Derryfield Park will once again be the center of the New Hampshire Cross Country universe when the NHIAA conducts the Division Championships this Saturday. NH has been conducting a cross country state championship for boys since 1930 and for girls since 1975, so the runners of NH Cross Country will be making history with their feet! For a complete history of the championships as well as Meet of Champions, check out “The History of New Hampshire Cross Country” courtesy of LancerTiming. As always they will be providing the professional timing!
We will be there in full force! We will be recording all races which will be posted on the NHIAA State Division Championships Meet Hub! 9 spots on the course! We will also be providing live instagram updates! Catch all the action! To wet your appetite, below are the previews!!! Good luck to all!
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I think everyone, with the exception of Hopkinton, wish there was a challenge to their cross country supremacy this season so at least there could be some suspense about the team race. However the Lady Hawks of Hopkinton have dispatched all Division 3 teams (and most teams across the state) this season. Emerging from the Manchester merge scoring a mere 19 points when compared against the D3 challengers, the next closest team is Conant finished 95 points in arrears. This performance alone ranks them third in the state, only outperformed by D1 Keene and D2 Souhegan. This is by far the strongest team I’ve seen in my 20+ years from the Hawks and I have to predict these girls will soar above the D3 field. Led by junior Hannah Bennett, with strong support from Anna O’Reilly, Shaylee Murdough, Cailey Stockwell, Clara Locke, Amelia Walsh and Abby Bennett, the Hawks had a 150 second spread across all seven of their runners, meaning even if someone has a tough race there is more than enough firepower to get the job done.
Behind them seems to be the aforementioned Conant Orioles. Led by Kylie Aho, the young, Bill Edson coached team have been quietly gathering steam as the season rolls on. The Orioles finished as the second D3 team coming out of the merge from Manchester and will be looking to improve on those results. Amarah Lapinsky, Neve Mormando, Amber Gnoza and Bella Nero provide a strong supporting cast to Aho and if there is anything standing in their way of a top three performance it’s whether they have a full squad on October 30th.
The Mascenic Lady Vikings should be looking to make the trip to Mines Falls in early November that eluded them by one place in the team race last year. Headed by seniors Victoria Smith and Maya Callahan, the Vikings have been putting the pieces together for a good end run. Led by Skye Lambert, the Vikings have a strong pack #2 through #7, which could help in the scoring with 36 other teams racing. Will it be enough to pillage one of the top spots in D3? Time will tell.
Campbell, Newmarket and Gilford have a shot of finishing top five as well. Newmarket is led by freshman Allana Hagen and senior Isabel Pentony. While Newmarket finished ahead of Mascenic, Campbell and Gilford in the merge from Manchester, they were beaten by Mascenic at Derryfield’s Cougar Classic. Five good races likely gets them a spot at Nashua South in November.
The Campbell Cougars from Litchfield have been getting better week to week. Needing to rebuild after graduating 6 off of last year’s runner-up team, Coach Platt knows what it takes to get her athletes ready to rumble come end of the season. Led by Brooke Sullivan and Sophie Berube, the Lady Cougars will be looking to claw their way into the top five.
The Golden Eagles run strong up front led by Cat Stow. The girls from Gilford are beginning to gel around a solid nucleus of Stow, Georgia Eckhardt and Vanessa Genakosand have been closing the gap back to their #4 and #5. Gilford did get one over on Conant at the Capital Area Invitational this past Thursday, so it looks like the Golden Eagles have found a way to plug that gap and should be in the top five.
Lurking in the weeds is a metaphor indicating that there could be some contenders out there but results are so few that we cannot distinguish or detect other worthy challengers looking to take their shot at the top spots. A team that could do some damage is St. Thomas Aquinas, moving to D3 last year during the pandemic year, it’s been hard to measure STA against the rest of D3 as the results have been few. They are led by Kate Burrus and can’t be ruled out.
Another team “off the radar” is Monadnock. The Huskies graduated Delaney Swanson and have had a hard time finding the numbers to make a full squad and have elected to bring up a handful of 8th graders to round out the squad. Led by Alyssa Hall and Anna Bentley, and adding D3 MS champion Summer Bentley and runner up Sadie Gibson, the Huskies should have the firepower to get into the top five.
