Hill Billy Relays: We Put the COUNTRY in Cross Country

By Mike Smith

“Hillbilly” – a person from a backwoods or other remote area, especially from the mountains of the southern U.S.

The origin of this meet goes back to the fall of 2015, though it was only conceptualized last season. I first uttered this “phrase” at the 2015 Cross Country Meet of Champions in a conversation with the coaching staff from Kearsarge, the team that interrupted our opportunity to repeat as D3 champions.  The conversation went something like this, “Nice job guys last week at D3s, not bad for a bunch of hill billies!” I didn’t really think much of it as I said it, considering our school is as “backwoods” as is Kearsarge. Heck, we have the stone dust track.

But boy did I regret ever saying those words.  Not because some might see it as me, the coach of Mascenic, putting down a team just because they thwarted us from repeating. No, the real reason is because that became a rallying cry for the Cougars that I’ve heard at least every season since.

To be fair, our teams get along exceedingly well for teams that battle every year for the top spots in the D3 ranks.  Peter and Ernie, along with Brian and the rest of the crew run an excellent program and recognize the value of cross country goes beyond winning championships.  We’ve recognized this about each other’s programs from the time Kearsarge came down to Division 3 in 2010. And because of that, we respect each other’s programs and what each of our teams represent.

Last year after both teams competed at the Jamie Martin Sanborn meet we were scheduled to “compete” at Kearsarge three days later.  Both programs, not looking to “burn it” so close to a big invite and being early season, came up with a plan to run a relay on their home course loop pairing our fastest guys with our slower guys in an effort to “even” the racing field.  Each relay team member would run two legs, each consisting of an approximate 1.5 mile loop and first team in wins. Competitive yet fun.  

Hinsdale, Fall Mountain, Pelham joined us and it was a hoot.  While I anticipated it to be a bit of a shoot out between the top Mascenic and Kearsarge kids (and George Gowdy of Fall Mt) it morphed more into intrasquad battles, with faster legs telling the slower legs headed out ahead of them they were about to be the hunted.  What wasn’t anticipated was how much the kids would enjoy it. A great time had by all.

Immediately after the conclusion of the meet I started to flesh out the specifics of the event, offering to host the second annual Hill Billy relays on our 1.5 mile loop home course.  Kearsarge was on board, so as the host school, I set out to create a meet unique to our two squads and everything else out there. We stole the hay bale idea from Oyster River while instituting our own “hill billy” version of a relay race as well.  Batons would be ears of corn, teams would wrangle their own uniforms and create their own unique team names. Groupings were determined from the race results at Sanborn, giving teams enough time to figure out both.

And after a pounding on the boys side for both boys teams and better than expected performances by their girls teams, the stage was set, with both squads looking to race each other along with the strategic grousing within each team.

The day of the meet, the crew from Hinsdale arrived before we even got out of school and Kearsarge soon after.  By 3:30 in the afternoon, there was more flannel in New Ipswich than at an LL Bean Outlet.  Kearsarge was fitted to the gills, blasting a blue grass/country music selection from their roaming bluetooth speaker that has become their trademark. Even race management broke out the bibbed overalls and straw hats for this one.

Just before the 4 o’clock start time, I called all the racers over to give them their final instructions.  Each team needed to cover four legs of the 1.5 mile xc loop to be officially scored. Kearsarge elected to go boy-girl, Hinsdale had to do some mismatching due to odd numbers for both their girls and boys squads, Hillsboro-Deering were only looking to cover one loop per teammate and we were going with same gender pairings, using the results from the Sanborn meet earlier in the week to match the quickest with the slowest to equalize the teams.  Also revealed at the pre race meeting was the special batons, ears of corn, that would need to migrate around the field four times to be official. Lead legs were instructed to go “pick” their batons out of the barrel and report back to the start line for the beginning of the race. At the gun, approximately 50 teams streamed across the 3rd base line of the baseball field and out the gate onto the cross country loop.

The resulting competition was fierce, fun and fired up.  There were intersquad battles, intrasquad battles, sibling battles, battles with racing attire and a battle of the sexes.  We even had a guy named Jethro on the winning team, reminiscent of the TV show the “Beverly Hillbillies”. In the end it seems everyone got what they were looking for out of it, a competitive yet fun workout with some of the people in Division 3 who happen to run cross country.

Results

1 Chu 36:57

2 DQ’d 39:15

3 ConBon 40:44

4 Alex/Lily 41:12

5 The Black Hammer of Gabrius 41:15

6 Nobody 42:28

7 Grinda Moles 42:29

8 Chris/Kelsey 43:23

9 Joss 43:25

10 Silly Willys 43:38

11 Team 80s 44:31

12 Gravy Train 44:33

13 Ellie/Shawn 45:00

14 Mar/Jacob 45:00

15 Jakob/Maddie 45:06

16 Kearsarge 45:10

17 Gavin/MacKenzie 45:21

18 Tigers 45:53

19 Runs Gone Wild 45:56

20 Erin/Shawn 47:14

21 KKOs 47:19

22 Cripple Threat 47:58

23 Sea Turtles 48:57

24 Keeping Up with the Kenyans 49:47

25 Dolphins 50:26

26 Hilly Bill 51:01

27 Legends 51:51

28 Big XC 52:42

29 Girth 58:26

30 Yams 58:32

*Next year’s event is tentatively scheduled for Hinsdale.

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