Division Favorites – Bishop Guertin, Coe-Brown, Mascenic
Individuals to Watch – Aidan Cox (Coe-Brown), Patrick Gandini (Gilford), Birhanu Harriman (Lebanon), Sean Clegg (Londonderry), Ryan Fortin (Londonderry), Matthew Gardina (Bishop Guertin), Tyler Tkaczyk (Coe-Brown), Logan Carter (Windham), Matthew Allen (Exeter), Drew Traffie (Mascenic)
2022 marks yet another year and step back to normalcy post-pandemic. Thank goodness. While writing a preview for the cross country season is a lot of fun, it was close to impossible after 2020. Ironically, this year feels similar only because the sport took a huge hit due to graduation this year. And then you never know who is coming back from the various teams and how much some runners have developed. Annually we pen a preview based upon information available to us. To try and figure out what we can expect, all the graduating seniors from the Division meets and Meet of Champions were removed. We also attempt to consider JV State Championships and Middle School State Championships. Even with all available data, generating a preview is difficult, so if you know of anything you would like to add, please comment below. That said, there are always a few breakout stars who throw a wrench in the formula of any guess for an upcoming season and that’s what makes the whole process fun! Special thanks to those who contributed to this post. Year after year we are reminded as to how incredible and unique our state is!
Note: All times referred to in Division previews are from the 2021 Divisional Championships at Derryfield, while times referred to in the MOC preview are from the 2021 MOCs.
As I stated last season as I wrote the championship preview, while I like to be in a position to do so, I HATE writing that Mascenic returns the best team on paper. While losing their #2 and #3 runners, the Vikings return the D3 #3 and MOCs #2 D3 runner in Drew Traffie. Traffie really came into his own last season, usurping his older brother at the helm, and has learned how to take the race by the scruff. And while he struggled later in the spring due to illness, he appears to be back on track heading into the fall. He’s supported by fellow senior Ryan O’Shea (Dom Cicchetti unfortunately has moved out of district, making the climb to the top fraught with a bit more difficulty). And as long as their solid sophomore contingent got in some summer training, the Vikings should be looking to pillage the village once more.
On paper it would be easy to assume Monadnock would be the most likely to spoil the party for Mascenic. Losing only one senior, and led by Jace Joslyn, there is a solid nucleus around coach and dad Clint Joslyn. Add in incoming freshmen Peyton Joslyn and Jake to Carlton Lampinen and Gavin Lombara and you’ve got a solid four. However due to low numbers, the incoming freshmen have already contributed to the 2021 campaign on the Varsity squad, so there will be no additional boost to them “joining” the team. With that said, Coach Joslyn does an excellent job getting his squads to be competitive and with the advantage of two of the varsity seven being his own kids, motivation should be high.
Newfound made great gains between their 2020 and 2021 campaigns and if the Bears can use the momentum that lifted them to the runner-up position last year, the boys from Bristol should be in the mix as well. Fronted by Evan Foster and Jeffrey Huckins, expect the Coach Mike LaPlume directed squad to quickly rebuild after losing their #1, #3 and #5 runners to graduation. Toss in Ben LaPlume and Reuben Carruth and expect the Bears to give up the weeds and be in the hunt for another podium spot.
Not on paper but maybe most likely to challenge for a top spot this fall is Fall Mountain. While finishing fourth last year, Fall Mountain loses only their #4 runner but ran without their usual #3 / 4 runner in Gowdy. Had they run Gowdy they’d have been in the hunt for the top spot for sure. Along with Gowdy, the Wildcats return Ben Fritthsen, Ben Tetu, David Northcott, Caleb Kinson and Walter Lyens for possibly the most potent group presence in Division 3. We’ll be doing our best to try to keep an eye on the boys from Alstead.
Trinity finished sixth last year, just outside of making it to MOCs. Led by Aidan Palmeter and Max Scharr, the Pioneer lose only their #5 and look to climb into a top five spot. Helping the Pioneers get there will be Matt Nardone, Braeden Lubelczyk, Noah Levesque and Shawn O’Neil. Can the Pioneers find their way? Don’t be surprised if they do.
Three other teams worth keeping an eye on are Conant, Portsmouth Christian and Hopkinton, finishing last year in 5th, 7th and 8th. Conant took the biggest hit, losing their top four to graduation. They will be led by sophomore Nathan Alajajian and junior Austen Richard and come off a team state championship in the spring which could help fill their sails this fall.
PCA is led by last year’s surprise sophomore in Jonas Teeter who placed second to Gandini. Add in Luke O’Halloran and Sam Harrington and the Eagles have a solid threesome to work with. Losing no one, we’ll have to see if these harriers can ride the thermal into the top five.
