2019 NHIAA NH Divisional Championship Preview

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 six2018 Div 2 Championship-4 races in the order they will compete.  Look forward to live instagram updates throughout the day!  Look for Recaps, Post Race Interviews and Race Videos after the meet, over the weekend!

As always event t-shirts/apparel will be for sale as well as Flor De Café (coffee vendor) and Big Rig BBQ!

Visit our NH State Divisional Championships Meet Hub for videos, interviews, pics from past years and this year!!!

Event Information Link to Lancer Timing

Girls Division 2 – 10:00am

The Division II girls teams are an annual power in New Hampshire cross country, and 2019 should be no different with four teams ranked in the top ten, including the top ranked team. The favorites to place in the top 6 and move on to the Meet of Champions include the four teams for whom MOC’s is an annual tradition (Coe-Brown, Hanover, Oyster River, and Souhegan), and two teams who rotate in periodically (Merrimack Valley and Kennett).

Coming into the season Oyster River and Coe-Brown were essentially tied as favorites based on returning runners, while Souhegan was looked at as a threat based on possible runners. Fast forward to late 2018 Div 2 Championship-20.jpgOctober, and Souhegan has become the easy pick to win the division, with a team that seems good enough to threaten for a spot on the New Englands podium. Interestingly, while Chloe Trudel returns as their top runner and individual favorite, the rest of their current top 5 is made up of runners who were not on their New England-qualifying team last year, with two not even racing varsity until October of this year. Georgia and India Jones, both talented track runners, have arrived to make an impact in cross country, while Mackenzie Hayden returned from injury in 2018 and 9th-grader Masho Primmer effortlessly moved up from middle school to add even more speed. With speed up front, a tight compression, and plenty of depth, Souhegan is the complete package.

Coming into the season Merrimack Valley had three reliable returning racers, and adding DII Middle School runner-up Sophia Rebenciuc meant they only needed to find a fifth to be competitive. Freshman Samantha Kimball has stepped in to fill that role, running anywhere from 3rd to 5th on the team. While defending champion Sophia Reynolds has had some illness issues this year, she seems to be on the mend, with her best race of the year coming last week at Capital Area. Rebenciuc has been a bit of a surprise, emerging as MV’s top runner, giving the Pride a very solid 1-2 punch. Emma York and Madisyn Garrity form the remainder of the top 5, but after that there is a significant gap. There is no room for error with MV, as teams like Souhegan, Coe-Brown, and Kennett can plug a lot2018 Div 2 Championship-7 of runners in between MV’s 2nd and 4th.

Coe-Brown is the third ranked team in DII, and has had its share of highs and lows. On the upside, Abigail O’Connor has emerged as a top runner, winning Battle of the Border and placing 4th at the Wickham Invitational. The Bears also have their usual strength of depth, with  freshmen Mallory Taylor and Sheldyn Fisher adding to returners Tessa Millette, Samantha Lemay, and Amelia Edmonds. On the flipside, CB’s top returning runner Addison Cox has been dealt a tough hand, returning at the end of September from back issues only to be diagnosed with Lyme Disease. She does seem to be improving, however, and may return for the Division Meet. Obviously, adding Cox into the mix dramatically increases the chances of Coe-Brown making the podium, but they are a team with determination so expect them to give MV a good battle either way.

Kennett is the final ranked team, and while there does seem to be some daylight between them and the top three teams, they boast a strong pack and could threaten if one of the teams above them falters. Led by McKayla Dockham and Amy Burton, the compression of the remainder of their top five should see them through to MOC’s.

Another team with a tight grouping is Hanover. They also boast a strong individual runner in Christine Bobcat Invitational-577Aman, and recently placed 2nd at the CVC’s. Caroline Loescher, Charlotte Tagupa, Bridget Meehan, and Riley Roach should give the Marauders the depth they need to move on for another week and keep their “forever” streak of MOC appearances intact. 

