Division Favorites – Pinkerton, Souhegan, Campbell
Individuals to Watch – Jackie Gaughan (Exeter), Caroline Fischer (BG), Julia Robitaille (West), Rebecca Durham (Milford), Danielle Slavin (Oyster River), Alice Riley (Belmont)
This year’s Division One team championships probably won’t look much different then the previous couple of years as far as the teams up on the podium. As for the teams rounding out the top 5 to 7 spots and making it to the Meet of Champions, there may be some shaking up of teams and some teams may be bumped out and replaced.
Pinkerton should return as the Division One Champions for the third consecutive year. In fact, they should be looking towards the New England title and possibly giving NH a representative at the Nike Cross Nationals! Pinkerton Academy girls have 6 of their top 7 returning from last years winning team including Meghan Cross (10, 18:52), Maison D’Amelio (12, 19:03), Ciara April (11, 19:11) and Jordan Vaillancourt (11, 19:20), who could all finish in the top 10 at the divisional meet. Add track standout Britney Johnson, who has decided to run cross country instead of playing soccer this fall, and Pinkerton will be virtually untouchable by any NH school and possibly any New England team. It will be fun to see how far they can go and possibly having NH school as team qualifier for Oregon four out of the last five years.
The battle will be for the runner up position with Bishop Guertin the pre-season favorite. Having graduated their 4th and 5th from last year’s runner up team, they still return standout sophomore Caroline Fischer (10, 17:59), who will be fighting Exeter’s Jackie Gaughan. Fellow sophomores Haley Schmitt (10, 19:25) and Caroline Towle (10, 19:39) could give Bishop Guertin three in the top ten, which will give them the best top three after PA. Sophmore Zoe Priest (10, 20:52) and senior Rebecca Ntengeri (12, 21:13) also return from last year’s team and should round out their top five.
If any team has the chance to knock BG off the throne, it will probably be Exeter or Merrimack, but they have their work cut out for them. Exeter returns all 7 from last year’s team that finished 6th at D1 including superstar New England Champion Jackie Gaughan (12, 17:35) and junior Violet Sullivan (11, 19:14), who could give Exeter two very low numbers. But if Exeter wants to dethrone BG, their other returnees and incoming freshman Grace Mercier (3rd at D1 MS Champs) will need big performances.
Merrimack may have a better shot at BG. Even though they don’t have the low numbers for their #one and #two, they will have four runners in before Exeter’s third and Merrimack’s fifth is not far behind. If senior Bailey Carrillo (12, 19:40) and junior Lauren Brennan (11, 19:42) are healthy this fall, that would give them potential for some single digits up front.
Rounding out the Meet of Champions qualifying spots is somewhat wide open since several teams in the top 8 last year lost quite a bit to graduation. Alvirne was third last year, but graduated 5 of their top 7. Bedford was 5th and graduated 4 of their top 7, including their 1 and 2, while Concord graduated their top 2 girls. So the next three teams should come from Nashua South, Manchester Central and Londonderry. On paper Nashua South would be the next best D1 team but their top girl (top 10 returning runner Lauren Robinson) moved to Milford, so that will be a tough spot to fill for them to stay in the top five teams. Manchester Central graduated their 2nd and 6th, but still has the sophomore Pepin sisters, Keegan (10, 20:01) and Katelyn (10, 20:13) returning to lead the team. However, they once again have a new coach, so a lot will depend on how the girls adjust to another change. And don’t rule out Londonderry that returns their top 6 from last year’s team and may be ready to be jump back into the top 4 or 5 at D1 after 4 years out of the running.
