Division Favorites – Concord, Coe-Brown, Mascenic
Individuals to Watch – Forest Mackenzie (Concord), Joseph Gagnon (Pinkerton), Eli Boesch-Dining (Concord), David Reynolds (Merrimack Valley), Jake Winslow (Exeter), Joseph Curran (North), Jeffrey Allen (Campbell)
Writing a preview for the cross country season is a lot of fun but comes with a lot of challenges. You never know who is coming back from the various teams and how far some of the runners have come. To try and figure out what we can expect, all the graduating seniors from the Division meets, Meet of Champions, and the JV State meets were removed, and that information was analyzed to try and make an educated guess on what we can expect. That said, there are always a few breakout stars who throw a wrench in the formula of any guess for an upcoming season and that’s what makes the whole process fun! Let’s dive into it.
Note: All times referred to in Division previews are from the 2017 Divisional Championships at Derryfield, while times referred to in the MOC preview are from the 2017 MOCs.
Watching last year’s meet, it was obvious that Kearsarge and Mascenic were looking to come out of the gate swinging, putting each of their scoring five in the top twenty less than half a mile into the race. This year on paper it looks as if these two teams will be at it again, with the advantage, on paper, going to Mascenic. It would look that Mascenic is only losing it’s #4 and #7 runner but anticipated senior Michael Fappiano Puttre graduated early to sail solo around the world. It would also look like they would be led by two sophomores, Landen Vaillancourt (soph., 16:50) and Josh Movsessian (soph., 17:24), but that would be not counting on the return of last year’s top runner, Dakota Somero, who missed the championships due to an injury. Back and training well, Somero will likely lead the Vikings this season with seniors Logan Thibault (sr., 18:14) and Robert McLain (sr., 18:48).
Kearsarge graduated four of their top seven, but tend to have greater depth than Mascenic so they should be able to reload this season to be back in the running. Led by seniors Trevor Pauling (sr., 17:36) and Ben Bolton (sr., 18:31) along with junior Edward Stowell (jr., 18:40) expect a well balanced attack that Kearsarge is known for. And remember, in 2015 when the Cougars knocked Mascenic out of repeating by one point. Be sure they’re going to want to do it again. Well coached and always hungry, the boys in blue will be a threat when they come down from the hills at the end of October.
Campbell will likely be looking to contend in 2018. Led by senior stud Jeffrey Allen (sr., 16:28), the Cougars lose less to graduation than any of the above teams, graduating only their #3 and #5. Coached by 2017 Coach of the Year Jan Platt and backed by senior Luke Gomes (sr., 19:01), and juniors Tyler and Trevor Scopelites (jrs., 17:54 and 18:18), expect the Cougars of the flat country to be in the hunt.
These three teams last year finished 68 points ahead of Bow and 117 points in front of Winnisquam. With only one senior between the two, expect these teams to close the gap. Bow is lead by seniors Kirpal Demian (18:01) and Sam Berube (18:07) both who have had great spring seasons. Winnisquam is led by senior Kyle Mann (17:42) If they can close the gaps between their first and fifth runners expect them to hold the top five spots.
If someone is going to spoil the party, I would expect it might be Monadnock. Two years ago the Huskies put it all together and crushed Mascenic and Kearsarge to win the 2016 championship with a senior heavy team. No one from that team is on their current roster and their top guy is sophomore Tyler Herbert (17:43) but second year head coach Clint Joslyn has experience bringing the current team through the championships when they were all in middle school. While it might be too much to expect them to make it all the way to the top, you can bet they’ll be much improved.
Individually one would expect Campbell’s Allen to be in the driver’s seat. With championship experience since ninth grade, Allen is the cream of the crop. But watch for Mascenic’s Vaillancourt, Movsessian and Somero to be working together to reel him in. Keep an eye on Fall Mountain’s George Gowdy (sr., 17:27), Winnisquam’s Mann, Monadnock’s Hebert, Campbell’s Tyler Scopelites and Bow’s Demian to round out the top ten.
Top 6 as a team, or top 25 as an individual. That’s what it will take in Division 2 to move on to the Meet of Champions (MOC). Let’s see if we can identify the teams and top individuals that will do just that. As always with these previews we are assuming (and hoping for) full health for every team; one or two injuries could shift the balance of power tremendously.