The final team in the top six forecast is also the most unpredictable. Picked as DII’s top team for 2019, Oyster River has struggled to put together a complete team race. They do have all 7 runners from their 2018 New England-qualifying team back, so they certainly have the talent to leapfrog, potentially all the way to second. Lily Doody leads OR, with Marlee Yoder, Madison Hoppler, Zoe Pavlick, Sophie Sullivan, and Olivia Lenk providing support. Look out for this team. 

For dark horse picks, it’s a tricky pick in 2019. Several teams have had good races recently, but not at a level that obviously challenges the six teams listed. These include Windham (5th at Pelham), Milford (6th at Pelham), Lebanon (4th at CVC’s), and St. Thomas. With the unpredictability of cross country, you just never know, so count on these teams to give it their all to extend the season a week!

Individually, Souhegan’s Chloe Trudel looks to be in the drivers seat. Her only blemish against DII competition came against MV’s Sophia Rebenciuc, a 1-second loss at Thetford. While Rebenciuc can be counted on to push for the win, don’t count out Souhegan’s Georgia Jones, who has made huge improvements in a very short time. Looking to also be in the lead pack will be MV’s Reynolds, Souhegan’s Hayden, and Coe-Brown’s O’Connor. While this pack might be slightly ahead of the rest of the field, look for the top ten to come from a group that includes Souhegan’s Primmer and India Jones, Coe-Brown’s Taylor and Fisher, MV’s York, Hanover’s Aman, and Lebanon’s Sophia Amaro.

– Dave Irving

Boys Division 2 – 10:40amBattle of the Border 2019-740

After an abnormally warm Fall, we finally have some real Cross Country weather just in time for the Divisional Championships this Saturday!  Here are some predictions for D2 boys teams followed by some thoughts about the individuals.

Current NH #1, Northeast #5, National #28. Coe-Brown has put together an incredibly talented group and looks like an absolute lock to repeat as D2 Champions. The Bears have other meets in sight that are deeper into the season but they will not overlook the Divisional Championships and are deep enough and talented enough to win even without their “A game”.  Led by Luke Tkaczyk, Aidan Cox, Wyatt Mackey and Dawson Dubois and boasting a very tight 1-5 pack, the Coe-Brown boys look like one of the best NH teams we’ve seen in recent years.

The team slated in the second position is talented and deep as well as no stranger to a top 2 finish. Oyster River is historically among the top teams in the division and this year is no different. The Bobcats rave been racing well all year and are hungry. Led by a tightly bunched trio in Myles Carrico, Andy O’Brien, and Owen Fleischer, Oyster River is NH #6 and is a strong candidate to move on to New Englands after their inevitable MOC (Meet of Champions) berth.

Manchester Invitational 2019 Small School-215NH #9 and the projected third best team in D2 is Windham.  Led by a strong 1-2 of Rohan Rai and Trey Gonzalez, the Jaguars obviously put in the summer running and have emerged as a real force in D2 XC. This team has both chemistry and talent while being helped immensely by a “low stick” number from Rai. Their 3-7 runners will need to have good days to earn this #3 spot; there are a few other comparable teams that are eager to take a shot at this Windham crew.

One such team is Hanover, a team known for distance tradition and performance in big meets. Hanover is projected to finish 4th at D2s, but they are definitely capable of moving up a notch. Led by Daniel Frost and Trevor Siegel, the Marauders have an outstanding 1-5 pack time and are eager to maximize their potential. You can never sleep on a Hanover team!

Right in the same tier is Souhegan, fresh off of a very good Pelham Invite performance. The Sabers have made a quantum leap in performance from the beginning of the season to now, and don’t be surprised to see this projected 5th place team jump up a place or even two with a good day this Saturday. Led by Kariso Anderson and Ethan McFee, this team has an excellent pack grouping as well as a high performance ceiling for the up front guys.Battle of the Border 2019-777

The 4-6 spots at D2s this weekend are very much up for grabs, and look for projected #6 Con-Val to be MOC bound. The Cougars are capable of ending up in the #4 or #5 spots as well, led by Harrison Kim and Danny Veverka. This is a tough team that wants to prove that it belongs in the Meet of Champions.