And finally I’ll offer up White Mountain. Not only have I not seen a result with the Lady Spartans, they traditionally do not settle on a final lineup until the championships. I’ve left this northern team out of the previews before only to have them swoop in and win D3s.
Individually, the tip of the hat should go to returning champion Brianna Malone of Portsmouth Christian. First D3 finisher at Manchester and winner at Coe-Brown, Malone should be in the driver’s seat. Creating a chase pack looking to dethrone her should be Stow of Gilford, the trio from Hopkinton in Hannah Bennett, Murdough and O’Reilly (who all ran under 21 minutes at Manchester), teammate Stockwell and Bishop Brady’s ever dangerous Katie Palmeteer, should be looking to stamp themselves as potential challengers. Creating the second chase pack or looking to bridge to the first pack should be Mascenic’s Lambert, STA’s Burrus, Lebanon’s Hastings, Conant’s Aho, Monadnock’s Alyssa Hall, and Newmarket’s Hagen.
In the preseason preview I said Mascenic returns the best top four on paper. To be open and honest I HATE writing that line, considering it’s my team I’m talking about. I feel it just insures we have that target firmly affixed to our backs all season long. With that said, we do have a formidable top four with Connor and Drew Traffie, Jethro Somero and Ryan O’Shea, but have been desperately trying to find that fifth runner. Dom Cicchetti, Logan Lucas, and Kelson Whitehouse have played supporting roles so far and over the last few weeks it seems to be shaking out. Will that be enough? Time will tell but Mascenic has been running well over the last few weeks.
Conant was the top D3 team at the mid season Manchester Invitational. Led then by Ethan Vitello, splits his time between the soccer program and the cross country program, Conant’s fate depends on whether Vitello and soccer player and #4 man Austin Poikenen are in the lineup. John Oakes and John Mormando are solid in support, but how high the Orioles soar will depend on the makeup of the squad that toes the line.
Off the radar but stamping them as a worthy challenger to the status quo is the crew from Fall Mountain. Winners of the early season battle at Monadnock on a lightning fast course, the Wildcats have a strong group presence with a strong top six. Led by Ben Tetu, with support from David Northcott, Ben Frithsen, Ed Gowdy (remember his brother George?), Gabe Lloyd and Matt Northcott, the boys from Alstead could sneak in and steal it all.
Another under the radar team is Monadnock. Last year’s champions lost 5 from their varsity seven and had no 8th graders in the pipeline. The 2021 version is certainly a lot different, with returners Jace Joslyn and Mitchell Hill fronting the squad. Inside info tells me they will be running eighth graders to round out their squad, meaning Peyton Joslyn will be added to the lineup. The younger Joslyn would make my varsity squad so his addition to the team certainly will help. Rumor has it the Huskies took a win at Fall Mountain which certainly helps boost the confidence level going into the championships. Additionally the younger Joslyn and his teammates took both the individual win and team win at MS States so that won’t hurt either.
Two other teams looking for a spot in the top five are Trinity and Hopkinton. Trinity was third in the merge, led by Aidan Palmeter and Max Scharr. Recently against Hopkinton and Mascenic, the Pioneers finished twenty points in front of host Hopkinton. If they can close the gap between their 1 – 5, they should be in the mix.
And don’t underestimate the Hopkinton Hawks. Led by Ben Daniels and Matt Clarner, the Hawks know how to get things done, just look at what the Lady Hawks are doing. Coach Rob Rothe has a good thing going so don’t be surprised if the Hawks are Nashua bound come November.
Lurking in the weeds but right in plain view are the Newfound Bears. Coming down out of the North they’ve been amassing a winning record led by their very compact scoring #1 – #5. Top D3 team at the Capital Area Invitational (ahead of Conant), and led by Connor and Ryder Downes, expect the Bears to amble in and stir the pot, challenging for the top spot.