Another year, another showdown at the top between two perennial distance powers and Rt. 4 rivals, Oyster River and Coe-Brown. These two teams always exhibit an outstanding combination of tradition, depth, talent and coaching.
Coe-Brown came within striking range (10 points) of a title last year and surprised everyone with how well the young team performed at the championship race. This year there is no hiding their talent and the expectations are high. The Bears return an incredible 6 of their top 7 and are the prohibitive favorite. Led by sophomores Luke Tkaczyk (16:54) and Wyatt Mackey (17:02), Coe-Brown also has the deepest supporting cast. Dawson Dubois (jr., 17:14), Gavyn Lewis (sr., 17:28), Logan Mihelich (soph., 17:55) and Sam Potteson (jr., 18:01) are all high quality runners and will be joined by incoming freshman Lars Hogne (3rd at D3 Middle School Championships). Throw into this mix 2-3 guys who ran mid-18s at the JV Championship race last year and this squad looks to not only sit atop the D2 landscape (look for a VERY low score at D2s) but could be one of the best teams in the entire state.
Oyster River seems to be a no-brainer to finish second at worst. The Bobcats lost 3 very good runners to graduation but always get a youth infusion of talent to stay not only relevant but excellent. Myles Carrico (sr., 16:50), Andrew O’Brien (soph., 17:13) and Owen Fleischer (soph., 17:16) are a top three that rival any in the division. With help from Henry Keegan (sr., 18:49), Ben Stone (17:55 JV Champs), Henry Duisberg (18:19 JV Champs), Noah Strout (18:35 JV Champs) and incoming frosh Amani Harvey and Theo Castonguay (2nd and 7th at Middle School Championships respectively) Oyster River looks to be well ahead of anyone else besides Coe-Brown, and could conceivably take advantage if the Bears stumble.
After these two teams it gets very murky indeed. There are 5-6 teams that have excellent top 2 runners but it does take five at least! To predict the next four teams in the division we’ll need to utilize research, determination, and reckless speculation!
Very quietly Souhegan has been building a team that looks like it could take the third spot at D2s. Led by Thomas Headington (jr., 17:11) and Mason Silk (jr., 17:47) the Sabers have a ton of depth and return 6 of their top 7. Nathan Stine (sr., 18:02), Ethan McFee (soph., 18:29), Bill Drake (sr., 18:29) and Carter Schade (sr., 18:31) all are packed tightly together and Souhegan could use that cohesion to beat everyone in the division except the teams mentioned above. This is the methodology Hanover used to shock the “experts” here at NHCC last year to also place third.
Speaking of Hanover, look for the Marauders to maintain their success from last year and take the 4th spot in the division. Spearheaded by Daniel Bandler (jr., 17:35) and Jack Lynch (sr., 17:40), Hanover continues their legacy of depth and talent with Trevor Siegel (jr., 18:38) and three runners from last year’s JV State Meet in Daniel Frost (18:43), Nathan Bonner (18:48) and Diego Aspinwall (18:53). Add in freshman Sam Murray (winner of D2 Middle School Championships) and Hanover seems like it has reloaded nicely. They could very conceivably overtake Souhegan for the third spot at D2s; that is how closely these teams mirror each other.
The next two teams both have outstanding up-front talent, but will need a lot of help from their 3-5 guys. Merrimack Valley looks like it has the best 1-2 punch in the division with twins David Reynolds (sr., 16:44) and Matt Reynolds (sr., 17:08). The Pride needs returnees Christian Oglesby (jr., 19:06), Ethan Dodenhoff (soph., 19:13), and Connor Butt (sr., 19:34) to have a good summer of training and provide the support the up-front guys desperately need. With the twins possibly combining for an incredibly low single digit number, their teammates need to have their back if MV is going to earn a trip to the Meet of Champions.
Hollis-Brookline is nipping at MV’s heels to round out the top 6. Led by Kenny Corsetti (sr., 16:59) and Mathew Hutchinson (sr., 17:54) the Cavaliers also need their 3-5 guys at their best to stave off the three or so teams theoretically right behind them. Jordin Stone (sr., 18:59), Daniel Delong (sr., 19:27), and Nathaniel Sartell (jr., 19:28) all need to show improvement if MOC is to be in HB’s future.