The easy favorite for everything NH and New England will be Exeter’s Jackie Gaughan. Last fall she was 11th at Foot Locker and set state record indoor and outdoor for the 3000m and 3200m so she has shown she is hard to beat. If anybody has any chance to give her a run, it would be Bishop Guertin’s Caroline Fischer, who continues to chase her. Fischer was 3rd at New England’s last year as a freshmen, so once again NH should go into New Englands as a power house up front. After the top two, the remaining spots in the top 5 could be all Pinkerton girls. Cross, April, D’Amelio and Johnson will be fighting among each other. Rounding out the top ten, look for Exeter’s Sullivan, Pinkerton’s Vaillancourt, BG’s Schmitt and Towle, and Merrimack’s Carillo and Brennan.
Last year, the Souhegan Lady Sabers not only snapped Coe-Brown’s 6-year D2 stranglehold, but catapulted themselves to the top of the state eventually becoming just the third NH team to qualify for Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon. Many may feel that without their 2016 leader Madeline Hunt, they are vulnerable, but they should look much closer. Junior Arielle Zlotnick (19:07) begins the 2017 season with a faster personal best than Hunt (2016 D2 XC Champ, 18:15) in the 3200. She leads a returning core four which now has a multitude of experiences between cross country and track. Jane Leighton (12, 19:18), Marissa Romano (10, 19:57) and Elise Lambert (12, 21:12) all have continued to improve. With their strong program, count on Souhegan to find the necessary players to repeat as D2 champs in late October. Especially since they have another Zlotnick (Adrianna) joining the crew!
In 2016, Hanover (NH#3) made some early season noise which had many recalling their own dominance of NH several years ago. On paper, they return slightly more than Coe-Brown, led by Leila Trummel (11, 19:27), who continues to improve as evidenced by her spring track season. If Lucy Glueck (10, 19:30), Sadie Lingelbach-Pierce (12, 20:03), senior Elsa Nordstrom, and Kennedy Lange (11, 21:13) can stay healthy and continue to develop as a squad, they could threaten Souhegan.
After having to replace 5 of 7 in 2016, the Coe-Brown Lady Bears have to only replace 2 due to graduation, but they were a #1 and #4 and were huge factors in their surprising runner-up finish in 2017. They do add D3 Middle School Champ Addison Cox to a senior laden team. If seniors Sarah Dupuis (19:23), Eleanor McDonough (19:51), Raven Barnes (21:17) can come together and lead Cox and ever-improving sophomore Abigail O’Connor (20:07), the Bears could have a chance at a podium finish.
Don’t look now, but Oyster River is the next strongest on paper. Led by D2 top returnee Danielle Slavin (12, 18:23), the Lady Bobcats return Olivia Lenk (10, 19:46), Emily Allyson (12, 21:10), while adding incoming freshman Sophie Sullivan, who placed 3rd in D2 Middle School state championships in 2016. Look for them to add a 5th from their storied program.
Also benefiting from the class of 2021 will be Portsmouth which adds the D2 State MS Champ Angela Hagstrom. For the past several years the Lady Clippers have boasted strong pack running by Division meet time, but have missed the low number necessary to truly compete for a podium finish. Adding a runner like Hagstrom to returnees Ellen Baker (11, 20:02), Jenny Battye (12, 20:02) and Sam Kelley-Derzon (11, 20:59) gives them a balanced varsity squad that could surprise come the end of the season.
Also vying for Meet of Champions slots should be three more teams, Kennett, Merrimack Valley and Milford. Of those 3, on paper Kennett holds a slim advantage over the other two when considering returning athletes. To bolster their case, Kennett has a potential for a phenomenal pack time with their top 4, being separated by only 24 seconds at last year’s 2016 D2 meet. If they can add a 5th and move that pack up by even 30 seconds, they will be a force.
Although Merrimack Valley lost Kristie Schoffield to graduation, they return a core group with a nice balance of youth and experience. And, although Milford lost the always solid Alex Matsis to graduation, they add Lauren Robinson (11, 19:22), who along with top returnee Rebecca Durham (12, 18:59) gives them what could be the strongest 1-2 punch in the division.
