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The 85th New England Cross Country Championships are Saturday at Wickham Park in Manchester Connecticut. All New England states except Massachusetts will be competing. Each State is allowed 6 teams and any other individual placing in the top twenty five of their respective state meet. The girls race first at 11:30am and the boys are slated to take off at 12:30pm. With Wickham running much like Derryfield, we think that is an advantage for NH! What do you think?? Check out our preview and feel free to comment below it all!!! We will be there snapping pics, recording races and conducting interviews!!! Good luck to all!
Last year, the best of New England descended on Derryfield Park and ran roughshod as our neighbors from Vermont, Champlain Valley claimed their 5th New England title with teams from Rhode Island and Connecticut occupying the next six positions. Well, a year later, CVU is still the favorite as they are coming off yet another Vermont state title and find themselves ranked #2 in the Northeast. But who can challenge them? Yes teams from Rhode Island like East Greenwich and Barrington as well as host state Connecticut’s William Hall will certainly make their presence felt as will Maine with Delaney Hesler-led Bonny Eagle. But don’t count out NH teams with Souhegan continuing to improve each championship week. They have a top three in Chloe Trudel, Georgia Jones, and Mackenzie Hayden which will assuredly score low, but their four and five continue to improve and close the gap. If Masho Primer and Audrey Littlefield can close even more, the Sabers can be looking at a podium finish.
Don’t count out Bishop Guertin either. With a similar team make-up and also having the experience from racing at the Wickham Invitational in October, the Cardinals could be in great position to also podium. NH State MOC Champ Caroline Fischer will have more company the entire race which can be a great thing for her! Leading a race solo from gun to tape is simply tough. She will be able to relax and go for the ride. Expect her teammate C. Towle to keep a little more contact in the early goings and score a low stick as well. Same as Souhegan, if BG’s 3rd and 4th, Marykate Finn and Fiona Doherty can inch closer, NH’s #2 team will be in contention as well. Don’t forget D1 state champ Concord. They too went on a recon mission to WiWickham Invitational. They too look to be quite competitive especailly with the switch to a hilly grueling course like Wickham.
Individually, more parity exists!!! The defending champ, Kate Wiser (Pomperaug, CT) was actually beaten at ther state meet last week by Mari Noble (Greenwich, CT). With both posting blazing fast times of 18:13 and 18:23 on the very course New Englands is held, these 2 have to be looked upon as favorites. Looking to break up the home state duo and possibly the genuine favorite will be Falmouth, Maine’s Sofia Matson. She posted a 17:52 on a former, challenging New England Championship course (Twin Brooks) at the Maine State Championships last week. For reference, VT’s Elle Purrier ran 18:42 on that course to win the 2012 New Englands. Rhode Island sports 3 athletes who will undoubtedly be in contention with state champ Kaylie Armitage (LaSalle), Caroline Livingston (Barrington), and Rachel Mongeau (St. Raphael), who ran 18:24, 18:28, and 18:31 on another New England Championship course at Ponaganset HS.
Don’t overlook Vermont either as they stage their championships on the very tough Thetford course. The Green Mountain State also boasts three who will enjoy the challenge of Wikham in Ava Thurston (Harwood), Alicia Veronneau (CVU), and Abby Broadley (Bellows Falls).
Of course we are partial toward the Granite State!!! MOC Champ Fischer, teammate Towle, the Souhegan trio will all factor in. It certainly helps that BG took the trip down to race and work out on the course. This kind of course requires familiarity to be able to truly race on it! Don’t rule out PCA’s Liza Corso, MV’s Sophia’s Rebenciuc and Reynolds, South’s Cali Coffin ro Keararge’s Mya Dube. Let’s Go 603!!!!
