Division Favorites – Exeter, Coe-Brown, Hopkinton
Individuals to Watch – Caroline Fischer (BG), Caroline Towle (BG), Cali Coffin (South), Sophia Reynolds (MV), Chloe Trudel (Souhegan), Addison Cox (Coe-Brown), Mya Dube (Kearsarge), Liza Corso (Portsmouth Christian)
Hopkinton romped last year, defeating two time defending champions Campbell in the process, looking like the Hawks of the early 2000s. Hopkinton put their top five in the top twenty six, fronted by sophomore Cailey Stockwell (5th, 20:47), junior Emma Rothe (10th, 20:54) and sophomore Anna O’Reilly (12th, 20:57.) Returning everyone from their championship squad, and with support from a strong middle school program, the Hawks from Hopkinton should be in the driver’s seat come October.
Certainly on their heels and looking to take back the championship should be Campbell. The Cougars lost last fall by 29 points, but like Hopkinton the Cougars lose no one and will be motivated to take back the title. Led by juniors Cassie Hemming (15th, 21:23) and Megan Whitnell (18th, 21:40) and a strong supporting cast that put five in the top 29, expect the Cougars from the flat country to vy for the top spot.
The next three spots could be taken up by the three teams that qualified for Meet of Champions last year. Kearsarge loses one to graduation, while Lebanon and Monadnock lose no one. Kearsarge is fronted by the two time defending champ and potentially top NH runner in senior Mya Dube (19:50) and has a strong group of support runners with all seven finishing in the top 50 in 2018. Teammates Lilli Baer and Jenna Bear had fantastic spring seasons that should bode well this fall. Depth should help them make that push for the top.
Lebanon returns with better numbers than Monadnock and has no true front runner but a solid pack that makes them dangerous. Fronted by sophomores Brianna DeBanico (20th, 21:49) and Sophia Amaro (27th, 22:40) if these girls get better as a pack they could become dangerous. Monadnock only ran five at the 2018 SCs, which means they could be vulnerable to injury. Led by junior Delaney Swanson (4th, 20:30) and senior Sadie Lorenz (14th, 21:09) the Huskies will look to the magic that saw them win in 2015.
Late word on the street is Portsmouth Christian will be receiving the services of the Malone sisters, junior Ella (19:51) and freshman Brianna, which paired with junior Liza Corso (20:16), the Eagles could be challenging for that #1 spot as well.
Looking to break into the top five moving onto Meet of Champions would be Newmarket and Mascenic. Mascenic squeaked in back in 2017 and return their top four, but only four. Their middle school program that has a history of strong performances but was made up of all 7th and 5th graders. They are led by junior Quinn Aldrich ( 23rd, 22:04) and if they get someone to fill the fifth spot, they could be in the mix. The Newmarket Mules are on the upward trend, supported by some stable coaching and solid pack running. Led by sophomore Isabel Pertony (19th, 21:44) and finishing in the 6th spot, anticipate that with another year’s progression, this young team will continue improving.
Individually. Kearsarge’s Dube is in a class of her own. Finishing fifth at Meet of Champions and the two time D3 champion, Dube should have her way with the division all season. However PCA’s Liza Corso is no slouch and won’t let Dube get off easy. Both girls had an incredible spring season and should be at another level in D3. Also InterLake’s Maya eil-Cooley popped a good one at last year’s MOCs and might be ready to jump to the next level. Lorenz and Swanson of Monadnock, Stockwell, Rothe and O’Reilly of Hopkinton look to make up those in the chase for a top five finish. Margaret St. John of Hinsdale, Prospect Mountain’s Veronica Dowd and Winnisquam’s Faith Gosselin will be looking for a top ten finish or better as well.
