With the weather at that rare point where it is not too warm for racing yet not too cool for spectating, 15 central New Hampshire schools showed up to Merrimack Valley in Penacook for the 44th Capital Area Championships. The grass was dry, the leaves were cleared, and the ravine was rugged as always as the racers set out to determine local bragging rights.
With local coaching legend and race founder John Goegel starting the race punctually as always, the combined JV race was the first off the line. The Concord boys put up a perfect 15 points on the field, with Wesley Desantis Thompson taking the win in 17:53. For the girls, Concord’s Gracie McHugh was the first across the line, finishing in 22:36.
Next off the line were the varsity boys, headlined by NH’s #3 team Concord, as well as undefeated Patrick Gandini of Gilford versus Sam Hilts of Concord. By the 400 meter mark of the race, it was obvious that both headlines were well-deserved: the front pack of 4 was quickly distancing itself from the rest, and the pack contained three runners from Concord in addition to Gandini. It was truly a war of attrition, with the pedal pushed to the metal from the get-go. Hitting the mile in 4:53, the group began to string out as Gandini slowly increased his lead that he never relinquished. With a win that was more convincing than the time gap might suggest, he became Gilford’s first boy’s champion and installed his name at the #2 spot on the all-time course list at 16:07. Finishing only 7 seconds back and showing no quit was Hilts, crossing in 16:14, good for 6th on the all-time list. Next across were the other two Concord runners of the early lead pack, Zachary Hooper and John Murphy, finishing in 16:26 and 16:50 respectively.
With three in the top four, the team winner was never in doubt as Concord nabbed their fifth straight Championship with 28 points. As expected, formerly state-ranked Bow was the runner-up, led by top-ten finishes by Adem Aricanli (5th) and Lincoln Routhier (8th). Third was the race-within-the race, with at-large school Conant and upstart Newfound looking for a strong showing going into the Division meet next week. In the end it was Newfound (led by Connor Downes in 7th) showing they are a team to be reckoned with, scoring 98 points to Conant’s 139.
Wrapping up the racing for the day were the varsity girls. Just like the boys, it was another tight race with a clear leader/winner. While she didn’t quite punish the rest of the field as in the boys race, Bishop Brady’s Katie Palmateer clearly had a goal to get out front and run fast. Chasing Palmateer was an actual chase pack, consisting early on of three Concord runners (Alina Pincoske, Shelly Smith, and Molly Nyhan), Bow’s Mya Brochu, and Merrimack Valley’s Sophia Reynolds. Hopkinton’s Hannah Bennett made a big move over the second half of the race to climb into the front group, which by the final mile was whittled down to Palmateer, then a gap back to Pincoske, Bennett, and Reynolds. Palmateer would go on to win by 8 seconds in 19:30 (good for 7th on the all-time list), while the 2-3-4 positions were determined in the final meter. In a very solid race former winner and course record holder Reynolds won the kick for runner-up (19:38), with Pincoske nipping Bennett for third (19:38 to 19:39).
In the team battle between NH #3 Hopkinton and NH #6 Concord, Concord’s up-front speed (aided by the return of Pincoske) won the day over Hopkinton’s depth, 42 to 50, for their 9th straight Capital Area title. Gilford, unmentioned in the preview and led by Catherine Stowe (12th), secured third place with 131 points over Conant’s 144.