Hopkinton has arguably the best one-two punch of all returners in Ben Daniels and Matt Clarner. The well coached, Rob Rothe directed squad should make some inroads into the top five this season as well.
Individually one would be foolish not to defer to the Great (Patrick) Gandini after winning his second D3 crown and third place MOC finish. But those that reside at the top the longest certainly bear the burden of being directly in everyone’s cross hairs. Looking to capitalize in the event things aren’t going his way should be Mascenic’s Traffie, PCA’s Teeter, Hopkinton’s Daniels, Monadnock’s Jace Joslyn and Trinity’s Palmeter. Looking to round out the top ten will likely be Hopkinton’s Clarner, Fall Mountains Fritthsen and Tetu, Monadnock’s Peyton Joslyn, PCA’s O’Halloran and Newfound’s Foster.
2022 brings a couple of major changes to the Division II Boys Cross Country landscape. For starters, 2020 and 2021 Team Runner-Up, and perennial MOC qualifier Windham moves up to Division I. Also, for the first time in years there will be no Khalil brother in the lead pack for Sanborn, as the boys have moved on to a new school and will not be competing during the season. On the flip side, some things will look very much the same as in years past: Coe-Brown will be a dominant force in D2 and across the state, Aidan Cox and Birhanu Harriman will both be winning races, and some up and coming youngsters will make a name for themselves when it matters most!
With some much lost to graduation last year, team predictions are very difficult…but we’ve done our research and here’s our best guess at how teams are looking coming into the season:
#1: Coe-Brown is going to do what Coe-Brown does…win championships! They’ll return 6 of 7 competitors from last year’s title squad, so it goes without much debate that Coe-Brown is going to be the team to beat in Division II. This crew will be led by All-Everything and recent University of Virginia commit Aidan Cox (12, 15:54), along with last year’s varsity studs Tyler Tkazcyk (12, 16:41), Jamie Lano (11, 16:59), Gavin Demas (12, 17:39), and Liam McLean (11, 17:39). Add in newcomer to varsity, Nikhil Chavda, and we don’t see anyone in the division coming close to de-throning this squad…but crazier things have happened!
#2: Hanover, once again, will return a strong contingency of harriers. While having no clear low sticks coming into the season, the Marauders return 5 of their top 7 from last year’s bronze medal position, and will look to the experienced Will Parker (11, 17:23) and Mack Levy (12, 17:33) to take charge up front. Also, we expect athletes like Caleb Zuckerman (11, 18:13), Ryan Faris (10, 18:29), and Lucian Glasier (11) to continue to make vast improvements as the season goes on. If anyone can put some pressure on Coe-Brown up front, it’s going to be Hanover!
#3: Based on last year’s Varsity and JV squads, Oyster River should have the firepower to put them into the #3 position. The Bobcats took a hit to graduation, but will return a senior-heavy group from last year’s varsity crew. Led by Henry Hagan (12, 17:29), they will rely on continued improvement from John Henry Gorski (12, 18:12), Keane Swiesz (12, 18:20), and Chris Jernigan (12, 18:43) to climb the ranks and possibly unseat Hanover. Like they always do, Oyster River will find a way to put a competitive squad together!
#4. Souhegan looks to return to form this season, and will bring back 6 of their top 7 from last year’s crew. Similar to Hanover, the Sabers have no clear front of the pack runners, but will look to pile in low points with their pack running in the chase pack. Experience should help the squad as well, with Jaren Noorda (12, 17:43) and Owen Stine (12, 18:18) leading the way, followed by the trio of Josh Goddard (12, 18:45), Dallen Noorda (10, 18:46), and Taloosh Anderson (11, 18:46). If these athletes progress as the Saber crews often do, this team will make adjustments along the way and will be in a great position for a potential podium finish by year’s end.
#5. Lebanon seems to be in great position to punch their ticket to the Meet of Champs this year! All New-England superstar and last year’s D2 runner-up Birhanu Harriman (12, 16:09) is back and will certainly put the team in position with a low stick. The senior-led Raiders will look for Thomas Wolfe (12, 17:54) to continue his progression toward the front of the pack, while getting solid support from Carlos Kennelly (12, 18:45) and Carson Jones (12, 19:17). If Leb can find a new addition to their top 5, they could find themselves in one of the higher spots on Championship Saturday!
#6: The final MOC berth seems to be totally up for grabs at this point in the pre-season. Based strictly on last year’s results and returning athletes, we’ll look to Hollis-Brookline to fill that spot! The Cavaliers return 4 of their top 7…all seniors! They’ll be led by an improved Ryan Burgher (12, 17:36), while a trio of experienced teammates Ayden Finnegan (12, 18:36), Jacob Dwyer (12, 19:20), and Marcus McCammack (12, 19:23) will aim to close the gap.