With an incredible amount of parity in D2 outside of the top 3 teams, don’t be surprised if Bow or Portsmouth find a way to claw their way into the top 6. In addition, Sanborn is a team to watch for sure; with Dylan and Jared Khalil as well as Owen Stocker, Sanborn could finish as high as #3!

Individually, either one of the Oyster River duo of Carrico and O’Brien could finish #1, as could one of the Coe-Brown Bears in Tkaczyk, Cox, or Dubois.  Either of the Khalil brothers could take the top spot too, it’s not a clear-cut projection this year!

Good luck and good health to all teams, see you Saturday!


Manchester Invitational 2019 large School-387Girls Division 1 – 11:30am

There is a chill in the air, the leaves are falling, so that means the Divisional Cross Country Championships must be on the horizon.  Saturday is the day many teams have been talking about since August, for some since last spring.  The miles are in the books and now it is time to find out which teams are strong enough to make it to the Meet of Champions next weekend and make it onto the podium as a team.  Division One is the middle meet this year, so right before lunch, the division one girls will be on the line ready to shine.

Division One has 6 teams ranked in the top ten for the state including #2, #3, and #4 which means the battle for the title should be fierce.  Bishop Guertin, currently NH ranked #2, is the favorite sporting the best 1-2 punch in the state, possibly in New England with Caroline Fischer and Caroline Towle.  The full Bishop Guertin team hasn’t raced together for a few weeks, so it is tough to say exactly how good they are, but if you put the pieces together it looks like they will take the crown.  Fischer is coming off a huge win in the Brown Invitational Championship race running a blistering time and Towle is coming off a huge 2nd place finish at Wickham Park Invitational running under the course record.  They could go 1-2 on Saturday which makes for a huge start.  Following them are three sophomores Mary Kate Finn, Fiona Doherty and Madeleine Moynihan.  The team title can not be won with two girls, so these three will be the deciding factors whether BG can get back on the podium for the win.Black Bear Invite 2019-1402

Concord and Keene will be biting at Bishop Guertin’s heels waiting for them to falter so they can steal the title.  Concord is coming off of a huge win at Capital Area Championships beating one of the best teams from Division 2, Merrimack Valley by 26 points.  Concord may not have two big guns up front but their top five have been within 40 seconds of each other, which we all know is very powerful in the sport of cross country.  If that group can be up far enough, they may be able to overtake the Cardinals.  Morgane Orcutt and Molly Nyhan are running very well and will be looking to make the top ten to lead their team, followed very closely by Sophie Hopkins, Katherine Kennedy and Alexis ChristieKeene had a huge win at the CVC Championships recently and are a bit of a surprise since they don’t compete against a lot of the Division 1 schools on this side of the state very often.  However, they are showing that they are fired up and ready for Division One.  Mikayla Randall and Amelia Opsahl will be shooting for the all important top ten spots, possibly even sneaking into the top 5 this Saturday.  That gives Keene two numbers lower than Concord’s number one so then it will come down to the depth of each team.  Hannah Shepard, Reagan Hoy and Sophia Guardiano have all been running really strong to round out their scoring five, but will it be enough to take down Concord for the runner-up position or possibly even taking the crown?  We will find out.

After the top three there will be a tight match-up for the next three positions.  Depending on the day Exeter, Manchester Invitational 2019 large School-25Bedford and Londonderry have all looked stronger than the others so it will really depend on which one has the better day come Saturday morning.  All three teams have a top runner (or two) that should be fighting for the top ten.  Exeter is led by Ali McFarland and Grace Jordan, Bedford by Carly Rinko and Londonderry by Caitlin Boufford and Grace McDonough.  They each have beaten each other at different invitationals throughout the season so it appears that they will all be battling once again, but this time all at once on our well known Derryfield Park.  The team nod goes to Exeter since lately their next three girls have been packed tighter and closer to their top two.  Grace Mercier, Anna Madden and Hadley Raymond will be looking to bring their team to a solid finishing spot and possibly knock one of the two down if they are on.  Bedford and Londonderry has some nice grouping after their top runners but seem to be farther back in the pack which hurts their team score.  Kaitlyn Boles, Jamie Karr, Alexis Mahoney and Avery Houghton have been rounding out Bedford’s scoring five while Cailey McDonough, Emi Smith and Cailin Borovicka have been the scoring members for Londonderry.