Last year, nationally ranked Rhode Island schools LaSalle Academy and Bishop Hendricken waltzed into NH and raced for the third consecutive week to a 1-2 finish with LaSalle scoring the mild upset by 31 points over the then RI champions Hendricken. Bishop Hendricken then went on to qualify for NXN where they placed 4th in the country. Well, both phenomenal teams return to New Englands and both are ranked nationally. LaSalle Academy has had an incredible season sweeping the Rhode Island Championship meets rather easily and are now ranked #6 in the nation. They certainly are the heavy favorites on Saturday with a 15:45 average at last weekend’s RI State Championships. With national class names like Jack McLoughlin, Chase Leach and Max DiMuccio, LaSalle will be extremely tough to beat. Although twice beaten, Bishop Hendricken is a storied program with many of the athletes who exprienced last year’s nationals. Led by RI State individual champ Luke Henseler, they are simply fast (averaging 16:07 last week) and could very well snag the runner-up trophy or better as they are still one of the best team’s in the country indicated by their 28th national ranking.
Looking to break this up will be NH’s State Champion Coe-Brown Bears. Now ranked 25th in the country and 4th in the Northeast, Coe-Brown has made a leap this season. They have won each meet they have competed in impressively. They won the Manchester Invitational, beating Hendricken by 1 point, averaging16:48, with freshman Aidan Cox only 10 seconds behind RI State Champ Henseler. They returned to Derryfield for the D2 Championships winning with an improved 16:17 average off a 5:24 first mile and this time, Luke Tkaczyk was the leader winning the D2 individual title. In between those two meets, Dawson Dubois won the Battle of the Border in 15:35 and the team averaged 15:53. This culminated this past weekend when Carter Sylvester shocked everyone finishing as their #2 propelling the Bears to their first ever MOC win and a 15:44 average. They seem to be meeting the definition of a true team as their top 7 order of finish changes from week to week. This on top of their performance and experience at Wickham Invitational, makes the Bears a considerable threat. They have done everything according to plan to prepare for this coming weekend.
Three other NH teams also have a chance to podium. #2 Pinkerton, #3 Concord (D1 Champs) and #4 Keene will continue their season long battle to determine the best in D1. Eben Bragg-led Concord surprised many by succsssfully winning D1’s 2 weeks ago, while the Luke Brennan – led Pinkerton was the surprise of the team battles last week placing second. With NH MOC Champ Jake Velazquez leading Keene on a hilly course, they also have a shot to podium.
With all of that said, do not look past the host state Connecticut as their state champions Tolland ran stride for stride with Coe-Brown at the Wickham Invite finishing only 9 points behind them. Led by Alec Sauter and Jackson Cayward, they obviously have more course experience as this will be the third consecutive week Connecticut will be attacking the hills of Wickam Park. Right on Tolland’s heels is Conard which was only 16 points behind Tolland at last week’s Connecticut Open Championships. They are led by race favorite Gavin Sherry, who is ranked #17 in the country. Along with his brother Callum, don’t be surprised if Conard is rolling onto the podium also Saturday.
Gavin Sherry has been sparring with Xavier’s Robbie Cozean all season. While Sherry has been the victor, don’t sleep on Cozean, a national champion in track, and is ranked #18 in the country currently. Sherry’s and Cozean’s battle came down to the final straightaway last week. Looking to join these two will be Rhode Island’s Henseler, McLoughlin, Leach and DiMuccio. Maine’s state champ and 2018 NXN qualifier, Lisandro Berry-Gaviria will assuredly be in the front pack leading Maine’s #1 Mt. Ararat with high hopes. Brunswick, Maine’s Will Shaughnessy, Westbrook’s Mahamed Sharif, and Falmouth’s Ben Greene will not too far behind Berry-Gaviria. Do not overlook Essex Vermont’s Henry Farrington. The VT State Champion was 13th last year.
NH obviously is led by Velazquez who will be looking to improve on his 8th place finish from last year ahead of Cozean! Especially with the hilly course, don’t be surprised when he cracks the top 5 going for a top 3 spot. Look for Coe-Brown’s Tkaczyk, Cox and Dubois to be a part of that as well as Mascenic’s Landen Vaillancourt, Bragg, North’s Rory Curran, Brennan as well as Keene’s Torin Kindopp.
Honestly, New Englands is such an incredibly unique, incredible pure cross country meet. Pitting the best from New England against one another, it is always interesting to us how NH fares especially new kids on the block like Gilford’s Patrick Gandini and Sanborn’s Jared Khalil. There are always surprises, but NH always competes with the best of them!! Let’s go 603!!