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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Girls Division 3 – 10:00am
As mentioned in the season preview, the Cougars of Campbell appear to be in a strong position to repeat as D3 champs in 2017. Led by Caitlin Callinan, and some strong support from Cassie Hemming and Riley Gamache, the Lady Cougars have shown they’re the team to beat winning the D2 sponsored Jamie Martin Invitational at the beginning of the season and being the fourth team overall, D3 #1 at the Manchester Invite. The team has been working to bring along their fourth and fifth runners, and if they do, they should be difficult to beat.
Looking likely to be the next challenger is the Hopkinton Hawks. As mentioned in the season preview, the Hawks have a young team, with their top seven being sophomores and freshmen, and appear to be a strong contender for runner up. Hopkinton finished as the #2 D3 team at Manchester and rolled easy at their homecoming meet as well (scoring 24 to Monadnock’s 39.) Led by Emma Rothe and Sydney Stockwell, expect the Hawks to be in the mix.
Kearsarge seems to be the next in line, finishing as the second D3 team at the Belmont Invite behind Hopkinton. Led by one of the top D3 runners in the state, Mya Dube, and strong top ten contender in Jenna Bears, look for the Cougars from the hill region of the state to challenge for a top three finish.
However, Belmont seem to be making a late season push towards one of the elusive top five spots, beating Kearsarge this past Thursday at the Capital Area Championships. Alice Riley, top returner in Division 3, leads the Red Raiders and has had a great fall and should be in the mix individually as well. If she can get the requisite help, they could sneak into the top three.
After the top four, we have a number of teams chasing those elusive top five spots that get their team to MOCs. Monadnock seems to have the edge, boasting a solid top four in Delaney Swanson, Sydney Eccleston, Sadie Lorenz and Joelle Lafreniere. The Huskies always seem to get some help post season, and if they can cultivate a fifth, they can challenge any of the teams above.
If any of the above listed teams falter, expect there to be challenges from the Mascenic Vikings, PCA Eagles and White Mountain Spartans. The Vikings have the talent, with three top fifteen returners from last year (Samantha Bilodeau, Madison Labrie, Samantha Hughson) and solid support, but they have struggled to put it together yet this season. The Eagles ran well at the Manchester Invitational (D3 # 5) but recently haven’t been seen running at full strength. The Spartans, always dangerous depending who is in their lineup, haven’t shown any indication of being a top five team. They seem to get the athletes they need right when it counts.
Individually, the contest up front should likely be between Kearsarge’s Dube and Belmont’s Riley, but don’t sleep on Mascenic’s Bilodeau, Campbell’s Callinan or Monadnock’s Swanson. White Mountains will be represented Leah Dutkewych up front, Hopkinton by Rothe and Stockwell, Bears of Kearsarge, Eliza Corso of PCA, and Delia Cormier of Laconia.
Boys Division 3 – 10:40am
The past couple years since Kearsarge moved down to Division 3, the teams from Mascenic, Monadnock, and Kearsarge have mixed it up at the top of the D3 ranks. In 2015, Kearsarge defeated Mascenic 100 to 101, with Monadnock in fourth. In 2016, everyone was steamrolled by Monadnock, who put together an All Star cast winning the meet 64 to Kearsarge’s 94 points to Mascenic’s 136. This year, we’ll likely see a battle again, with Mascenic and Kearsarge looking for D3 supremacy.
So far, the NHCC #9 ranked Mascenic Vikings seem to have the upper hand. Winners at the Jamie Martin Invite and Jeri Blair Invite, the Vikings seem to have a different top five every week, usually led by sophomore Dakota Somero. Senior DJ Turner and freshmen Landon Vaillancourt and Josh Movsessian (that’s right, Jake’s little brother) seemingly are interchangeable in the #2 spot making the Viking dangerous. Strong support from Logan Thibault and Michael Fappiano give them a shot even if everything isn’t going quite right.