Individually, Gilford’s Patrick Gandini is squarely in the driver’s seat. As the returning champion and winner of this year’s Manchester small school race and the Black Bear Invitational, it would take something monumental for him not to cross the line first. However we would have thought the same about Mascenic’s Landen Vaillancourt last year, but the Great Gandini produced his magic and “poof” Vaillancourt was off the back. Looking to be the spoiler Gandini was to Vaillancourt is Conant’s Vitello, last year’s top returner. Also Drew Traffie of the Traffie boys has been on a tear lately and look for brother Connor to be in pursuit as well. Add in Daniels and Clarner of Hopkinton, Palmeter and Scharr of Trinity, and any individual lurking in the weeds to make up the top ten.
With a fall season full of beautiful weather, the last week of October has ushered in classic state meet weather; cold and rainy. However, we do have a classic state meet to enjoy this year, with all the teams and all the athletes leaving the line at the same time. The DII girls race is set to go off as the third race, so course conditions should still be fine, and if not…it’s cross country!
While Division II girls may not be the strongest division in the state as it has been quite a few times over the past two decades, it does still boast two of the top four ranked teams in the state. Souhegan, currently ranked #2, is the slight favorite going into the meet. Since 2001 (Con-Val), only Hanover, Coe-Brown, and Souhegan have stood atop the podium and the Sabers look to keep it that way. After all, it is their turn with Coe-Brown and Souhegan flip-flopping turns at the top the past four years. With possibly the top two runners in the race with Chloe Trudel and Stephanie Svendsen and another top ten potential in Emma Jarnagin, they should get a head start on the scoring.
While Souhegan is loaded with experience, Oyster River is loaded with youth and ambition. Of their recent top five, three are sophomores and two are freshmen. It won’t be a huge surprise to see the (southern) Bobcats add a new name to the DII title list. They have two individual contenders in top 9th-graders Mackenzie Cook and Haley Kavanagh, and like Souhegan another possible top-ten finisher in Erin Carty. Unranked in the preseason, can they continue their rise to the top?
If neither of these teams wins the title, it will be a pretty big upset. The teams with the best chance of staging that upset look to be Coe-Brown and Kennett. While it would still be quite the upset, if Coe-Brown managed to pull the championship rabbit out of the hat it would surprise few people. The Bears always find the magic at the end of the season; after years of success it’s in the DNA. Led by Sheldyn Fisher and Isabella Lemay, Coe-Brown will need big races from the rest of the squad to take home a plaque, as well as to fend off Kennett. The Eagles have a deep team, with some interchangeable parts. Led by Amy Burton, they are helped by a strong pack of runners not far behind with Piper Lopashanski, Kaylee McLellen, and Grace Perley.
While the above-mentioned teams look like shoe-ins for a top-6 finish and a ticket to the Meet of Champions, the race for the final two spots looks to be anyone’s guess. For this preview, the pick is Bow and Hanover. Bow has a top-5 contender in Mya Brochu, and solid numbers on the team. If they are able to have everyone healthy and on the line, they are a good choice to extend their season one more week. Hanover, led by Sarah Gluek and Charlotte Tagupa, have advanced to MOC’s since dinosaurs roamed the planet. They have been a dependable team with solid performances, and like Coe-Brown, the Marauders have a knack for doing well at the end of the season.
If one of these teams falter, look for Windham, led by Katherine Klinger, to move on to race in Nashua. A team that’s been somewhat off the radar this year, but have the potential to do well.
Individually, 2019 individual champion Trudel of Souhegan is once again the favorite, but is by no means guaranteed the win. Look for Oyster River’s Cook, Trudell’s teammate Svendsen, Merrimack Valley’s Sophia Reynolds, and Bow’s Brochu to give chase over the hills of Derryfield Park. OR’s Kavanauqh and Carty, CB’s Fisher, Hollis-Brookline’s Amy Pattelena, Souhegan’s Jarnagin, and Kennett’s Burton should also be in the hunt for a top-ten finish and a shot at the All-Division team.