Looking to find the seventh and final Meet of Champions qualifying spot will be Nashua South, Pinkerton and Salem.  If South’s Cali Coffin is healthy and racing that helps them tremendously and gives them the edge, but Pinkerton always Nashua 2019 (637 of 1220).JPGcomes on strong when it counts.  Led by veteran Meghan Cross, Pinkerton is hoping to overcome some injuries this season to continue their season another week.  Salem hasn’t been as strong this season as expected early season, so don’t be surprised to see them come together when it matters and surprise some people.

Individually, BG’s Fischer and Towle should be fighting for the individual title but South’s Coffin won’t give it away.  Keene’s Randall and Opsahl, Bedford’s Rinko, Londonderry’s Boufford and McDonough, Exeter’s McFarland, BG’s Finn will all be there fighting for the top ten.  Winnacunnet’s Mackenna Whelan and Merrimack’s Adele Alexander have been running strong and will be in the mix as well.

The weather looks perfect, high 50’s and sun, the girls are ready to go…Should be an exciting day.

– Amy Sanborn

Boys Division 1 – 12:10pm2018 Div 1 championship-144.jpg

The leaves are changing, Halloween is just around the corner and you know what that means! Championship season is here! Division I has had the kind of season you love to see a cross country fan giving me the hardest task I’ve had in several years. Five(!!!) teams are serious contenders for the championship, so let’s break down a bit how this season has gone and look at who maybe looks like the best bet to win.

#1 Keene

Keene knew they had a solid top man in Jake Velazquez but Nico Ramirez and Torin Kindopp have looked even better than expected, giving Keene an extremely strong top three. Additionally, their four and five are no slouch breaking 17:00 at the fourth spot and running just over at 17:01 at the fifth spot. They’ve looked very strong at every race they’ve gone to this season including beating some strong Massachusetts squads. The combination of potential race winners at the top and a fifth who could find themselves under 17:00 on Saturday gives Keene the edge this weekend.

2018 Div 1 championship-190.jpg#2 Pinkerton

Pinkerton came into this season looking like they might be on the outside looking in for the first time in a number of years. While they knew they had a near top of the race guy in sophomore Luke Brennan, they didn’t seem to quite have the depth through five to put them at the top. Enter junior Stephen Connelly ,who gave Pinkerton a surprise jolt by moving to the school after running some outstanding track times in California. Connelly became Brennan’s shadow this season giving the school an unexpected 1-2 punch that immediately bumped them up the rankings. If Pinkerton’s fifth runner can shave off even just a few seconds their excellent 1-4 grouping could put them back on the podium.

#3 Concord

Losing a top pair like Forest MacKenzie and Eli Boesch-Dining can be tough on a team, but Concord has weathered the storm well. Junior Eben Bragg found his way to the front for the team and has been one of the top runners in the division this season. Concord has amazing depth this season with an interchangeable top five and are coming off a race that saw their top four all under 17:00 and the fifth just slightly over, as well as 3 more under 17 in the JV race!!! They don’t have quite the up front punch that the two top ranked teams have so they’re going to need their whole five to keep as close to Bragg as possible to take home the win.

#4 Winnacunnet2018 Div 1 championship-145.jpg

Another team with a strong front runner, Colin Donnelly came into this season in discussion for the state individual title and has showed it’s not just talk. He had another great race this past weekend at CMI handily winning his race, but he’s not alone. Noah Taracena and Jack Taylor have both put in one solid race after another backing up the front man. Winnacunnet’s excellent top three is going to need some help from their four and five who have run well with some times in the mid 17’s this past weekend.  If they can move up a little bit Winnacunnet could bump off some of the guys ahead of them.