At the end of the 2018 D2 XC Season, one would have looked at the Coe-Brown Bears as the heavy favorite to repeat in 2019. They were returning six of their top seven and looked like they would get 3-4 dynamite freshmen. But things change and with Ella Malone transferring to PCA, the Bears lose the #4 returner in D2. How would this effect their chances? Well consider they do still have 5 of 7 returning led by the very experienced, All Nike Northeast Addison Cox (11, 19:17) and Abigail O’Connor (12, 20:15) along with solid returners in Miranda Compton (11, 21:06), Amelia Edmonds (10, 21:15), and Tessa Millette (11, 21:16), all among the top 14 of D2 returnees, the Bears would seemingly have the edge. Mix in a group of talented freshmen including D3 Middle School Champ Mallory Taylor, Sheldyn Fisher (8th), Mary Joy (10th) and Natalie Sicard (12th) and the Bears are still very deep.
Talk about depth, look no further than Coe-Brown Route 4 rivals Oyster River as the Bobcats return their entire team. Led by their senior contingent Lily Doody (12, 20:41), Olivia Lenk (12, 20:50), Madison Hoppler (12, 21:19) and Kadence Murphy (12, 21:32), the Bobcats boast quite the collective experience for new coach Nicole Toye. After a very successful outdoor season, watch out for Doody to make a big jump up the standings as well. If she can finish in the top 3-5 and Sophie Sullivan (11, 21:45) and Marlee Yoder (11, 22:09) can join the seniors, the Bobcats could very well take the title from the Bears.
Prior to last year, the Souhegan Sabers reigned supreme over Division 2 in 2016 and 2017. While injuries may have contributed to their third place showing in 2018, the converse may see them return to the podium this year. Led by the spring’s breakthrough athlete in Chloe Trudel (10, 19:34), the Sabers will also return previous all-stater in Marissa Romano and Mackenzie Hayden, both of whom did not compete for them at last year’s Division meet. They will join junior Molly Jennings (21:27), Adrianna Zlotnick (11, 21:40), and incoming freshman Masho Primer (7th D2 Middle School Champs).
A fourth contending team has to be Hanover as they return four of their top seven led by Christine Aman (12, 20:40). Look for the tradition rich Hanover Marauders to jump right back into the fray as they also return a strong core with Caroline Loescher (11, 21:39), Charlotte Tagupa (10, 21:48), and Alice Garner (12, 22:01) while adding incoming freshman Laura Eiler who was 13th at the 2018 D2 Middle School State Championships.
Although they lost all-everything Lauren Robinson to matriculation, the Milford Spartans return a 6 of their top 7 and should be looking for their 3rd consecutive trip to the Meet of Champions. Looking at a top 10 finish will be Abby Halloran (10, 20:20). She is supported by Leslie McGrath (11, 22:15), Lori DeMambro (12, 22:21), Jona Valazquez (10, 22:43), and Lexi Labour (10, 22:59).
Led by defending D2 champ Sophia Reynolds and senior Emma York (20:46) along with the addition of incoming frosh Sophie Rebenciuc (MS D2 runner-up), Merrimack Valley finds themselves back in the contender role. With senior Madisyn Garrity close behind at 22:30, if MV can find a fifth who can run with Garrity, they could threaten a podium spot!
Other teams hoping to make waves and possibly surprise into an MOC berth include Windham, Hollis-Brookline, Plymouth and Kennett.
Individually, we could be in for quite a show if last track season provided a glimpse into the future. 2018 Champ Reynolds (MV) v. Trudel (Souhegan) could play out on the hills and trails of Derryfield much like it did on the oval at UNH where Reynolds edged Trudel 10:57 to 11:00 in the 3200. Both will be sophomores, so we can look forward to many more seasons of these two. The only returner with a shot to join this party seems to be Cox, who now a junior, has the experience to keep them sight. She is coming off an injury which shortened her spring track season so look for her in the second half of cross season. The rest of the top 10 will see names like Doody, O’Connor, Halloran, Aman, York, Lenk and Bell, but don’t be surprised to see 2-3 freshmen cracking the top ten as is the case every year. Names like Taylor and Rebenciuc come to mind, but expect another name to pop up as well!
Mid-August is a wonderful time for runners because it means the cross country season is around the corner. All the miles over the summer will pay off as we begin our official season. As we begin, the question always comes up, who is the favorite returning team? Cross country isn’t easy to predict since there are so many factors including incoming freshmen that are so unpredictable especially for girls. Every year we lose some of our best athletes to injury since the line between greatness and injury is very small. However, it is fun to attempt to predict what will happen in late October.