Who would have thought this Division could get faster after graduating names like Doody, Danis, and Parker over the past several years, but it continues to be competitive and fast. This year will not disappoint. Take your pick from the top 3 returnees. While OR’s Slavin possesses the fastest time at Derryfield with an incredible 18:23, both West’s Robitaille and Milford’s Durham posted spring track times that cannot be overlooked. Robitaille specialized in the 3200 where she was D2 champ in 10:40. She continued on to NB Nationals to post a track 5k time of 17:47. Queen of the double-back, Durham would consistently run a 1600 in 5:00 or better, only to turn around and roll a 3200 an hour or so later in sub-11:00! What do you value more?
When considering what has been accomplished lately, one cannot count out the vastly improving Arielle Zlotnick (Souhegan) who lowered her 3200 personal best to 10:59. Add a couple incoming freshmen in Hagstrom (Portsmouth) and Cox (Coe-Brown), who just happen to be middle school state champions, and this Division has the potential to have a six-pack battling it out. Attempting to join that group should be Con-Val’s Clare Veverka, Souhegan’s Leighton, Hanover’s Trummel, and Milford’s Robinson.
Last year the Campbell Cougars took the big step and ascended the top of the D3 heap winning the Division 3 Championship in a reasonably dominant fashion, 100 to 121 over White Mountains. Led by Catilyn Callinan (9th, 20:49), the Cougars set the tone from the start. 2017 sees the graduation of Molinari and two others off their scoring seven, so returning to the top will likely be challenged. However, with some continuity in coaching, with Jan Platt again at the helm, the Cougars appear to be in the best position to repeat.
Behind them, the Spartans of White Mountains are a real wild card. A bit of a surprise finishing in second in 2016, the Lady Spartans seem to fill out their roster some years to challenge the best in D3. With returning top ten runner, Leah Dutkewyth (5th, 20:39) and only the loss of their #2 and #7 runners, it might seem enough to get it done in D3. However, White Mountains finished as the last team at MOCs, well over 100 points behind Campbell. Their return to the top of D3 will depend exactly what their roster looks like come the end of October.
Monadnock looks to be the most likely challenger to Campbell, returning all but one of their top seven. Monadnock won the whole shebang in 2015, and the boys did so in 2016. The winning formula isn’t a foreign one to the Huskies, with Joelle Lafreniere (6th, 20:42) and Sadie Lorenz (12th, 21:00) having championship experience. With the addition of incoming freshman Delaney Swanson, expect them to figure out how to challenge for the top spot.
The next three teams from last year’s top six, Kearsarge, Moultonborough and Bow suffered some losses to graduation, with Kearsarge losing four, Moultonborough losing their top two, and Bow losing three. If any of these teams can get a little more out of their JV squads or some new blood from their Middle School programs, they could be in the hunt.
However it might be more likely that two of the top five teams comes from either Mascenic or Hopkinton. While the Vikings finished a handful of points in front of the Hawks, expect the team in green to have the upper hand as they have a history of strong performances in the D3 girls rankings. Led by two sophomores, Emma Rothe (4th, 20:32) and Sydney Stockwell (6th, 20:44), if the Hawks can get it together by the end of the season, they might be challenging the top of D3. Mascenic arguably has the best returning three in Samantha Bilodeau (3rd, 20:28), Madison Labrie (7th, 20:47) and Samantha Hughson (15th, 21:14.) If they can get some support behind their top three, they could be dangerous come October.
it would be foolish to discount Belmont’s Alice Riley (11th, 19:56), this past spring’s 3200m D3 champion, as she won by 28 seconds last year. After that, the greatest threat might come from Monadnock’s Lafreniere and Lorenz, Hopkinton’s Rothe and Stockwell, Kearsarge’s Mya Dube (10th, 21:14) White Mountain’s Dutkewyth, Campbell’s Callinan, Isabella Mormando (11, 20:49) of Conant, and the trio of Bilodeau, Labrie and Hughson of Mascenic.