Individually, Aidan Cox remains the Top Dog of NHXC! In his final season of high school racing, we should see him run some blazing fast times as he gears up for another run at Nationals! Following closely behind, coming off his breakout season last year (DII – #2, MOC – #5, NE – #8), is Lebanon’s Birhanu Harriman. Strung out behind Cox and Harriman, we should see the other CBNA studs Tkaczyk and Lano, while Hanover’s Parker and Levy, John Stark’s Eli Lemire, Oyster River’s Hagen, Kearsarge’s Matt Berns, and H-B’s Ryan Burgher look to fight their way into the top 10!
Who will be this year’s breakout star? Will any freshmen burst onto the scene and make an immediate impact? Which team will surprise us with their rebuild and unseat one of the top 6 to win a coveted spot at the Meet of Champs?
We can’t wait to get the racing started! Best of luck to everyone!
Another summer is reaching its end which means the best time of the year is here! This cross country season is an exciting one to preview because the 2021 race was heavily dominated by seniors. It will be fun to see who steps in to fill the void left when 21 of the top 30 kids graduated. With such a large number of graduates, this year’s preview feels like one of the least likely to get it right that I’ve ever made! Let’s have some fun and dive in to see who looks to be well positioned to succeed this year. Shout out to my wife, the queen of spreadsheets, for crunching together a whole lot of stuff so I could try to take a guess at this!
1. Bishop Guertin
BG is in the driver seat this season when it comes to defending their Division I championship in 2021. It would be easy to think that after losing four of their top five, that they would be in rough shape but it turns out they had an excellent young class of freshman and sophomores on the team ready to take over. Bishop Guertin will be led by sophomore Matthew Giardina who’s the number three returner in the division, but they have two other sophomores in Noah Guarrera and Carson Fischer, who both look primed to compete for top 10 in the division placements. Throw in junior Micah Dunsmoor and winning last year’s JV state meet and they look very strong.
If anyone is likely to take down BG, it’s Exeter. They’re led by one of the guys most likely to win the division in Matthew Allen with teammate Willard Hoffsmaster also looking primed for a top placement, possibly even in the top five of the race. A nice advantage for Exeter going into the race is they are one of the few teams that return enough of their varsity to field a scoring team based off of last year. They were also very young so depending on how they trained going into this season they could improve significantly from last year.
BG and Exeter come into this relying on some guys who could potentially win the race for them to chase the team win. Pinkerton is coming with the opposite strategy of having an outstanding pack with no clearly dominant runner. If you look at Pinkerton’s races come the end of the season it’s very possible you could see the order of the top five change every race. Luckily for them, they have five guys who regardless of which one is leading the day the team will be strong. They could also have a top five spread of less than 30 seconds, likely led by juniors Finn Christensen-Kraft and Nathan Binda. The real question is, can they push each other to a place where they each move up a few places from their current predicted score? If that happens or one of their guys makes the leap to elite, look out.
4. Nashua South
Nashua South is another team coming in with a strong pack who with some group improvement could see their score drop quickly. They look primed to have a varsity that were mostly freshman last year led by Andrew and Daniel Byrne and appear to only have one senior in their top seven. That’s often a recipe for a lot of improvement from one year to the next so Pinkerton may find themselves trying to hold off a fast young squad.
I’ll bet this is a surprise for many of you because it was for me, Windham makes the jump to Division I this year! Windham is led by senior Logan Carter who immediately enters the talks for top runner in the division. They bring two other returning runners in Cooper Flenniken and Isaac Grower-Hall who should compete to be in the top 25 of the race but then after that it gets a little tricky to predict because they ran a different JV meet. Windham has year after year been one of the strongest D2 teams though so if you think they won’t be competitive at the new level they’re going to shock you.
What a weird situation Londonderry finds themselves in this season. Londonderry has two guys in Ryan Fortin and Sean Clegg who will compete to win the individual championship. With two guys possibly giving them a 1-2 score you’d think they’d be in the fight to win the whole race but they’re really lacking in the depth the teams ahead of them have with their third runner looking unlikely to place in the top 25. Londonderry looks to have a lot of young runners move into their varsity squad so maybe there will be some surprises to help them climb the ranks!
Winnacunnet is going to rely on seniors Henry Bybee and Jon Savage to lead the team while trying to place in the top 25 of the division.
Who else should we keep an eye on? Keene for sure. They have a scoring varsity squad coming back and what looks like an excellent new freshman who won the junior high state meet. Alvirne has a scoring squad back with a potential top 10 runner in Nick Marcotte. Portsmouth also has a scoring team returning led by senior Avery Crowell who looks like a top 10 guy.