But don’t sleep on Kearsarge (NH #10.) They’ve been in this position before, giving up wins to the Vikings only to run their best when it mattered most (see 2015 championships). With a similar profile of interchangeable parts, the team is led by Mason Benedict, Trevor Pauling and Hunter Burns. The Cougars also see strong support from Aidan Brooks and John Cunningham. The Cougars just finished up a strong regular season, putting three in the top 15, finishing second to NH’s #1 team, Concord at the Capital Area Championships. If Mascenic slips up or has injury issues, expect the boys from Kearsarge to be there ready to capitalize.
The next likely contender is Campbell. Led by arguably one of the best runners in the state in Jeffrey Allen, the Cougars have quietly been preparing for a late October run. Finishing third at Jamie Martin behind Mascenic and Kearsarge, their supporting cast has made solid improvement over the summer and during the season. Luke Hogan, Trevor Gomes and Tyler Scopelites are looking to get the job done behind Allen.
The defection of Monadnock’s #2 returner from last year’s Dream Team has left Lucas Beteau and the Monadnock program looking to restock and fast. Thankfully Clint Joslyn the previous MS coach has stepped in to fill the coaching role and has brought along a solid group of freshmen. If Monadnock can find some bodies to plug the holes as they’ve done in the past, they could be dangerous.
Rounding out the top is a tough call this year with many teams in close proximity of talent and numbers. Bow, Winnisquam and Belmont all have the potential to be there and some solid running up front (Kirpal Demian and Sam Berube for Bow, Kyle Mann for Winnisquam, Nick Randos and Aidan Rupp for Belmont.) Expect the top five to be determined from this bunch.
Individually, expect Allen to be in the driver’s seat. Behind and charging the field, expect Moultonborough’s Tyler McLaughlin to be looking to grab control. Behind them expect a flood of Mascenic and Kearsarge runners to flood the top twenty, with Mann from Winnisquam, Demian and Berube from Bow, Randos from Belmont, Thomas Howlett from Prospect Mountain, Ian Daly of InterLakes and Monadnock’s Beteau to round out the top fifteen or so.
- Mike Smith
Girls Division 2 – 11:30am
The Girls Division II Championship looks like a race not to be missed. The top five teams from a year ago are all ranked in the top 8 overall in New Hampshire. Add to those, three more teams who all missed out on a trip to MOC’s by 15 points or less a year ago, and you have some very experienced, very motivated teams toeing the line on Saturday.
The defending champions and favorites all year are the NH #1 Sabers from Souhegan. Winners of the Bobcat Invitational and the Saber Relays, and the top DII team (third overall) at Manchester, they boast two of the top five returners from a year ago in Jane Leighton and Arielle Zlotnick. They also have the luxury of depth, as their next three have been somewhat interchangeable. With Marissa Romano, Elise Lambert, Mackenzie Hayden, and Adrianna Zlotnick backing up the top two, someone can be counted on to plug any gaps that may open up.
Runner’s up in 2016, NH #3 Coe-Brown can almost be considered co-favorites. With wins at the Cofrin Classic, Manchester Invite Small School, and Black Bear, they have been as dominant throughout the season as anyone. While they don’t have quite the depth of Souhegan, all it takes is five and the Bears have a very solid five, led by freshman Addison Cox, winner of the Cofrin Classic and third at Black Bear. Eleanor McDonough and Abigail O’Connor are also threats to place in the top 15. Ella Malone and Sarah Dupuis have been stalwarts for Coe-Brown all year, and if they close the gap to the front three, they could leapfrog Souhegan for the top spot.
Overlooked in the season preview, but enjoying surprising success due in large part to the addition of track runner Rachel Hurley is Con-Val. Fifth a year ago, and currently ranked #5 in NH, the Cougars reloaded well after graduating two from their top five a year ago. Veteran Clare Veverka has top-ten potential along with Hurley, while Schuyler Michalak, 25th a year ago, will provide yet another low number for the team score. It would be tough to overtake either of the top two teams, but this team just might find the magic on Saturday.