What an incredible season! Doesn’t it feel good to be back to (almost) normal? After the craziness of 2020, we knew this year would bring us some surprises, we just didn’t know where they’d come from. Now that we’ve reached championship season, who could have predicted Oyster River’s splendid pack running, the immediate impact of the newcomer Gower-Hall brothers of Windham, the tremendous progress of Bow’s senior boys, or the emergence of last year’s middle schoolers onto the high school scene? It’s been a wild ride, but finally, the harriers will battle it out for the hardware at Derryfield on Saturday. With as much parity as we’ve seen in years, and 7+ teams with a genuine shot at claiming one of the 6 Division II positions at Meet of Champs, this race should be one for the ages!
#1: Through the season’s ups and downs, Coe-Brown has shown resilience and is most definitely the team to beat at Divisionals. We’re excited to see state record holder Aidan Cox, if healthy, return to form in this race, after an injury held him out of a handful of races this fall. Senior Lars Hogne has continued to impress after his big breakout last year, and the progress Jamie Lano and Tyler Tkaczyk have made through this season is remarkable. Look for these guys to make some serious noise this weekend as the CBNA boys always come ready to battle!
#2: One of this season’s surprises is the strength of Oyster River! We noted in the preseason that they’d have some rebuilding to do, but would be ready to roll come championship season. Well, that is most definitely the case! Dillon Labonte has shown a number of outstanding performances as of late, especially his most recent 6th place finish at Black Bear. The team looks to be back at full strength with Chris Jernigan, Henry Hagen, Amani Harvey, and Ethan Bessette hitting their peak for this weekend. They should almost be a co-favorite.
#3: Another team that we knew would find a way to be in the mix, Windham, has put together another strong season! The addition of brothers Baxter and Isaac Gower-Hall have complemented the Jaguars returners, and filled the holes needed to be in prime position for a minor upset for some hardware this Saturday. Mikey Killian picked up where he left off last season, and knowing he saves his best races for when it counts most, he’s going to be a favorite on Saturday. Logan Carter has also made great progress this fall, really stepping it up to put his team into contention.
#4: It seems crazy to have Hanover ranked this far back, but that just shows the depth of this year’s Division II. This year’s crew has come a long way from last season, and experience always plays a major role come championship time. Senior Spencer May has moved up as a genuine lead pack runner this year, while teammates Mack Levy, Will Parker, and Luke Holmes follow closely behind. Hanover’s #5 Ryan Faris may be the difference maker as the Marauders battle for a spot on the podium! Look for a tight packtime from this crew, and don’t be surprised if they find themselves in the runner-up spot when things are all said and done.
#5: Sanborn looks to have had things come together over these past few weeks. The Khalil brothers (Jared and Tyson) are looking to be in the mix for a podium finish, and the team will count on their low sticks to set the stage for another MOC’s berth. Freshman Jake Pitre has really impressed this fall, as he and continually-improving Jacob Thomas continue to close the gap to the Khalils. Andrew Pugh and Noah Cavallo have also shown they can bring their A-game when it counts, and well, this one counts!
#6: Bow: The battle for the 6th spot is going to be a wild one! We’re predicting the final spot goes to the experienced Bow squad, but it’s not going to come easily. Adem Arincanli and Lincoln
Routhier look to hang on to the lead pack, and pull the rest of the crew (Michael Pelletier, Connor Bernard, and Owen Miller) along with them. If that pack time continues to tighten in this race, Bow could displace Sanborn one of the higher ranking squads!
Outside looking in? The final three MOC spots could be decided by just a handful of points. In their most recent races, Sanborn won a close Pelham Invite over Souhegan, yet both Bow and Souhegan finished ahead of Sanborn a month ago at Manch Invite. If any team is going to give Bow or Sanborn a scare for a chance to race next week, it’s definitely Souhegan. Jaren Noorda has made magnificent progress this year, and the team’s depth continues to be crucial to their success! If the trio of Nolan Dickinson, Owen Stine, and Taloosh Anderson run well, the team race could come down to the final straightaway!