For the past few years, the Pinkerton Trail Blazers have been knocking on the MOC title door, quite loudly. Well this year, with returning all top seven from their 2016 runner-up squad, they are poised to kick the proverbial door wide open, and become the best in NH. As mentioned above, track stud Britney Johnson is doing XC, so they could threaten to podium at New Englands and be dreaming of a trip to Oregon. Led by sophomore Meghan Cross and senior Maison D’Amelio, Pinkerton certainly has the experience and motivation to lead NH.
So who, on preseason paper, has the best shot at upsetting Pinkerton? History shows a team needs their top runner to get that low number and be supporting by a remainder of a top five who will crack the top 30-40 with their team scores. Bishop Guertin, led by sophomore Caroline Fischer, who will most assuredly garner a top 3 finish, seems to fit said description. Supported by two other sophomores Caroline Towle and Haley Schmitt as well as junior Rebecca Ntengeri, the Lady Cardinals have great potential to make waves on the New England level as well this year.
Chasing the top 2 will be a pack of five teams. All have to improve in one way or another, and if they do, they will certainly separate themselves and possible challenge one of the top 2. Merrimack once again returns most of their squad from the previous year and once again boasts a pack time of 35 to 60 seconds. Led by senior Bailey Carrillo, junior Lauren Brennan, and senior Grace Corbett, Merrimack has the experience leadership to potentially move the pack up in the results. If one or two of their top 3 can breakthrough and accomplish a top 10 finish, they could threaten the top 2.
As stated in the D2 preview above, last year’s MOC champ and NXN qualifier Souhegan returns a core four that can run with anyone. However, they did lose two of their top five in Hunt and Earley. The Lady Sabers seem have their apparent to Hunt in Zlotnick and Coach Jeff Wilson and Coach Dave Salvas certainly have a knack for developing superior teams over the course of a season. So we will not be surprised in Souhegan finds itself in the title mix once again come November.
Hanover, Exeter, and Coe-Brown are only separated by a few points in the battle for the coveted top 6 New England qualifying spots. Led by ever-improving Trummel, if the Lady Marauders can stay healthy, they could also move up the ladder. Exeter, obviously led by nationally ranked Jackie Gaughan, quietly has assembled a very talented group. This group led by Violet Sullivan also adds middle school star Grace Mercier. If they can come together as a team, they have to potential to truly be a contender. Coe-Brown has the recent tradition, and performed admirably last year surprising many to place third overall. They only lost two of their top seven to graduation. If their pack can move up and if a Lady Bear or two post a low number, they can also be in the mix. Other teams to watch during the season and by Meet of Champions time include Nashua South, Oyster River, Central and Londonderry.
Individually, the 2016 MOCs eclipsed 2015 with 25 girls under 19:00 and 5 under 18:00. With only six of these graduating, and several talented middle schoolers matriculating to high school, as cross country fans we are enjoying arguably one of the fastest periods in NH history.
Obviously spearheading this golden era is the overwhelming individual favorite, Exeter’s All-American Jackie Gaughan. Gaughan gets better every season with her cross country season including a New England title and culminating in an 11th place finish at Footlocker Nationals. She followed this up with an unbelievable 3200 posting of a 10:05 this past spring clearly making her the fastest female in NH History.
Behind Gaughan expect a three to wage a fantastic battle. Last year, BG’s Caroline Fischer put together one of the fastest freshman years, claiming Manchester Invitational’s freshman course record. The ever-improving Julia Robitaille (West) has ascended to the next level as demonstrated by her 10:40 last spring. As did what seems to be Robitaille’s shadow, Milford’s Rebecca Durham. These three are extremely close, expect them to form a strong chase pack. OR’s Danielle Slavin, Souhegan’s Arielle Zlotnick, Pinkerton’s Meghan Cross and Maison D’Amelio should all fight for top 10 finishes as well as Hanover’s Leila Trummel and Souhegan’s Jane Leighton. As with every year count on some mystery freshman or out-of-state transfer to attempt to crash that front pack and round out the top 10.
2016 Division Races (2016 MOC Race Below)