#5 Londonderry

Londonderry put up several victories against teams ahead of them on this list behind excellent runs from their top two runners Ryan Young and Matt Griffin, but ran into a challenge when they found out this weekend they would be without their third runner at D1s. While that certainly makes their day a bigger challenge, counting them out would be a huge mistake because if anyone is built to handle the loss, it’s these guys. At their last full length race they put six guys under 17:00 and two under 16:00 and that matches them up with any of the teams ahead of them here. Keep an eye on how quick their top five comes in and you might be surprised.

2018 Div 1 championship-196The Dark Horse – Nashua North

It would be tough, but Nashua North shouldn’t be counted out. They might have the fastest guy in the state in Rory Curran and Yassine Jakib has been racing extremely well this season. They’re followed by two seniors who are solidly into the 17:00’s and a freshman who snuck under at CMI this past weekend. If any of the teams ahead of them on here falter, North will be ready to capitalize.

Individual Race

Equally as exciting as the team race there are a lot of individual runners to keep an eye on this weekend. My top pick is Rory Curran, who is coming off a dominating performance at CMI and looks to be building momentum going into the big race. Jake Velazquez is the top returner from last year, so he obviously knows how to run the course well and has put on some excellent performances himself going well into the 15:00’s on multiple occasions. Colin Donnelly has his own resume of race wins to draw from this season and also had an excellent win at CMI. Some other guys to keep an eye on are Luke Brennan and Stephen Connelly from Pinkerton who always seem to be in the mix at the top and Pinkerton guys always seem to really show up at D1s. My dark horse is Londonderry’s Ryan Young, who smashed the Londonderry course record a few weeks ago going well under 16:00 and seems to have gained confidence every week this year after having a rough sophomore season.

-Ian French

Girls Division 3 – 1:00pm2018 Div 3 Championship-12

Full disclosure – I coach Mascenic and when I write the season previews I look at the final standings from the previous cross country season, evaluate how graduation will affect returning squads, look at how teams do in the distance events in the spring and use my best judgement in putting together a best guess for the upcoming season.  I tend to pay deference to last year’s champion as everyone still needs to prove they have what it takes to wrestle away the top spot. Obviously this leaves me blind to the work a team might do during the summer, and coupled with transfers or no shows which can significantly impact the smaller teams that generally make up D3. This season is a prime example of that.

Last year, Hopkinton romped to the championship, putting their top five in the top 26.  This year it looks like they could do even better, as they have six or seven girls that not only could be in the top twenty five but have been relatively interchangeable all season.  Anna O’Reilly, Cailey Stockwell, Emma Rothe and freshman Hannah Bennett have all led the Hawks at one point of the season and seem to have a real synergy going as well. Add in Sydney Stockwell and a rejuvenated Lily Sabol and you have a team not only in the driver’s seat for D3s, but potentially a candidate for a New England berth.  If any team is to dislodge them from the top, they have their work cut out for 2018 Div 3 Championship-10them.

Looking to press the Hawks should be Kearsarge.  Led by NH ace Mya Dube, and backed by the division’s best top three with Lili Baers and Jenna Bears, the Cougars from hill country have been working all season to bring along their fourth and fifth runners along in order to break up the Hopkinton juggernaut.  

Campbell has returned a strong contingent of runners with championship experience.  Led by Cassie Hemming and Megan Whitnell, the Cougars of the flat country are sure to make anyone’s championship run difficult.  Starting off slow this season, the Cougars have started picking up steam coming into the end, which should serve them well on October 26th.

Another team with the potential to do some damage is Portsmouth Christian Academy.  Blessed by the transfer of Ella Malone and sister Brianna, PCA’s Liza Corso and Lily Kjendahl got an immediate boost to the season and if they can bring up a credible fifth, they should be in the mix for a Meet of Champions spot and could climb the D3 ranks.