Individually, even though he has raced seldom this season battling health and injury, Cox has to be the favorite. Next in line may be Lebanon’s Birhanu Harriman, who has been quietly crushing it over on NH’s west side in the midst of a breakout season! Windham’s Killian and Carter, Sanborn’s Khalil Bros, CBNA’s Hogne, Lano, and Tkaczyk, Hanover’s Mack and Levy, Souhegan’s Noorda, and Oyster River’s Labonte will definitely be pushing the pace, looking to upset and take the crown as Division II champ! We can’t wait to be back at Derryfield and to see how it all plays out. Best of luck everyone!
Over the last 18 months things in our world have been anything but normal. However, this fall season has been pretty close to what we are used to seeing in a NH high school cross country season. Big invitationals were being held again but often with a few less athletes and teams allowed to attend. Some out of state invites weren’t being held, but athletes and coaches found lots of good opportunities for the kids to compete at a very high level. Which brings us to the Championship part of the 2021 season. As of right now, all events are on with no restrictions and the kids are pumped.
The final week leading up to the Divisional Championships isn’t the ideal weather with lots of rain expected. This will make the already soggy Derryfield Park course quite a challenge, especially as you get to the Division One Championship races which will be at the end of the day. However, cross country is about who is the toughest on that day regardless of the conditions, so it should bring an exciting challenge.
The easy favorite for the title will be the Keene girls. Keene has been ranked #1 in the state most of the season and seems to be on a mission to make up for the missed season in 2020 when their school wouldn’t allow them to compete at the championships. They are led by three strong upperclassmen with Hannah Shepard (12), Reagan Hoy (11) and Sofia Guardiano (12) giving them some great experience in the big meets. Add freshmen Corinne Kinson and sophomore Ella Hoy giving them five very strong scoring runners that will make it tough for anybody to beat.
Battling for the runner-up title will be NH #5 Dover and NH #6 Concord. These two powerful teams have been bouncing back and forth all season at the big invites. More often then not, Dover ends up just a bit ahead so the nod would go to Dover. Brooke Marshall and Isabel McIntyre have been leading the Green Wave in their dynamite season and would love to see their team on the podium. Concord is very comfortable on the podium and will not give up the trophy without a fight. Alina Pincoske, Molly Nyhan and Shelly Smith gave the Crimson Tide 3 girls under 20:00 at the Capital Area meet, which could be the best top three in the state. However, we know it takes five to score, so if Concord wants to battle, they need to close the gap between their big three and the rest of the scorers on their team.
There are four other D1 schools on the NH top 10 list including Pinkerton Academy, Winnacunnet, Bedford and Bishop Guertin. These four teams have consistently been ranked throughout the 2021 season but in many different positions. Regardless of order, it seems likely these will be the remaining teams qualifying for the Meet of Champions at Mines Falls in early November.
Individually, Bishop Guertin’s MaryKate Finn is the favorite. Finn was the top D1 finisher at Manchester Invite running a speedy 19:10 early in the season and hasn’t looked back since. Expect the trio from Concord (Pincoske, Nyhan and Smith) to be on her heels. Keene’s Shepard and Hoy will be trying to split up the Concord three to help their team score stay low which will make a great battle for the top five. Nashua North has senior Dantia Braccio with lots of championship experience and will be fighting for the top five as well. Bedford’s Fiona Lee, Salem’s Lily Thomas, Dover’s Marshall and Pinkerton Academy’s Isabelle Groulx should be the group that will be fighting for the all important top ten spots.
– Amy Sanborn
After a strange 2020 that was pretty much devoid of invitationals, it was great to get back to a normal year of cross country! Even better was seeing how many of you improved from last year and now we get to see how things look going into divisional race weekend. Did your team climb the rankings this season? Who’s going to make the Meet of Champions?
- Bishop Guertin
BG came into the season ranked number two but have cemented their position as the squad to beat from the get go. As a team that came into the season with the enviable position of returning their entire top seven, there was a lot of room for improvement, but it turns out the addition of a couple of new runners into their top three really took the squad to the next level. We knew Nate Fondakowski was going to be competing for a win in the division but Sean O’Keefe and Matt Giardina quickly established themselves as runners to watch near the top of the division. It would not be a surprise to see either of those guys in the top ten of the race and they have the depth after those top guys to really take a clear victory if things go well.