If a team ranked #7 in NH can be a sleeper pick, Oyster River would fit the bill. With a front-runner supported by a deep stable of runners, the Bobcats just could surprise. First at the Lou Korcoulis (Hollis) Invite and second at Bobcat behind Souhegan, they only placed 5th behind Con-Val’s third at Black Bear. They were missing their usual number two, however, as well as another top five runner from earlier in the season. Danielle Slavin, the top DII returning individual, leads the team. 9th-grader Sophie Sullivan, Kadence Murphy, and Emily Allyson provide depth, while Olivia Lenk and Lily Doody both returned for strong races at Brown and could be the difference makers to slide up a place (or two).
The fifth and final favorite out of DII is NH #8 Hanover. Third a year ago, everyone knows not to count out the Marauders. While they don’t have the depth of some of the other teams ranked ahead of them, they do have experience and tradition on their side. Led by Leila Trummel, they boast a fairly tight pack, including Kennedy Lange, Elsa Nordstrom, and Lucy Glueck. It would be a surprise for this team not to be running for another week.
Like last year, the sixth and final spot for a trip to MOC’s looks to be a toss-up. With last year’s 6th place team MV not in the picture, the next three from 2016 all have a shot to run together for one more week. Milford has the best one-two punch of any of the competitive teams in DII, with race co-favorite Rebecca Durham and Lauren Robinson (9th last year in DI for Nashua South). At their last race they were just behind Con-Val (Southern Cluster), so they seem to be rounding into form at just the right time. Kennett and Portsmouth are very similar teams, with reliance on depth and pack strength rather than front runners. Portsmouth, led by Ellen Baker and freshman Angela Hagstrom has looked good recently at home dual meets, while Kennett, led by Riley Steward and Kim Bowles, have had good runs both at the Kennett Invite and the Plymouth Invite.
Individually, Durham of Milford and Julia Robitaille of West have separated themselves from the rest of DII. Each has several wins on the season, and each has beaten the other at least once. Both like to take races out quick, and don’t expect Saturday to be any different. Waiting to see who comes out of the woods first will be one of those special moments that makes cross country so great. Barring a misstep from one of the big two, the next group of girls should be racing for third. Leighton of Souhegan, Slavin of Oyster River, Hurley of Con-Val, and Cox of Coe-Brown will all be in this group. Slavin in particular seems to save her best for the end of the season. Teammates of the above runners should make up most of the rest of the girls seeking a top-ten finish, including McDonough of Coe-Brown, Arielle Zlotnick of Souhegan, Veverka of Con-Val, Robinson of Milford, Robitaille of West, as well as Trummel of Hanover.
Boys Division 2 – 12:10pm
The 2017 Boy’s Division 2 Championships looks to be a mix of predictable, relentless excellence, and total mystery that might see up to 8 teams relying on their 5th man to seal a spot to the Meet of Champions (aka MOC, top 6 D2 teams move on). This “preview” is really just wild speculation using available results and assuming all teams are healthy.
Let’s get right to the stuff we know: Oyster River and Coe-Brown are the two top teams in the division by a ton, and then there’s everyone else.
We’ll get to everyone else in a bit, but it seems pretty clear that Oyster River (NH#2) is the favorite team to win the D2 team title. The Bobcats were 2nd last year and improved greatly with the addition of transfer Kieran Murphy and freshmen Andrew O’Brien and Owen Fleischer as well as great improvements from last year’s returnees Henry Keegan, Max Stenslie, Myles Carrico and Parker Spinney. This is a top 7 to be feared, and may place three or four runners in the top 10 overall and perhaps all seven in the top 15. They have been running lights out all season and there’s no reason to think this Saturday will be any different. If a dominant Black Bear Invitational win earlier in the season is any indication, Oyster River looks set up to be a championship team.
Coe-Brown (NH#4) isn’t too far behind with a very talented squad led by senior Evan Tanguay, fresh off of an electric 4th place individual finish at prestigious Brown University Invitational. The Bears have a very good, very young team to back up Tanguay; junior Gavin Lewis, sophomores Dawson Dubois and Sam Patteson, as well as three top freshmen in Luke Tkaczyk, Wyatt Mackey, and Logan Mihelich. If Oyster River stumbles, Coe-Brown is the only team able to take advantage. CB is always in the mix at the top of the division and is always hungry for more titles.