Other teams looking for a Meet of Champions berth would be Newmarket, Hinsdale, Monadnock and Mascenic.  Last year Monadnock made the cut and were and are led by Delaney Swanson and Sadie Lorenz. Early season results haven’t looked good as they were only running four but Monadnock usually finds a way to get it done.   Newmarket, Hinsdale and Mascenic are young squads and have all been trying to find their footing this fall with Newmarket besting both of the others at the Cougar Classic, but each have the talent should other teams have difficulty finding a groove on championship morning.

Individually, Kearsarge’s Dube is in the driver’s seat having won every major D3 event in over a year.  Certain to not make it easy for Dube is PCA’s Corso, always bringing it to every championship. Also looking for spots towards the top should be Monadnock’s Swanson and Lorenz, Prospect Mountain’s Veronica Dowd, Baers and Bears of Kearsarge, Faith Gosselin of Winnisquam, Cassie Hemming of Campbell, Margaret St. John of Hinsdale, Brianna and Emma Malone of PCA, and O’Reilly, Stockwell, Bennett and Rothe of Hopkinton.

-Mike Smith

Boys Division 3 – 1:40pm2018 Div 3 Championship-243

In the season preview I mentioned that my team, Mascenic, was the strongest returning team on paper, bringing back five of their top seven, and expect them to be there in October as long as they put in their summer training.  However on the first day of practice, only three of the top seven, junior team leader Landen Vaillancourt, sophomore Connor Traffie and senior Zack Allen returned to action. The Vikings have since added junior Josh Movsessian halfway through the season who seems to be progressing quickly and getting back in the swing of things.  Add in freshmen Drew Traffie and Ryan O’Shea along with much improved JV man Jethro Somero, all who have been coming on as of late and the low stick Vaillancourt will provide them, the Vikings might indeed have what it takes to return to the top of the D3 heap.

Definitively dangerous are the Orioles of Conant.  The top D3 team at the Jamie Martin Invite, behind the front running of Chris Taylor and Matt Bernier and a solid pack 3-6, the Orioles have been quietly amassing the “W’s” throughout the season and might have the firepower to counter Mascenic’s low stick in Vaillancourt.  Good runs by Taylor and Bernier, along with support from Ethan Vitello, Ethan Weinhold, Trevor Pierce and John Mormando and coach Bill Edson’s boys might have what it takes to dethrone Mascenic.

2018 Div 3 Championship-275If either of those two stumble, look for Hopkinton to sneak into the winner’s circle.  Hopkinton has been getting better and better all season, led by Michael Eggers-Emerson, Theodore Mollano and Shepyrd MurdoughNick Simpkins and Parker Wuellenweber have been improving over the second half of the season making them dangerous as long as their top five stay healthy.

Probably the dark horse for the overall title is last year’s runner up, Campbell.  With the best top three in the division in Trevor and Tyler Scopelites and Matt Dion, the Cougars find themselves in desperate need of a fourth and fifth to make that challenge.  But don’t be fooled, last year’s title looked to be assured for Mascenic based on the season’s results and the Cougars from the flat lands almost stole the championship. Well coached, expect them to make a go of it on the 26th.

Other teams that will be looking for that Meet of Champions berth and their shot at the D3 title should be Kearsarge, Trinity, and Winnisquam.  All three have been trying to find their footing all season and if any of them can pull it together, they all have the experience of a top five finish last year and could move on.

Individually, Vaillancourt is the favorite with Gilford’s freshman phenom Patrick Gandini and Monadnock’s Tyler Hebert chasing Vaillancourt for the title.  Looking to be in the mix as well would be Trinity’s James Barrett, Trevor and Tyler Scopelites and Matt Dion of Campbell, Bernier and Taylor of Conant, and Vaillancourt’s teammate Connor Traffie of Mascenic.

-Mike Smith

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