Division One girls only graduated 6 of the top 25 girls from 2018, so there isn’t much room for newcomers. However, three of the graduated girls were in the top six, so many teams may need to recover after graduating their top runner and will be hoping to fill that spot with a veteran or a newcomer that has had a great training year. During the 2018 season, Pinkerton Academy and Exeter battled to be the top Division One team. At Division One Pinkerton just edged Exeter by three points for the crown, then Exeter took the Meet of Champions being the best team of all divisions. Pinkerton came back in New Englands to be the top NH girls team, making them the best Division One team for the year.
I think this year will be a similar battle but I give Exeter the early edge assuming all are healthy. Even though Exeter loses their leader in Violet Sullivan, they return the rest of their top seven including Grace Mercier (11, 19:53), who should be a contender for a top five finish. After Mercier they have Allison Kelley (12, 20:29), Grace Jordan (11, 20:41), and Hadley Raymond (12, 20:52) All returning varsity capable of being in the top 25 at the Division One Championship meet. Add to those four, the Division One Middle School State runner-up Meadow Gregory and that is a very solid top five.
Pinkerton Academy is the early season favorite to fight with Exeter for the crown especially since they return their top two including 2018 3rd place finisher Meghan Cross (12, 19:16) and Mariesa Preble (10, 20:11). Both should be top ten this fall and will give Pinkerton an edge after two runners. Riley Sweeney (10) and Molly McGaffigan (11) should give Pinkerton four runners in the top 25. However, we know it takes 5 scorers to win a title, so Pinkerton will need to work on their fifth runner since last season there was over a minute separating their fourth and fifth. If they can do that, Exeter is in for a fight.
Based on returnees from last years D1s, Concord and Manchester Central are the next teams capable of fighting to be on the podium. Neither one has been up there for years, so they may be getting ansy and will fight hard to take it back. Concord was third last year but over 50 points behind the top two (Pinkerton and Exeter). However, Concord returns their top three from last year’s D1 meet in: Morgane Orcutt (11, 19:56), Hannah Willette (11, 20:48) and Abby Goulas (10, 20:48). Add two more girls from their varsity under 21:30 in Katherine Kennedy (10, 21:09) and Katie Watt (11, 21:20) along with the 2 girls from the third place Middle School team moving up to high school and Concord should be very deep. Manchester Central was sixth in D1 in 2018 but returns their top four and adds two girls from the middle school runner up team which will give them a strong, deep team as well. Savaughn Facenda (10, 20:11), Keegan Pepin (12, 20:26) and Katelyn Pepin (12, 20:47) will be a nice starting three.
The next few teams are only separated by a few points on paper, but experience and training can make that completely change. Salem, Keene and Bishop Guertin should be the next teams to make the Meet of Champions from Division One, not necessarily in that order. Salem was fifth last year with a very young team that came on strong early season and didn’t quite live up to their potential at the end of the season. However, the team is a year older, many more competitive races under their belts and could shake things up in D1. Bethany Graham (10, 20:04) and Natalie Coryea (10, 20:10), now sophomores, should be fighting for a top ten, maybe even top 5 spot in D1 which is a great way to start. Senior Silvia Caddell (12, 20:34)could give them three in the top fifteen and that could be the best top three in the Division.
Keene, Bishop Guertin and Nashua South are three teams which have a few “ifs” with huge upsides.
Keene was 8th at last year’s divisional meet but returns their entire top seven including Makayla Randall (12, 20:05), who will be fighting for a top five spot individually. Sophomore Hannah Shepard (10, 20:33) and junior Amelia Opsahl (11, 20:57) give them three returners under 21:00 at Derryfield and again a nice start for a solid top five. Coming off strong track seasons, they could be the surprise of 2019. Shepard ran a 2:23 800 while Opsahl kicked a 11:30 3200 meters. They seem to have a strong incoming freshmen class headlined by Reagan Hoy who placed 3rd in Middle School D3.