Now it gets murky. It looks like there might be a glut of teams that have what it takes to grab the #3 spot:
Kingswood has been running well all season and with a great 1-2 punch of Cameron Stinchfield and Wyatt Pooler. Merrimack Valley has an excellent top 3 in David Reynolds, Matt Reynolds and Matt Lyle. Trinity has looked good as well with Emmanuel Ndahayo and Danny Donovan leading the way. Sanborn has been running strong lately too, led by Dylan Khalil and Owen Stocker. All of these teams need their 5th (and in some cases 4th) man to be on their game in the big race. The front packs of these teams are all so similar we might see the 6-7 displacers in key spots!
After this tier there are two similarly matched teams that will be fighting for the last spot or two and could absolutely get past the teams mentioned above. Hanover is a team in this mix, led by Matthew Bassette and Simon Herron, and boasts an incredibly small 1-5 time gap. Souhegan, with Thomas Headington and Mason Silk leading the way, have great grouping as well. Both teams lack a big up front presence, but their depth and grouping might win out if an individual or two from the list above has a bad day.
Ok, so if you’ve been counting, we’ve just listed 8 teams that are vying for 6 spots. If you force us to choose, the team predictions look like this:
1) Oyster River
7) Merrimack Valley
Individually, look for Coe-Brown’s Tanguay to have a big day and be the favorite to win. Murphy of Oyster River and David Reynolds of Merrimack Valley will be in hot pursuit and have the chops to take advantage if one presents itself.
Looking forward to another great championship: this race never fails to deliver excitement, drama, and the very real possibility of making any and all of our predictions look foolish! Good luck and good heath.
Girls Division 1 – 1:00pm
This summer when thinking about the 2017 Division One Championships, it seemed like it would be a battle for second with the easy favorite being Pinkerton (NH#2). With a very strong returning group, including 4 of the top 8 from last year’s divisional meet and the addition of Britney Johnson, it seemed like they couldn’t be beat. However, there are always many surprises within a cross country season. I still give Pinkerton the edge going into Saturday with Meghan Cross, Ciara April, Jordan Vaillancourt, Maison D’Amelio and Britney Johnson as they are a strong scoring five with big meet experience. However, hot on their heels will be Bishop Guertin (NH#4), assuming Caroline Fisher is able to race and lead the team to a Pinkerton battle. Caroline Towle, Haley Schmitt and Kate Messer should be near that top group as well making it a possible top 15 made of of mostly two schools.
After the top two, Merrimack (NH#6) is coming on very strong at the right time of the season. They have a strong pack and continue to improve. Led by veteran Bailey Carrillo (who will also be looking to break into that all important top 10), and a now experienced top group with Grace Corbett and Rachel House, Merrimack could surprise some people.
Next look for Nashua South (NH#9) that has looked very strong lately and are led by their freshman phenom Cali Coffin (17:49 at Brown!!), who will be battling with the best in Division One and gives them a nice low number. Lydia Matheson, Jaimee Conway and Maya Krishman all ran sub-20 at Brown and seem to be peaking at the right time.
After the top 4 teams., there is a group of 5 or 6 teams that would love those remaining three positions to continue their season. Bedford was the easy winner of the Division One JV State meet last Friday, so it seems like they should have a great varsity team that could compete for an MOC spot. Led by freshmen Carly Rinko and Alexis Mahoney, the future is bright. Led by one of the fastest in the nation in Jackie Gaughan, Exeter (NH#10) looks strong, but they have had two of their top 3 out with injury for the season.
Central, Concord and Alvirne seem to be fighting for the last spot and it will depend on which team comes ready to race and has the better day. All three are similar teams with strong front runners in Katelyn Pepin (Central), Morgan Orcutt (Concord), and Jessica Fontaine (Alvirne), but it will depend on their supporting casts as to which schools will move on. No matter what, it is not a sure thing in Division One and should be an exciting day.
Individually, Jackie Gaughan will win this race. This is as much as a sure thing as a snow day in NH. With BG’s Fischer coming off of injury, the next set of runners seem even more murky than the team picture. With South’s Coffin slamming down the 17:49 at Brown, she gets the nod for possible runner-up. Fischer’s teammate, C. Towle, Pinkerton’s Cross, North’s Arianna Braccio, Bedford’s Rinko, BG’s Schmitt, Merrimack’s Carrillo, Londonderry’s Kalin Gregoire and Concord’s Orcutt should all vie for a top 10 spot.
