressive showing at Brown Invite where the Bears saw their entire top 5 break 16:30, the Bears look to be in top form. Led by Evan Tanguay, Zach Richards, Tanner Richards, River Groves and Davio Deluca, Coe-Brown seems to have a significant edge over anyone else in the division.
If a team could surprise the defending champs, it is Oyster River (NH #5). Led by Patrick O’Brien and Henry Keegan, the Bobcats have a good deal of talent on their roster and if healthy, could upset Coe-Brown. Refusing to let a coaching change stand in the way of their long history of XC success, Oyster River finds itself in the top tier of the division once again. It will have to take a group effort to close the gap between O’Brien and everyone else.
After these two teams, the future gets really murky. Pelham seems to have found its stride with a solid top 5, led by Cameron Starr, Jacob Dorman, and Allan Vallante. The Pythons could find its way to 3rd place with a low number finish from Starr and some good supporting performances. Right there with Pelham may be Souhegan. The Sabers, led by Patrick McGrath and Garrett Early, have some good grouping and are always a team to watch. A very good Manchester Invite showing may have been a precursor to a Meet of Champions berth.
Nipping at the heels are Goffstown, led by Jackson Brannen, Kennett, led by Darren Piotrow and Nicholas Whitley, and Kingswood, led by Wyatt Pooler. These three teams were separated by only 9 points at the Black Bear Invite, and all 3 have had recent success at the D2 Championships.
In the same mix is Milford, running a bit under the radar this season. Led by Blake Auditbert and Florian Bochert, the Spartans could be a team to watch. In that same grouping is Hanover, led by Morgan Baughman. The Marauders historically have strong finishes to the season, and are always a dangerous team with a history of good championship races.
Individually, it looks like Oyster River’s Patrick O’Brien will take home a title after a blistering 15:22 at Manch Invite. Cameron Starr (Pelham), Zach Richards (Coe-Brown), Evan Tanguay (Coe-Brown), Jackson Brannen (Goffstown), Henry Keegan (Oyster River), Patrick McGrath (Souhegan), David Reynolds (Merrimack Valley), as well as Tanner Richards, Davio DeLuca and River Groves of Coe-Brown should all be vying for slots in the top 10. The order of this group will simply depend upon who has the best day!
Looking forward to Saturday, good luck to all teams!
Division 1 Girls – 11:30am
In 2015 Division 1 girls was not very difficult to predict with Pinkerton a strong favorite. The end result saw them winning by over 80 points. However, this year will be quite bit different both for the individual champion as well as for the team champion. Pinkerton Academy (NH#3) is still the defending champion and returns three girls (Maison D’Amelio, Jordan Vaillancourt and Ciara April) that were in the top 8 at the D1 meet in 2015. Add freshman Meghan Cross to those strong top three, and that makes a pretty good four. However, since cross country scores 5, it will all come down to their fifth runner. At Catholic Memorial, Pinkerton’s 5th was almost 1:30 behind their #4, and in a D1 that will surely hand over the title.
Therefore, the favorite to win Division 1 is Bishop Guertin (NH#1). With their stand-out freshman Caroline Fischer leading the way, they have looked very strong. At Brown Invitational they had 5 girls under 20:00, including their top 3 runners, all being freshmen. You never know how freshmen will handle Derryfield for the first time at a D1 Championship, but if they run the way they can, it will surely be a great battle between these two teams.
Alvirne (NH #4) has an incredible strength in their pack of 5 girls. They may not have the low number that BG and Pinkerton have, but their top 5 come in less than a minute of each other. To be able to battle with the top two, the key for Alvirne will be to get their pack to move closer to the front. If those numbers are small, they may have all 5 in before BG and Pinkerton and they may have a chance to make it to the podium or even take the title.
After the top three Merrimack (NH #6) looks to be next, but don’t be surprised if they finish higher then 4th. They are coming off a great race at Brown where they had 5 girls under 20:00 and their top girl from last year (Bailey Carillo) seems to be getting healthy. Bedford (NH#7) has standout Leya Salis to lead them but doesn’t have quite enough after her to stay up with the top four teams. Central (NH #9) has twin freshmen phenoms Keegan and Katelyn Pepin giving them a chance to be in the top 8 earning them a spot for the Meet of Champions the following week. If their #4 and #5 can inch closer to the Pepins, they may have a shot at the top five or six. Rounding out the final two MOC spots should come from Winnacunnet, Concord or Dover.
Individually, we all are in for a treat with having 3 girls currently ranked in the top 10 of the Jacqueline Gaughan (NE #2) is the defending Division 1 champion and early season was an easy favorite to repeat. However, BG’s Caroline Fischer (NE #5) won’t give it to her without a fight. Gaughan beat Fischer at Brown by 7 seconds but Derryfield is a different course. Not to mention Bedford’s Leya Salis (NE #8) who wasn’t far off their shoulder. The D1 race individually could be the fastest and most competitive race we have seen in a very long time. After the big three look for Gaughan’s teammate Violet Sullivan, Pinkerton’s top 3 D’Amelio, Vaillancourt and April, Winnacunnet’s Kelly Arsenault, Merrimack’s Lauren Brennan, Bailey Carrillo and Grace Corbett and Bishop Guertin’s Caroline Towle and Haley Schmitt to all be fighting for that all important top 10 position.
