By Dave Irving
Thetford, Vermont is a lively place to be on the first Saturday of October each year. Thetford Academy puts on a race like no other, and the positive energy of those happy to return after a year off was everywhere. From the crazy music to the unique seeded races, to the small army of volunteers to the human rope line, this meet is an experience. For the athletes, it’s an experience that takes them over one of the most beautiful and unforgiving courses in New England, which is also the site of this year’s New England Championships.
On the girls side, 8 of the currently ranked teams in New Hampshire were in attendance, with only Hopkinton and Oyster River running elsewhere. Teams from every New England state besides Maine were also present, leading to a very competitive team and individual battle. The energy built throughout the day as the 5th seed, 4th seed, 3rd seed, and 2nd seeded races played out. Finally, with the weather cooperating to provide a cool misting sprinkle, it was time for the deciding race, the 1st seed.
Individually, New Milford (CT) senior Claire Daniels took the lead in the first mile and never relinquished it, with the closest pursuer being her own teammate, junior Sydney Kelleher. Chloe Trudell of Souhegan and MaryKate Finn of Bishop Guertin battled for title of top NH runner, with Chloe coming out on top in 5th place (19:44) to MaryKate’s 6th place run of 19:56. Also placing in the top 20 for NH was Fiona Lee of Bedford in 11th, Brooke Marshall of Dover in 12th, Stephanie Svendsen of Souhegan in 13th, and Sophia Reynolds of Merrimack Valley in 19th.
In the team standings, New Milford capitalized on their 1-2 sticks and finished 1st with 92 points over in-state rival Glastonbury CT’s 125 points. For New Hampshire, Morty’s Monster shook the standings up a little, with NH#2 Souhegan’s low sticks trumping NH#1 Keene’s pack running, 230 to 232, good for 4th and 5th place overall (interesting note, Keene’s 4th runner was the top 4th runner in the race, a testament to their strong pack). The Granite State was well-represented with 10 teams placing in the top 20. NH#4 Dover stayed true to the rankings placing 6th, while Concord (NH#8) took 8th place, leapfrogging NH#6 Pinkerton who placed 10th, and NH#7 Bishop Guertin, who placed 13th. Bedford (NH#9) and Exeter (NH#10) placed behind two unranked NH teams who had stellar days; Winnacunnet, who placed 12th and Nashua North who finished in 14th.
On the boys side, New Hampshire placed 3 individuals in the top 5 and 5 in the top 10 for a very strong showing. Winning outright was St. Johnsbury VT’s Evan Thornton-Sherman, making up for his second-place showing a week earlier at Manchester Invtiational. His closest pursuer was another Green Mountain runner, Matthew Servin from Champlain Valley Union. Then it was a tight battle for third between a trio of New Hampshire runners, won by Lebanon’s Birhanu Harriman who is quickly making his name known as someone to keep an eye on. Just behind Berhanu was Concord’s Sam Hilts in 4th, who just outkicked Pinkerton’s Luke Brennan at the line. Bishop Guertin’s Nate Fonakowski crossed seconds later in 7th, while Coe-Brown’s Lars Hogne was the final runner under 17 minutes on the day, placing 10th. Concord’s John Murphy (11th), BG’s Sean O’Keefe (19th), and Dover’s Tyler Sheedy (20th) also ran to top-20 finishes.
In the team battle, U-32 of Montpelier made the home state proud with a very convincing win, 87 points to Bishop Guertin’s 154 second-place points. Fewer NH-ranked teams competed on the boys side than on the girls, although Concord (NH#3) was in attendance, placing 5th. Pinkerton (NH#5) placed a solid 6th on the day, while Coe-Brown (NH#4) was running a bit understaffed and took 17th. Exeter (13th) and Souhegan (14th) also had strong races on the day.