On the team side, Division I has been anything but dramatic in the 2017 season. The season preview had Concord (NH#1) as the dominant team to beat and they have absolutely not let that prediction go to waste. They may have even outperformed our original predictions. Forest MacKenzie has been the leader of the team all season as expected with his most impressive run coming at Brown where he unleashed a blazing 15:29. What has helped them beat expectations has been an outstanding season by second man Eli Boesch-Dining, who has been nipping at MacKenzie’s heels through the month of October culminating with a 15:34 at Brown. Could these two even manage a one-two finish on Saturday? While excellent at the front, their depth has remained their biggest strength and they will likely see their entire top seven in the top twenty of the division. With that kind of depth and a #5 ranking in all of the Northeast, Concord looks about as unstoppable as a team can look.
The top spot looks to be locked down, but second place should be a fun battle to watch. Four teams will compete closely and the difference between second and third will likely be in the single digits.
Londonderry (NH#4) has the second highest ranking in the division, but may have the most challenging road to claiming the runner up spot. They have far exceeded their preseason expectations on the legs of three outstanding freshman. Their big question is, can the youth movement hold their own on the big stage that is the Division I meet? With lead freshman Will Heenan fresh off of a 15:55 performance at Brown, they certainly look ready. The Lancers likely won’t have anyone battling for a top five spot in the division like the other teams in this group, so they will rely on a tight pack that will need to all be in the top 25 of the division for them to take a plaque.
Keene (NH#5) is the definite wildcard of the group. They had an excellent performance at D1s last year and returned a squad that had them ranked second in the state in the preseason. The challenge is they follow a schedule that doesn’t have them compete against any of the other division teams during the season. They ran some strong times at the meets they did attend and have two runners to watch in Jake Velasquez, who is coming off a victory at the CVC championship meet in 16:03 and Andrew Derry, who ran a 16:09 at the Amherst Invitational. Keene is strong through their fifth runner with their last scorer breaking 17:00 at the CVC championship and if they run like that at Derryfield, the other teams in this group will struggle to take them down.
Pinkerton (NH#6) is always a team to watch at the Divisional meet. Coach Mike Clark’s teams always seem to have a great day when it matters most, which is why they come in having won four years in a row. Star Joe Gagnon is coming off a section win at the Catholic Memorial Invitational and will be competing for one of the top spots of the meet; however, it’s what happens after Gagnon that will give the Astros a shot. Sophomore Nolan Preble has become a surprise number two and is backed up by a trio of excellent juniors who have steadily improved since their last race against any of their division rivals. They’re another group who could see their whole top five in under 17:00 and this will be key if they want to compete for one of the top spots.
Nashua North (NH#7) is the final team to watch for in the second place battle. Top runner David Vorbach has been excellent all season as expected with his final race being a strong win of his section at the Catholic Memorial Invitational. Vorbach is backed up by Max Ireland and Joseph Curran, who should both compete for top ten spots in the division. North does have a bit of a challenge after that. Solid races out of their four and five will be necessary for them to grab a plaque.
Who else should you watch to make it to the Meet of Champions? Winnacunnet (NH#8) has made a huge jump up this season after starting unranked and are likely to punch a ticket to MOC. Nashua South has run consistently this season and will also likely find their way to Mines Falls.
On the individual side, it should be a battle between MacKenzie of Concord and Vorbach of Nashua North. MacKenzie was the Division winner when we visited Derryfield for the Manchester Invitational in the middle of the season, but could Vorbach conquer the course on his final visit? Keep an eye on MacKenzie’s teammate Boesch-Dining, who has steadily closed the gap on his teammate over the final couple weeks of the season. Velasquez of Keene is another one who has come on strong at the end of the season and will likely test himself against the leaders. Finally, keep and eye on Gagnon of Pinkerton after a solid season saw him finish near the top of all of his races.