Division 1 Boys – 12:10pm
We have officially made it to the championship season and after an exciting JV states last weekend it’s time to make some predictions about the big D1 race! This has turned out to be the kind of cross country that we love to see. Some years we make predictions and they end up being pretty much spot on. Last year’s one and two were exactly as expected with Pinkerton and Londonderry battling it out all season just as the preseason prognosticators expected. This year decided to involve a little more intrigue so let’s see how things look going into the race.
Londonderry (NH#7) occupies kind of tough spot going into the race as they have spent the season on the outside looking in on the battles between our top three teams. They have the possible race winner in Chris Zaino and anytime you can start your score with a one that can give your team a shot. The challenge has been their two through five struggling to insert themselves in between the tight packs that our top teams exhibit. Londonderry has been known to step up at D1s and has frequently come in ahead of the rankings over the last few years, so they may find a way to bump off some of the teams ahead of them. Keep an eye out for them.
Keene (NH#6) seemed to actively work at flying under the radar this season by skipping most of the big invitationals and as a result, they are the wild card of the D1 race. They brought some excellent runners back with top man Jonathan Allard a contender to win the whole race and Andrew Derry not far behind. From the results they did put out we see they put their whole top five under 17:00 minutes on a fast course at the CVC Invitational so they clearly have the times to contend with the top teams. Can they run times like that on the challenging Derryfield course? If they can, Keene may shock the field.
Pinkerton (NH#4) started out the season ranked number one and looked primed and ready to continue their recent winning streak into 2016. Unfortunately, their season started with their number one returner and contender for D1 individual championship Pat Bastek in a boot and off of the roads. Second man Calvin Graves came prepared though to step into the leadership role and has kept Pinkerton right in the mix at every invitational they went to. The top three teams share a trait in having a really tight top five and the difference maker this season would likely be who manages to win the individual battles out on the course. Pinkerton certainly has the runners to end the day on top and they can thankfully say that Bastek has been making his way back through their ranks. The question is, has he had enough time to help get his team back to the podium?
2. Nashua North
North (NH#2) came into the season with one of the top returners in David Vorbach. Vorbach spent the whole first half of the season winning races and staking his claim at being the guy to beat in the individual race this weekend. He hasn’t been alone, second man Connor Muise has had an outstanding season and really given his team a boost with his consistent finishes at the front of the race. With an excellent and changing pack of three behind them they’ve managed to beat Pinkerton multiple times and run very close to our top ranked squad. The key to winning will be Vorbach and Muise continuing what they’ve done all season and three of those five remaining guys having big days and chasing down some of the runners from our top ranked squad.
What a fall for Concord (NH#1). They came into the preseason ranked somewhere between 3rd and 7th and spent the last two months reminding everyone preseason predictions are made to be wrong. The addition of track standout Jamie Wilkes gave them a strong number one but even without him the duo of Oliver Spencer and Forest MacKenzie would have had them competing for the top spot all season. They have won every race they’ve competed and they look very ready to pull off a decisive victory on Saturday. The best part for Concord is they’re only losing one of their runner when this year is over. Are we witnessing the beginning of a new streak?
There are several names to watch out for in what has been an exciting season on the individual side. David Vorbach won a list of races to start of the season and likely is the guy to beat in this race. If anyone is going to spoil his day it’s Londonderry’s Chris Zaino who lost to Vorbach at the Nashua Invitational but was the top D1 runner at the Manchester Invitational. Was Zaino’s Manchester race a sign of things to come? Keene’s Jonathan Allard avoided the other big D1 names this season but did beat an excellent runner in James Elmour at the CVC race. Noah Bellomo of Alvirne came into the season as guy to watch and while he hasn’t won any of the big races he absolutely has the ability to step up Saturday and take down the whole field.
Division 3 Girls Race – 1:00pm
Last year the ladies from Monadnock capped off a great season winning the Division 3 championships over the Bow Lady Falcons, 79 to 101. With the graduation of Kayla Blair (3rd, 20:18) and Skyler Cooke (18th, 22:01) it would seem that the Falcons would be poised to take over the top spot from the Huskies. However the emergence of freshman Sadie Lorenz and the 2016 D3 3200 meter champ Joelle Lafreniere leading the way, it might be hard for Bow to take that next step into the top spot.
The Falcons led by Sohani Demian (20th, 22:03) and Olivia Krause (11th, 21:28) still have depth, losing only one from their scoring five, and the best returners on paper. However, 2016 hasn’t been particularly kind to the Falcons, finishing as the third D3 team at the Capital Area championships behind Kearsarge and Hopkinton. If the Falcons can get it together over the next week, it would be foolish to count them out.
However, the most likely contender for the top spot might be from last year’s #4 team, Campbell.
