By Scott Maxwell
With full sunshine and temps in the mid-70’s, the 2021 Pelham Invite provided outstanding competition between all three NH divisions. With perennial powers Souhegan, Windham, Hopkinton, and Keene all in attendance, the flat and fast course gave everyone a chance to let loose just as they’re hitting peak fitness!
In the girls Junior Varsity race, Souhegan dominated the team competition, winning with a total of 22 points. Individually, there was a race-long battle between Souhegan’s Erin Taylor and Salem’s Natalie Coryea, with Taylor ultimately taking it down in an impressive 22:28 to Coryea’s 22:36. Souhegan’s Riley Devine would take 3rd, followed by Memorial’s Charley Fitzgerald in 4th, while Souhegan’s Adrienne Ayala would round out the top 5.
On the boys side, it was clear from the outset that it was Windham’s race and everyone else was just along for the ride. The Jaguars showed off their team depth and pushed the pace early, with the leaders coming through the first mile in 5:19! The group spread out as the race went on, but Windham managed to sweep the top 5 spots for a perfect 15. Leading the way for the individual victory was Charles Sette in 17:51, followed by Jack Conrad (18:09), Nicholas Hawkins (18:24), Sam Skilling (18:42), and John Atilano (18:48).
The girls varsity featured a battle and future Meet of Champs showdown between NH’s top 3 ranked teams in #1 Souhegan , #2 Keene , and #3 Hopkinton. Individually, Souhegan’s Chloe Trudel, last year’s DII and MOC’s runner-up, seemed to be a no-brainer as pre-race favorite. However, when the gun went off, Salem sophomore Lily Thomas seemed determined to make it an honest race. Thomas and Trudel opened up a nearly 20 second lead on the rest of the pack as Thomas pushed the pace and led through the first mile. Trudel seemed to be biding her time as she sat on Thomas’s shoulder and the pack strung out behind them. As they came out of the woods near the halfway point, Trudel had made a move and taken over the lead. She would steadily pull away and cruise to victory in a course record (on a slightly new course) in 18:44! Chloe’s teammate Stephanie Svendsen would use a strong second half to make her way into the runner-up position and finish in 19:18. Keene’s #1 Hannah Shepard would also use a more conservative approach and work her way up to finish 3rd in 19:26, ahead of a gutsy performance from Thomas who held on for 4th in 19:38. Keene’s Reagan Hoy would take down 5th overall in 19:40.
As for the team battle, Keene won this battle! Despite Souhegan taking the early lead with Trudel and Svendsen going 1-2, Keene managed to follow up with a balanced attack and place four runners in the top 10, taking the victory over Souhegan 34 to 45. Division III Hopkinton showed they also belong in the top team conversation, led by junior Hannah Bennett (7th, 19:50), they placed 5 in the top 20, and finished third with 56 points. It’s going to be exciting to see these three match up again in 3 weeks at Mines Falls!
On the boys side, a similar team battle seemed to be in the making between three solid DII teams in Windham (NH #8), Sanborn, and the continually improving Souhegan. With Windham missing their #2 runner last week, Sanborn got the better of them at the Battle of the Border. It was clear that wouldn’t be the case this time around! From the gun, Windham went out FAST, as their top runners all shot to the front and challenged everyone to go with them. Sanborn’s Khalil brothers were up to the challenge, as Jared and Tyson worked their way through the Windham pack. The first mile was blazing fast, as a 4-pack of Windham’s Mike Killian and Logan Carter and Sanborn’s Khalils hammered through in 4:54. A string of mixed jerseys followed closely behind, led by Windham’s Baxter Gower-Hall, Hopkinton’s Ben Daniels, Souhegan’s Jaren Noorda, Hollis-Brookline’s Ryan Burgher, Milford’s Daniel Sixon, and Trinity’s Aidan Palmeter. The top 10 all flying through the mile mark under 5:15?!
Through two miles the lead pack had been narrowed to three, with the Khalils shadowing Killian and looking for an opportunity to make their moves. Over the last 800m however, Killian put the pedal down and didn’t look back, pulling away from the Khalils and hammering in for a course record 15:58! Tyson Khalil finished off a stellar day to take 2nd in 16:11 over brother Jared who took 3rd in 16:21. Windham managed to take down the next two spots with Carter (4th, 16:58) and Gower-Hall (5th, 17:05). Over the final 300 meters on the track, individual and ultimately team battles were won and lost as athletes fought for every position. Hopkinton’s Daniels kicked it in for 6th, holding off Souhegan’s top scorer Noorda (7th, 17:19). 8th place went to H-B’s Burgher (17:24), outkicking Milford’s Sixon (9th, 17:28) and Trinity’s Palmeter (10th, 17:29).
In the end, Windham (40 points) would dominate for the victory over runner-up Sanborn (79 points) and 3rd place Souhegan (91 points). Things should get interesting as these three teams battle it out at Derryfield in two weeks, fighting for their spot at MOC’s!
A shout out and thank you to the Pelham Staff and Community for putting on such an outstanding event!