Division Favorites – Dover, Oyster River, Hopkinton
Individuals to Watch – Mackenzie Cook (Oyster River), Haley Kavanagh (Oyster River), Brianna Malone (Portsmouth Christian Academy), Shelly Smith (Concord), Alina Pincoske (Concord), Fiona Lee (Bedford), Maya Brochu (Bow), Sheldyn Fisher (Coe-Brown)
Beginning to sound like a broken record, the Hawks of Hopkinton return the top team this fall for Division 3 cross country. Hopkinton won last year by 61 points, scoring 40 points to Monadnock’s 101 points. While losing team leaders in Cailey Stockwell and Anna O’Reilly, the Hannah Bennett fronted Hawks would have won handily this past fall had the two aforementioned not even toed the line. With Shaylee Murdough and Clara Locke, who both finished in the top 15 backing up Bennett, it would be foolish to bet against the green. Expect the Hawks to once again be soaring above the competition.
Looking at potential contenders one might think Monadnock might be in the best position to go after the Hawks. On paper, the Huskies return everyone, but it would be pertinent to remember that Monadnock elected to reach down to their middle school program to round out their rosters, so while they did have two eighth graders in Sadie Gibson and Summer Bently go 1-2 at the MS state championships, they were also an integral part of their HS second place finish. That is not to say they won’t be good, but they won’t get the MS boost as it’s already happened. Add in Alyssa Hall and Anna Bently, and that’s a pretty fearsome foursome.
Also looking to reach for the top is Conant. Losing no one from the third place team, the Kylie Aho led squad will be looking to continue their improvement into this season. They will have to make some big gains to get Monadnock, who finished 25 points ahead of the Orioles, with Hopkinton further ahead as well. However the Orioles opened the spring track season by running three 4×800 meter teams so they have some depth. With strong support from Amarah Lapinsky, Amber Gnoza, Bella Nero and Neve Mormando, the young squad has time to grow into the spoiler role.
After the top three returners, Campbell, Newmarket, Gilford and Mascenic all lose at least two to graduation (actually Newmarket and Gilford lose three) and should all be jockeying to figure the order and who will finish top five in the Division. Mascenic loses their #6 and #7 and add the Division 3 #3 and #6 finishers in the MS state championships, so they might look a bit better on paper. Led by Skye Lambert and Gracie German, the Lady Vikes look to make the Meet of Champions,; a quest which has eluded them the last two years.
Newmarket, while losing three to graduation, had the better grouping than either Campbell and Gilford, which might make them the next best bet for the top five. With leader Isabel Pentony gone, battle hardened sophomore Alana Hagen will be left to steer the rest of the returnees along with at least one fresh face. With the support of Isabella Giacomoni, Holly Fermon, Eilis McKenna will Newmarket be able to mule their way into the top five.
Campbell is led by now sophomore Sophia Berube, with Amelia Silver and Kendall Reynolds, the remaining three of the Cougars scoring five. After that the girls from Litchfield dropped off pretty significantly. If the Cougars from the flat country are to climb back into the top five coach Jan Platt will have to work her magic the magic that brought them success in 2017.
Gilford has the biggest shoes to replace at the matriculation of Cat Stow. This year’s squad will be fronted by Georgia Eckhardt and Sydney Eastman. The Golden Eagles will need to reload with some new talent to have a shot at soaring at great heights come October.
If you’re looking for dark horse picks look to Saint Thomas Aquinas and Belmont. STA keeps their top three intact, led by Kate Burrus and return five of their Varsity seven. Belmont, one point behind them at D3s returns everyone, and with the legend Scott Clark at the helm I expect the Raiders to continue to get better and better.
And not exactly a dark horse pick is Kearsarge back from Division 2. The Cougars from the hill country will be looking to pick up where they left off last time they were in the division. Led by junior Molly Ellison and losing only their seventh from last year the ladies from North Sutton will be looking to shake up the standings.
Individually, Portsmouth Christian’s Brianna Malone, two time Division 3 champ and last year’s MOC champ is firmly in the driver’s seat. Beyond her trying to sort out the pecking order expect the Monadnock trio of Summer Bentley, Gibson and Hall to be in the mix, along with Hopkinton’s Bennett, Mordough and Clara Locke, Mascenic’s Lambert, Conant’s Aho, Campbell’s Berube and STA’s Burrus.
Last year, the Oyster River Bobcats broke the 10 year streak of either Souhegan or Coe-Brown winning the D2 titles and they did in a big way scoring only 47 points. With all underclassman, they are here to stay. Sophomores Mackenzie Cook and Haley Kavanagh will look to go 1-2 at the end of October with juniors Erin Carty and Tessa Brown looking to crack thee top 10. Four in the top 10 is near impossible to beat at this level. Throw in returner Talia Banafato in the top 25, and Oyster River will most likely score in the 40 point range again. Wow! They are set up for a streak!
Leading the pack to podium will be, you guessed it, Souhegan and Coe-Brown. Souhegan has top returners in Stephanie Svendsen (20:11), Riley Morgan (21:05) and Anna Brammer-Depuy (21:25). Coe-Brown is led by the ever-improving Sheldyn Fisher (20:09) who is coming off a strong spring track season. Add in teammate Mallory Taylor once again running healthy, the Bears should be an MOC qualifier once again.
2022 also sees D2 losing two strong teams as Windham will be competing in D1 for the first time and Kearsarge will be returning to D3. With that, Kennett and Bow look to be next best based on returners. Kennett is led by Piper Lopashanski (20:42) who is also coming off a great spring campaign. But of course Bow has the venerable veteran in Maya Brochu, but also Susannah Zahn who both had breakout seasons in the 3200. This usually translates directly to success in xc the following fall. Watch out for Bow!