Now that we’ve identified the projected top 6 teams, let’s look at a few other schools in the “teams to watch” category. Any one of these teams could be a surprise runner or performance away from making the top 6. Kennett is led by Christopher Desmaris (sr., 17:54) and could catch HB for the 6th spot; the Eagles have excellent grouping but lack (at least on paper) a runner to score those low points. Kingswood has a very solid 1-2 in Jim Huckman (sr., 17:03) and Brent Coope (sr., 17:57) and they add frosh Matthew Perkins (6th at D2 Middle School Championships). The Knights will need good production from their 4-5 guys to overtake other teams to get into the top 6. Sanborn returns an excellent 1-2 with sophomores Dylan Khalil (soph., 17:19) and Owen Stocker (soph., 17:33), but will also need other guys to step up. Incoming frosh Noah Cavallo should help, but if the Sachems want to repeat last year’s trip to the Meet of Champions they will need more support.
Individually, look for David Reynolds from Merrimack Valley to take top honors. He is the number one returnee, and also clocked an impressive 9:40 in the 3200 this past Spring season. Oyster River’s Myles Carrico and Andrew O’Brien will be close behind, as will Coe-Brown’s Luke Tkaczyk and Wyatt Mackey. Kenny Corsetti from Hollis-Brookline is very much in the mix, as are Evan Coyne from Con-Val and Jim Huckman from Kingswood.
Good luck and good health to all teams in the division, and as always please try your hardest to make these predictions look foolish!
The 2017 Division I meet was a showcase for Concord who took the top three spots in the overall race and had their fifth runner in by 13th place. No one could come close to matching that kind of dominance and they won the race by a dominating 61 points over second place Pinkerton. The question coming into the 2018 season is, “Can they possibly do that again?”
The short answer? Yes, they can. Concord comes in as the #1 returning team in the Division and probably the state in this upcoming season. Concord remarkably brings back the top two guys in the division in Forest MacKenzie and Eli Boesch-Dining to have the ultimate 1-2 punch. You might think there could be some weakness after that, but their 3-4, David Cook (jr., 17:06) and Ryan Devine (jr., 17:11) all return in the top 10 in the division. That makes for one really tough team. Maybe you’re hoping your team has a shot if one of them doesn’t have their strongest day? Their 7th man comes in top 25 in the Division. Concord has all the tools a team could ask for to make it two in a row. Maybe their only weakness is everyone will be gunning for them at every race they go to.
In a normal year these guys would absolutely be in the thick of the championship race, but Pinkerton’s score is almost double that of Concord’s when looking at returning runners. That said, if there’s anyone Concord should watch out for, it’s these guys. In my 11 years of coaching, no one seems to bring their “A” game to D1s like Pinkerton does and they absolutely have the guys to pull off the upset. Starting with a guy who could compete for the state championship in Joe Gagnon (sr., 16:41) Pinkerton’s top five all place within the top 25 of returners. If these guys, Nathan Steiger (jr., 17:12), Jeff Mize (sr., 17:12), Nolan Preble (sr., 17:13) and Steven Groulx (sr., 17:32), even move up just a few places they’re suddenly matched up very comparably to Concord. Maybe a surprising young runner could put them over the top?
On paper, these guys are back a ways from our one and two, but they also have all the makings of a dark horse. How often do you see a team who just missed a plaque in the previous year and their top three returners were all freshman? Not often! They’re led by a freshman who made it to New England’s as an individual in Will Heenan.(soph., 16:39) Could he contend for tops in the division? Londonderry will need him in that mix but he’s backed up fellow sophomores Ryan Young (17:16) and Matt Griffin (17:18), who are both top 20 returners. The question for Londonderry? Who can back up their young top three?
Keene is nipping right on Londonderry’s heels and has a very similar mix of strengths as the Lancers. Keene has a possible championship contender in their number one Jake Velazquez. Jake had some outstanding runs early in the season, but had some troubles during championship season. He has the numbers to compete with the top guys if he’s healthy. Velazquez is backed up by two top 25 guys in Nico Ramirez (jr., 17:20) and Aidan Kindopp (jr., 17:30) and face the same challenge as Londonderry after that. There are some talented young runners in their four and five spots, so how far can they move up the rankings?