If anyone has a shot at spoiling BG’s day it’s last year’s champions Concord. Concord is the only team in the division with an even stronger top three than BG with Sam Hilts, Zach Hooper and John Murphy all looking like guys who will fight for top five spots in the race and on the right day any of those three guys would be in the mix to win the whole race. Concord’s challenge will be keeping it close to BG in the fourth and fifth spots where BG seems to have a bit of an edge. If nothing else, we know Concord always shows up big time for the D1 race or they wouldn’t be the reigning champions for four years running. It’ll likely take their best race of the season to take this win but I certainly wouldn’t bet against them!
Pinkerton came into this season ranked #3 after a year where Covid restriction brought their season to an early end. Thankfully, I coach them two seasons a year and I knew that they had a few excellent veterans and some outstanding young runners who were going to make them a stronger team than most were expecting and they did not disappoint. Luke Brennan has looked the part of a guy who’s ready to be a divisional champion and his number two Ethan Charles looks like a potential top ten finisher. What really helped Pinkerton this season was the late season improvement of third man Jack Cameron, who leads a tight pack of guys which will have Pinkerton’s top seven finished quickly once they start. Pinkerton has been right on Concord’s heels a couple of races and if their 3-4-5 continues to improve the way they did through the middle of the season, they just might sneak by them.
Keene is always a tricky team to rate because they attend races the rest of their D1 rivals don’t and it definitely makes them a bit of a wild card. They have a guy who will compete to win the individual title in Torin Kindopp and their number two, Jonathan Hills, was only eight second behind him as they went 1-2 at the Amherst Invitational earlier this year. Unfortunately, that’s all I could find for results. The team did well overall in the meet but until Saturday it’s hard to say exactly what they’re bringing to the table after that excellent top two.
Londonderry’s year started out rough with the loss of two of their expected returners in their varsity. As it turns out though, strong programs find a way and two unexpected runners managed to jump into the void and the team barely missed a beat. Londonderry’s top two runners Ryan Fortin and Sean Clegg are guys who will be in the mix for top ten or even top five spots. Their third man Will Plante has had a similarly solid season so they’re going to rely on those new fourth and fifth guys to keep them in the mix. If those guys have a good day, so will the team.
- Nashua South
Nashua South has kind of an interesting squad this year where they don’t have anyone who’s going to compete for the individual championship but they do have an excellent grouping of their top five. Daniel Byrne, Andrew Byrne, and Juho Hahto could all be top 30 guys in the race and their fifth guy will be in less than a minute later. Not having some low scores from their top guys could hurt them, but I think we could see an interesting battle between South and Dover who has a quickly improving Tyler Sheedy leading their squad.
Most years it feels like there is a clear front runner going into this weekend but this was the first time I’ve ever written this where I’m really not sure who to pick. Fondakowski came into the season as the top returner and he’s shown why, taking the win at multiple races this season. At a minimum we know he’ll be leading at the mile as he loves to go out hard and make the race chase him, Not to be outdone, Concord’s Hooper and Hilts also have races where they were the top guy in the division including beating Fondakowski. Pinkerton’s Brennan hasn’t outright won any of the duels he’s been in, but Hilts just barely snuck by him at Thetford and I’m betting he won’t let that happen to him again. Finally, there’s Torin Kindopp who’s a bit of an enigma but won the Amherst Invitational and has been one of the best runners in the division every year. You also have some dark horses to consider in Londonderry’s Fortin and BG’s O’Keefe who had excellent runs at the Battle of the Border and were not far off of those top guys. Keep an eye on Sheedy as well. He’s been one of the best runners in the state the last couple of years, but got a late start to his training due to an injury.
In the end, I’m going to go with experience at D1’s and give Kindopp the nod. He should go into the race with a strategy that he knows will work for him and if it comes down to a sprint he’s probably the fastest guy out there.
Good luck to everyone and have an awesome race!