Totally overlooked in last year’s preview and while more than 60 points out of first last year, the Cougars finished fifth and return a solid 1 -2 punch in Caitlin Callahan (14th, 21:41) and Samantha Molinari (30th, 22:52.) Don’t let the 2015 finishing spots fool you, these two have improved significantly over the year, both qualifying for the D3 track championships, and these veterans are leading a much improved squad. Expect them to be in the mix as well if not the top contender.
The pool of schools vying for those last two MOC qualifying spots is likely Kearsarge, Hopkinton and Moultonborough. Kearsarge is probably the best of the three, finishing 31 points behind Monadnock at the Belmont Invitational and only 13 points behind them at the CVC championships. Led by Maggie Lee and Mya Dubie, expect the Cougars to be in this one. Hopkinton is also seeing a resurgence led by freshmen Emma Rothe, Sydney Stockwell and Lily Sabol. We’ll have to see how far these guys can move up the form charts. Moultonborough finished third last year, but finished behind Hopkinton at Belmont. They have a strong front runner in Sare Campbell, but will need to put it together if they want to make the trip to Mines Falls and Nashua South.
Two potential spoilers for the top five are the Spartans of White Mountains and the Vikings of Mascenic. White Mountains is often the surprise of the season, running most of the season without a full roster but putting it together for the championships. With Leah Dutkewyth (5th, 20:50) leading them, who knows how far up they can finish. Mascenic has one of the best 1 – 2 punches in Samantha Bilodeau (8th, 21:16) and Madison Labrie (2nd, 20:08) and have three solid freshman that lack championship experience. They get on a roll and who knows.
Individually, on paper it would be hard to bet against Alice Riley of Belmont, who’s put together a solid twelve months since last year’s fourth place finish (20:29.) But last year’s surprise second place finisher, Mascenic’s Madison Labrie will also be in contention, along with teammate Samantha Bilodeau (21:16.) But don’t count out Monadnock’s Sadie Lorenz and Joelle Lafreniere, Leah Dutkewyth of White Mountains, Conant’s Isabella Mormando, Caitlin Callinan and Samantha Molinari of Campbell, or Emma Rothe and Sydney Stockwell of Hopkinton and Sare Campbell of Moultonborough to make up the top 10.
Division 3 Boys – 1:40pm
Last year the Mascenic Vikings lost to the Kearsarge Cougars by one point after winning in a tie the year before. Kearsarge (NH#9) ran that day without the services of their #2 man and return their top seven, a supporting cast of characters that would make one think they are the proverbial favorite for the title this year. Led by last year’s #9 finisher in D3, Tim Cunningham (17:05), Mason Benedict, Aidan Brooks (15th 17:30) Hunter Burns and Carl Betz, one might expect the boys from up on the hill to be unbeatable. With their depth, they will certainly be in the driver’s seat and with a good run should get it done.
However a growing force in the western part of the state is showing up
in the Monadnock Huskies (NH#8). Led by James Elmour (5th, 16:32) and fellow seniors Dawson Adams (24th, 17:48) and Braeden Hout (8th, 17:01), the Huskies have the strongest top five (Simon Swartout and Lucas Beteau) and will be difficult to beat. But the Huskies drop off significantly after five and being a little thin could be an issue in a tight race. Beating Kearsarge at Belmont by 14 points and again at CVCs by 9 points certainly makes them the most likely challenger or even the favorite at this point.
Sitting in third hoping to pick off either or both of the teams ranked above them is Mascenic. Last year boasting a very green squad, the Vikings came up short in repeating as champions. After losing 2015 #3 D3 finisher in Avery Traffie, the Vikings have gotten things going and are better than they were two years ago; however, that might not be enough this go round. Jake Movsessian (4th, 16:25) leads this team, along with DJ Turner (17th, 17:38). The rest of the team is rounding into shape as the season winds down, finishing third behind Monadnock and Kearsarge at Belmont. Can they put it together down the stretch?
Rounding out the top five will likely come from a trio of teams in Moultonborough, Derryfield and Belmont. Both Moultonborough and Belmont are strong up front with the Panthers fronted by the brother duo of Tyler and Dylan McLaughlin ,while the Red Raiders are led by Nick Randos and Ian Remenar. If either of these teams find the points in their supporting cast, they should be into the Meet of Champions. Derryfield is no stranger to putting it together in the stretch run, pushing Mascenic two years ago to a tie and finishing fifth last year. Led by senior Ben Garfield (12th, 17:17), the Cougars might have what it takes to get to MOCs again.
Another team putting on a late season surge is Prospect Mountain. Finishing as the second Division 3 team at Capital Area, the Timberwolves seem to be rounding into shape at the right time. Fronted by five seniors, do the Timberwolves have the experience to make the journey to Nashua South?
Individually all eyes are on the battle between James Elmour and Jake Movsessian. Elmour has been hot as of late and deserves the nod here. Certainly in the chase pack and the conversation are Jeffrey Allen of Campbell (10th, 17:05) and Tyler McLaughlin of Moultonborough, Dawson Adams and Brendan Hout of Monadnock, Tim Cunningham and Mason Benedict of Kearsarge, Simon Doneski of Hopkinton, Ian Daly of InterLakes, and Nick Randos of Belmont.
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