Bishop Guertin is a little bit of a wild card. On paper they are the 7th returning team, but easily has the best 1-2 punch in the state. Seniors Caroline Fischer (12, 18:48) and Caroline Towle (12, 18:51) will be looking to repeat as 1-2 in Division One which will give them an awfully low score after two girls. However, last season they had to reach over two minutes to their third girl. That won’t be the case this year as Fiona Doherty, coming off a strong track season which saw her blaze some great mile times joings their crew. They have some work to do to fill the gap after her, but you can never count Bishop Guertin out of the mix as they have a way of fighting til the end.
Nashua South also has a huge upside as they should have their number 1 back in Cali Coffin. A healthy Coffin would place at least in the top 5 and present a 30-40+ point swing. This could launch them into contention for a podium spot.
Bedford and Manchester Memorial will be looking to find a way into the top seven and maybe make Meet of Champions but have some holes to fill. Bedford was 7th last year at Divisionals, but they graduated two of their top four. However, their JV team was an easy victor in the D1 JV State Meet with only 29 points. So they can be dangerous. Manchester Memorial didn’t have a scoring team at Division One last year, but have four girls capable of running under 22:00 at Derryfield including Asia Mercier who was 23rd last year running 20:39. If they can find a fifth runner to go with those four, maybe they can earn a MOC spot.
Individually, Fischer and Towle should be an easy 1-2, with Fischer the favorite after having a successful spring season and looking stronger every season. South’s Coffin and Pinkerton’s Cross will be hoping to break up the top two, as well as Exeter’s Mercier and Concord’s Orcutt. Salem’s Graham and Coryea will be fighting for a top ten spot as well as Keene’s Randall. Central’s Facenda and Keegan Pepin will be battling Pinkerton’s Preble, Bedford’s Carly Rinko and Exeter’s Kelley for the remaining couple spots in the all important top 10.
Last year was a championship season played out literally in the mud. Wet, muddy conditions present inconsistency at times across meets. The Division meets saw deteriorating course conditions as the day wore on basically opening up an opportunity for a surprise of sorts as Exeter, 2nd in D1 the week prior, won the MOC team title by only 3 points over a revamped Coe-Brown team. Not only that but compared to 2017 where we saw a whopping 29 athletes break 19:00, only 11 did so in the fun, sloppiness of 2018. It is reasonable to expect better weather this year, but both Exeter and Coe-Brown should still be contenders for top team honors. However, individually speaking with 13 of the top 25 finishers from 2018 graduated, a whole new wave of athletes will occupy the top spots qualifying for New Englands.
Matter of fact as we see it, as of this posting any one of 5 teams could take home top honors this year. Yes CBNA returns a ton and has some dynamite freshmen and Exeter returns everyone not named Violet Sullivan, but consider a team like Bishop Guertin who has a revitalized Caroline Fischer, indoor double state champ Caroline Towle and transfer Fiona Doherty who broke through in the 1600 last spring. Knowing how the Cardinals develop a team annually and with those potential low sticks, they may very well become a factor. Three in the top 10-15 at MOCs is tough.
Don’t discount perennial powerhouse Pinkerton either as the coaching staff always seems to find a way to be around by the end of each season. Remember they were the surprise New England Champs in 2017! They still have talented veterans like Meghan Cross and always pick up an impact freshman or two!
Talk about experience, Oyster River will also be a contender with their senior-laden, pack running mentality. If they can just move that pack or at least a pair up into the single digits, they could steal the title as well.
Individually, well, can you say barn burner??? We have two triple crown winners from the spring track season in a healthy Caroline Fischer and Mya Dube. Both seniors, both well coached. Your guess is as good as ours. However, one cannot count out the super sophs of Sophia Reynolds and Chloe Trudel. They will be a part of that lead pack and have the pedigree to take the win as well. Expect this pack of four to separate.
The secondary pack will still be nothing to sneeze at with the likes of Caroline Towle, Cali Coffin, Addison Cox, Meghan Cross, Grace Mercier, Maya Weil-Cooley Liza Corso and Carly Rinko. Several of these names could join the top four and if they can hang around, one never knows!