By Dave Irving
The leaves are falling, the State Championships are just around the corner, and in central New Hampshire that means that it’s time for the 42nd Annual Capital Area Cross Country Championships. This year’s edition will once again be hosted at the school where it originated, Merrimack Valley in Penacook. Loosely defined as the schools covered by the Concord Monitor, it is a chance for local bragging rights, an opportunity to solidify the varsity seven for States, and a rare opportunity for a cross country kid to get his or her picture in the paper. Races start at 3:30 with the combined junior varsity race, followed by the boys varsity at 4:15 and the girls varsity at 4:45.
Headlining the boys team race, and the meet, is New Hampshire’s top ranked program, Concord. Fresh off victories over regionally and nationally ranked programs at the Wickham Invitational and Bay State Invitational, the Tide is the easy favorite to repeat, or actually three-peat. Led by the recently interchangeable duo of Forest MacKenzie and Eli Boesch-Dining, they have a good shot at placing all 7 scoring runners in the top 8. Fresh off a victory at the Plymouth Invitational, Bow looks like a good bet to score as runner-up for the first time since 2004. Newly returned to Division II, Bow actually looks like a contender for a top 6 finish at the Divisional meet and a trip to the Meet of Champions. After Bow, it looks like quite a tight battle for the third and final team podium spot. Merrimack Valley boasts a strong top two, but drops off sharply after that, Hopkinton has some depth but lacks the top seeds, similar to Kearsarge and Winnisquam. The Great Unknown is private school St. Paul’s, who if they bring their varsity, should actually compete with Bow for runner-up status, but as of this writing it is unclear who is showing up.
On the girls team side of things, it is again Concord, the only state-ranked team in the meet (6th), looking to take home the title for the 7th straight year. Hopkinton, second last year, again looks like the favorite for runner-up status after winning the Belmont Invitational and placing 5th at Pelham. Merrimack Valley, fresh off a win at the Plymouth Invite, may challenge Hopkinton. John Stark and Plymouth have the best shot of landing an upset spot on the podium.
Individually, the races should be quite interesting as some of the top runners in the state go head-to-head. MacKenzie of Concord is the defending champion and course-record holder, but his teammate Boesch-Dining has two head-to-head wins this year, and would like to join his sister as a Capital Area Champ. Hoping to spoil the party is Merrimack Valley’s David Reynolds, third last year which deprived Concord of a perfect score. Reynolds again is the best opportunity to prevent a Concord score of 15, but he also has a shot at an individual victory as the only New Hampshire runner to beat both MacKenzie and Boesch-Dining this year. After the big three, look for a slew of Concord runners, possibly including David Cook, Aiden O’Hern, Ebin Bragg, Ryan Devine, and Ryan Ciesluk. Other runners looking to place in the top 10 are MV’s Matt Reynolds, John Stark’s Brandon Langdon, Bow’s Kirpal Demian, and Tilton School’s Patrick Guinee, 5th in 2017.
For the girls, Kearsarge’s Mya Dube is back to defend her title, although she will have a huge challenge in MV’s Sophia Reynolds. The last time they met was at Black Bear, which Reynolds won to Dube’s third. Since then Dube has been on a tear, winning the Belmont Invite and the CVC Championships in very quick times. Sophia meanwhile placed 4th at the Thetford Invitational and won the Plymouth Invite. Probably the most sure thing is that the course record of 19:25 will go down. In the chase pack look for Concord’s Morgane Orcutt and Belmont’s Alice Riley, 4th and 2nd here a year ago. Inter-Lakes Maya Weil-Cooley had a solid 26th place showing at Thetford and should be close as well. Also looking for top-ten finishes are Kearsarge’s Jenna Bears, Hopkinton’s Emma Rothe and Cailey Stockwell, MV’s Emma York, and Concord’s Katie Watt and Sarah Zarakotas.