The individual race should be a really fun one to watch with no obviously dominant runners in the division this year. Londonderry has two runners who should be in the mix in Fortin and Clegg. It’s a lot easier to get fast when you’re constantly battling another outstanding runner at practice every day. Based off of last year, Fortin is the guy to beat but Exeter’s Allen was only a half second behind him. Additionally, Giardina of Bishop Guertin was only a freshman and improved significantly as the cross country season went on and comes in as the number three returner. The new guy to the division Logan Carter might feel like he has something to prove coming up from D2 and time wise he’s right with the top 2 guys. Some years there are dark horse guys who are kind of on the edges of the top group… not this year. There’s a THIRTY second gap from these four to the rest of the race. If it’s not one of these guys it’d be a serious surprise. At the same time, keep the name of freshman Josiah Conley of Concord in mind as well. His Strava posts reveal some serious training and results.
So, who am I betting on? Londonderry’s Fortin is the guy to beat. He’s an exceptionally hard worker who isn’t afraid to run for a win but you rarely see make strategic errors. If he can’t break away from Allen though he may not be able to hold off a sprint if that’s what it comes down to.
Meet of Champions
We had another treat last year at the Meet of Champions as Bishop Guertin and Coe-Brown tied through 5 scorers each with 75 points! This is always the most exciting of times in a cross country meet especially championship meets! As we all know BG won by virtue of their 6th man. With the dominance of Coe-Brown in recent years, this was a bit of an upset when looking back at last year’s season preview. Hats off again to BG for simply having the better team that day with the better depth. This year, as the inevitable graduation hits become apparent, one of these teams returns 6 of their top 7 and looks to be the heavy preseason favorite to be number 1 in the Granite State.
Coe-Brown once again looks to be that team. They return 6 of their top 7 from 2021 including Aidan Cox who happens to own the fastest NH times at both Derryfield and Mines Falls. They also return a now heavily experienced varsity squad of Tyler Tkaczyk, Jamie Lano, Gavin Demas, Liam McLean and Nikhil Chavda. Tkaczyk looks to continue to ascend the ranks in the state while Lano and Demas will be attempting to keep that gap all so close. McLean and Chavda continued to develop over spring track. They averaged 15:57 as a team last year. In 2020, the Bears averaged 15:40. Can we see a version closer to 2020? This team is already getting some attention from regional rankings.
Graduation has hit Division 1and the rest of the state hard, which makes preview an MOC even more difficult. So, we will not necessarily make predictions, but simply chat about who we see are the other contenders to place in the top 6 and qualify for New Englands at Ponaganset High School in Rhode Island.
Bishop Guertin is one of those teams hit by graduation but led by Matt Giardina, who should only improve off of an impressive freshman campaign, the Cardinal will most likely reload and be a huge factor come November. Challenging them in D1 will certainly be Exeter. They are the only team returning their top 7, led by Matt Allen and previewed above. They had an impressive 4×800 in the spring which gave them obvious confidence! If they put in the work over the summer, they will be contending as well!
Also representing D2, Hanover looks to be next best as they return 4 of their top 7 led by Will Parker and Mack Levy. Once again, with their returners, if they gel as a team, Hanover will be contending as well. Pinkerton can never be overlooked as they continue to reload or rebuild every year. They need 1-2 athletes to finish in the top 20 to give them yet another New England berth. In contrast, Londonderry, led by Ryan Fortin and Sean Clegg, certain low sticks, need the rest of the team to improve to give the Lancers another New England trip. Don’t over look Windham here as well as they have Logan Carter, also being a low stick. Always a threat, Keene will certainly be strong as well, although we may not fully understand this until Divisionals.
Individually, Aidan Cox looks to win his 3rd consecutive MOC title. This has never been done in the history of the Meet of Champions which began in 1976. If healthy, it is hard to think he won’t be able to do this, but as this past spring indicates when Cox had struggled with growth related issues, nothing is guaranteed. What is great about NHCC is, even without Cox at his best, there is so much talent ready to compete at the highest of levels. Look for Lebanon’s Birhanu Harriman to be the contender as he had an incredible spring campaign making the jump to the upper echelon of New England. Obviously D3’s giant, Gilford’s Patrick Gandini will be in the thick of it as he continues to just scratch the surface of what he can do. Also in that front pack will be Londonderry’s Ryan Fortin, Sean Clegg, BG’s Matthew Giardina, CBNA’s Tyler Tkaczyk and Jamie Lano. And if the Khalils run, they will also be part of that pack!
Regardless, last year’s MOCs put NH’s talent on display. Look for the same this year! Good luck to all and stay healthy!