Well its here! Thanksgiving weekend!!! Nike Cross and Footlocker Northeast Regionals are Saturday! Over the better half of the last decade, NH flexed its ‘per capita’ muscle with teams and individuals qualifying for with Nike Cross Nationals or Footlocker. This year is once again a little different as Nike Cross Nationals is not happening, but the Regionals are still on. For teams, this is it. As with Meet of Champions last year, when there wasn’t a New Englands, we expect the racing to still be fierce. The event itself is annually incredible.
Footlocker is also different this year as its title sponsor has changed to Eastbay and rather than 10 qualifying for Eastbay Nationals, 8 qualify out of each of the four regions.
For those that do not know the difference, Eastbay is the older sibling for individuals, no teams, hoping to qualify for a trip to the national championship in San Diego, California. Nike Cross Nationals, NXN, was created to crown a National Team Champion. The top 2 teams in each region automatically qualified for the trip to the national championships in Portland, Oregon, but as Hanover showed us in 2007 and Coe-Brown showed in 2013, 4 teams across the country can nab an at-large bid to the meet as well. In 2017, Souhegan girls became the third NH program to qualify for a trip to Oregon. Individuals could also qualify from each region by placing in the top 5 individuals who are not on a qualifying team, as Bishop Guertin’s Caroline Fischer demonstrated in 2016, Coe-Brown’s Liz Danis did in 2015, Oyster River’s Maegan Doody did in 2014, and West’s Julia Robitaille did in 2017. Again, there is no NXN this year, but Nike has ‘beefed up’ each regional’s experience to make it great for the kids.
This year, 8 full NH teams and several individuals are making the trip to Nike Cross Northeast Regional in Wappinger’s Falls, NY where the historical Bowdoin Park runs quite similar to Derryfield, The course climbs the first half culminating at 1.5 miles, not 2 miles like Derryfield. Then it is a free fall down to the last 1k. But different from Manch, this is basically a flat loop with one final short hill. Expect NH teams to do well. For the girls NH #1 Dover (Green Wave) and #7 Souhegan (Saber) will be competing in the Championship Race while Coe-Brown (Black Bear) and Winnacunnet (Closing Kooks) are competing in the Open Race. While Dover has been riding a green wave of momentum the past 2 championship meets, look for Souhegan to have a good showing as Chloe Trudel is one of the top returners to the meet.
On the boys side, NH#1 Coe-Brown, NH#2 Biship Guertin and NH#5 Londonderry are slated to compete in the Championship Race while Souhegan will be competing in the Open Race. Look for the Bears and the Cardinals to be in the thick of the team competition. While not favored for the win, both teams showed up at New Englands, with CBNA only 5 points away from placing 4th. With a couple teams from other states not participating, looking at the field, both BG and Coe-Brown are legit contenders for a podium spot. The further up the chain CBNA’s top 4 of Aidan Cox, Lars Hogne, Tyler Tkaczyk and Jamie Lano can place, the better they will fare. While BG will be dependent on their top 5, led by Nate Fondakowski, to pack it in tight and hopefully closer to the front to have a shot. But as young as they are, this very well may be more of a fact finding mission to be used for the next few years.
Individually, the top 21 make All-Northeast. Trudel has a great shot to do this once again, but also look to BG’s Marykate Finn and Bow’s Maya Brochu as well. On the boys side, expect to see Cox right with the leaders. He loves this course and is another 2 weeks along in his training. Along with the CBNA top 4 expect to see Fondakowski as weil as Dover’s Tyler Sheedy to be in that large top pack over the first half of the race.
A small but strong group of Granite Staters are making the trek to the Bronx and the famed Van Cortland Park. On the girls side MOC Champ, PCA’s Brianna Malone and Oyster River’s freshman phenom Mackenzie Cook will be taking on the entire Northeast. The boys group is led by D3 Champ Gilford’s Patrick Gandini and NH’s top newcome of 2021, Leb’s Birhanu Harriman. As mentioned before Eastbay is only taking the top 8 to San Diego and nationals this year, so look for this group which does not include a senior, to use this more as a experience building event to be applied in future years. But as the temps will be closer to a 30 degree real feel and the back hills of the course being a great equalizer, expect this group to show quite well and represent the 603!!!
Good luck to all!