The five team is a great example of the difference a year can make. If there’s a team that will make these preseason rankings look silly, it’s probably going to be Winnacunnet. They have a top ten returner in Colin Donnelly (jr., 17:01), who is someone to watch potentially move up into the top five after an outstanding spring. They have two other top twenty five returners in Austin Denis (sr., 17:15) and Noah Taracena (jr., 17:31). Their top five is young group made up mostly of now juniors and their additional racing experience could give them a lot of ability to move up. Keep an eye on them!
The Individual Championship
The top returner in not just the Division but the state is Concord’s Forest MacKenzie. He had an excellent junior campaign where he showed himself to not just be a strong runner but also a smart one. He has a number of guys nipping at his heels including his own teammate Eli Boesch-Dining. It was a not uncommon sight to see these guys shoulder to shoulder until the last 100m of a race where they would battle to the line. Could 2018 be the year Boesch-Dining takes his teammate down?
If it ever comes down to a sprint at the end, Jake Winslow of Exeter has the speed to to beat just about anyone in the state. Winslow is coming off an impressive spring where he won both the 1600 and 800 at D1s. If he can transfer that into this cross country season, he could absolutely take the crown. Londonderry’s Will Heenan is certainly someone to keep an eye on as well. A guy who took 6th place in D1’s during his freshman year cross country season and has a bit of speed, could we witness the start of a three year string? Pinkerton’s Joe Gagnon took a fifth at least year’s Meet of Champions and was only four seconds behind our returning leader MacKenzie. He and MacKenzie seem to constantly battle for position during both cross country and track and I’m sure Gagnon is ready to push Mackenzie to his limits this season. Don’t count out North’s Joseph Curran (jr., 16:47) and Winnacunnet’s Colin Donnelly, who are both coming off strong sophomore years and look like guys who could vault their way into the championship conversation.
Meet of Champions
The annual challenge of examining what will transpire at the MOCs is made a bit easier this season as the returning team champions and over half of the top 25 return. As with Division 1’s, Concord presents as the overwhelming favorite. Last year they had a team average of 15:53!!! Looking at who they are returning, we fully expect them to lower this incredible stat and repeat as champs with designs on New Englands. With Derryfield being this year’s New Englands course, look for the Crimson Tide to truly focus on the second Saturday of November.
MOCs may resemble D1s with Pinkerton and Londonderry battling it out for the next two slots. While Pinkerton is and will be strong every year, Londonderry may indeed be the team of the future led by their three super sophs. Looking to crash the top three is another team of the future, Coe-Brown. Like the Lancers, with just one senior, a couple juniors and a handful of sophomores, the Bears may be a year away setting up next year.
Vying for the final two berths for the right to represent NH at New Englands will be Keene, Oyster River, Winnacunnet and North. When looking at returning athletes these four are separated by a scant 6-8 points, which means anything can happen. Of the four, Winnacunnet seems to have the largest upside returning all 7 runners. If their four and five runners can improve ten places that will solidify their chances. Currently, with a healthy Velasquez as well as others, Keene certainly has the best chance as they have the potential to have 3-4 runners in front of the other three team’s second. That would be hard to beat and could see the Owls launch themselves into true contention. Don’t count out defending D2 champs Oyster River as their returners can only improve and they have a habit of racing well at Mines Falls. Losing 2 of the top runners to graduation, North could be viewed as rebuilding, but one can never count out North, at the MOCs, at Mines Falls.
Individually, we are in for a treat of a cross country race come November. With five of the top eight finishers from 2017 returning separated by a mere 10 seconds, coupled with them all being seniors, the level of racing and chess playing will be a pleasure to witness. We are in agreement with the D1 preview as it would seem MacKenzie has the edge here. He has the strength, experience, demeanor, intelligence, and determination to take the title. Of these traits, assuming strength is relatively equal at this level, MacKenzie’s racing IQ coupled with calm demeanor should win out. We are thinking MacKenzie will simply figure out a way to win.
It will not be easy, as D2’s David Reynolds (MV), MacKenzie’s familiar foe Pinkerton’s Joseph Gagnon, and his teammate Eli Boesch-Dining will all be nipping at his heels. If Exeter’s Jake Winslow can hang on during the woods loop, he certainly has the pedigree to win. Looking to crash this party will be North’s Curran, Londonderry’s Heenan and Winnacunnet’s Donnelly.
Regardless, all our questions will be answered as we as a state will be determining which teams and individuals will be representing us at New Englands on our home turf! Good luck to all!