Looking at returners and which schools will be contending for an MOC berth Lebanon and Hanover seem to be the contenders here. Hanover is led by Sarah Glueck while Lebanon is led by Elizabeth Kourbatski and Isabella Hastings.
Individually this could get really good! For the first time in several years we do not have a clear favorite entering into a season. Top returners are certainly Oyster River’s Cook and Kavanagh. However, spring track saw the emergence of CBNA’s Fisher, as well as Bow’s Maya Brochu and Susannah Zahn. Throw in the likelihood of a surprise from somewhere and we could have 5-6 contenders!
It’s been a hot summer of cross country training, but coaches are excited to see everyone back on the trails for our second post-Covid season. We are hoping to once again be restriction free, have no more waves, and have all invitationals back in action. Competing out of state is another aspect we are looking forward to in the coming months.
Going into the season, Dover appears to be D1s top contender, having been the best New Hampshire team at New England’s last year with many returning key players. Senior, Brooke Marshall, will be leading the team as the 2021 all New England recipient, D1 runner up, and 4th at Meet of Champs. Adding to the team are four returning standout juniors Alyson Bortz, Margaret Spuler, Evangeline Alexander, and Isabel McIntyre. The experience these five athletes have, will prove to be beneficial to the team.
If anyone is going to dethrone Dover, Concord is knocking on their door. In the 2021 season, they were not only runner up at D1s, but at MOCs as well. Having only graduated one runner, they are sure to be a force to be reckoned with. Concord probably has the strongest three runners in D1 with Alina Pincoske (junior), Molly Nyhan (senior), and Shelly Smith (sophomore). Finding two girls to add to this mix, will make them unstoppable.
Next, we have three teams all in close contention: Bedford, Winnacunnet, and Keene. But if forced to select a front runner during the preseason, Bedford is the pick. With another strong group of juniors, Fiona Lee, Sophia Mooney, Kelseigh O’Neil, and Rachel Mahoney, Bedford breaks away from the competition. Adding girls from their runner up JV state team and the individual middle school state champion, it could be enough to get them on the podium.
Winnacunnet is a step above Keene because they have five experienced returning runners, all under 22 minutes, in addition to being JV state champs. While Keene on the other hand, has a strong senior leader, Reagan Hoy, who was the 7th at D1s last year, breaking 20 minutes at Derryfield. It is still too early to tell if they have the supporting runners needed to break into the top three.
There are several teams vying for the next two spots in the top 7 to qualify for MOCs. New to D1, Windham; Bishop Guertin, who always finds a way to reboot; Exeter, rebuilding after graduating their top two; and Pinkerton, because you can never count them out, they always find their way.
Individually, give the early nod to senior Marshall who is looking to take the crown after being runner up at D1s last season. The battle for the runner up position will be up for grabs by some strong juniors: Lee (Bedford), Pincoske (Concord), McIntyre and Bortz (Dover), and Contessa Silva (Pinkerton). Fighting for the all important top 10 will be seniors Hoy (Keene) and Nyhan (Concord). With sophomores Smith (Concord), Laura White (Nashua North), Corinne Kinsen (Keene), and junior Isabel Groulx also in the mix. Of these sophomores, don’t forget Smith is the current D1 3200 meter champ!
Last year, the Seacoast ruled the state as Dover and Oyster River went 1-2 at the Meet of Champions. Well, according to top returners, expect more of the same in 2022, but possibly a tighter battle. Right now based on returners both teams are separated by 1 point with the advantage going to Oyster River. No wonder here as the Bobcats will be led by a potential 1-2 finish with Cook and Kavanagh. Add in the potential for 2 more in the top 25 to 30 and the Bobcats certainly have the inside track to tops in the Granite State. But do not count out the Green Wave of Dover as Marshall, McIntyre, Bortz and company will not back down.
And then you have Concord. Keep in mind the development of 2021 3200 meter state champ Shelly Smith. She will certainly be in the conversation for top 5-10 in the state. She along with vets Pincoske and Nyhan, the Crimson Tide could also ascend to the top of the podium! Bedford is 4th on paper but big on potential. Led by 3rd returner Fiona Lee, who had a great track season, the Bulldogs also have potential to threaten the #1 ranking with the likes of Mooney, O’Neil and company.
D2 checks in again with perennial power Souhegan. Although the Sabers have lost Chloe Trudel to matriculation, they return a nucleus which could translate to a berth to New Englands. Svendsen leads the cast, however, there will be new names which we are sure Coach Wilson will lead to being contenders as he has over the years. Keene is also interesting. Led by top runner Reagan Hoy, Coach Bill Derry consistently brings along his teams to contention come MOC time. Talk about potential, one has to thing Pinkerton will be around as well with their top 2 runners, Groulx and Silva threatening the top 10.
Looking for a full team to move up even farther. Look to Coach Rothe’s Hopkinton in D3. They return Bennett and Murdoughalong with 5 of their top 7. They could very well crack the top 5 this season to qualify for yet another New Englands. Love pulling for those teams with a great pack? Look to Winnacunnet. Year after year, they may not have that top in the state runner, but they always have a competitive team.
Individually, PCA’s Brianna Malone has to be the favorite. All she has to do is keep it close and she will repeat as the MOC Champ! Looking to run away from her during the race will be Dover’s Marshall, Bedford’s Lee. Concord’s Smith & Pincoske, Oyster River’s Cooke & Kavanagh, CBNA’s Fisher, Bow’s Brochu and Zahn. But again to stress this point, Malone will outkick anyone in the state right now. If she is within striking distance, she is the safe bet!
Good luck to all!!!