By Mike Smith
After the weather we had at the start of the week, it was a welcome relief to have cooler temperatures (mid 70’s) and a comfortable breeze to accompany the first Annual Valhalla Rising Relay at Mascenic High School. Taking the concept from Souhegan’s Saber relays and giving it a D3 twist, the relay race pits schools against each other, running two person teams, each responsible for three legs of a 1343 meter loop (4029m per athlete.) Staying on the upper fields, the loop is very flat, with 13 feet total elevation change per lap allowing for some fast running and competitive racing.
Teams get to choose the makeup of each of the two person teams, conspiring to create the teams that will give the the best strategic advantage to win the team competition. Coaches could put their fastest athletes together to try to get that elusive one point, or they could try to spread the wealth and find ways to make teams that might group well together and give them some low points. The team scores would be determined by the score of your first 3 teams placement in the standings. And while girls and boys teams were scored separately, both genders raced head to head out on the course, leading to some nice battles and bragging rights as teams zipped into the exchange zone.
Monadnock’s Peyton Joslyn wasted no time once the horn sounded to establish that he and his brother Jace were the ones to beat to take the fastest men’s duo award. Mascenic’s Derek Somero held gamely on for much of the lap, giving his teammate Drew Traffie an outside shot at tracking Jace Joslyn down. And while Traffie did close him down over lap 2, there was still a lot of racing left. Behind them, both Conant and Mascenic battled to try to establish those points for place, as Monadnock, while leading at the front, had only five boys and had to make their final scoring team up of a mixed team. Despite a very green squad, Derryfield also had some boys up in the mix as well.
On the girls side, there was a nice battle between Mascenic’s Erin O’Shea and Skye Lambert, and Monadnock’s Anna Bentley and Sadie Gibson. Mascenic’s O’Shea led into the handoff, with Lambert looking to open the gap further. Behind them, Monadnock’s, Mascenic’s and Conant’s other teams were battling for those low placements, hoping to secure low points towards that team battle. Lots of place changes were happening throughout the race, making off the head scoring impossible.
By the fourth lap, team Joslyn had built up a significant lead that Somero and Traffie would not be able to close. Somero paid for his bold start and the gap on the uneven laps would grow. Monadnock’s Team Joslyn would stop the clock with 25:02 for just over five miles of racing. Traffie would bring Mascenic in second with 26:13, and Nathan Alajajian (Conant) would finish as the third team in 26:45.
Mascenic would win the team battle here, with teams finishing 2-4-6-8, with 12 points, to Conant’s 3-7-9-10 for 19 points. Monadnock would be further back, but considering they utilized a female member to balance out their team, and had the top boys duo, their 27 points is more impressive than it seems on paper.
The battle in the girls race would be even closer, both as the individual relay teams, but also in the team battle. Lambert and O’Shea would slowly open a bit of a gap over the six laps, and this win and the single point that goes with it would prove crucial in the final results. Finishing in first with that one point, Mascenic would finish 20 seconds up on Monadnock, winning in 30:30 to 30:50. Conant would have the next team in with a 31:43 run, followed by Monadnock in 31:51 and Mascenic in 32:08.
In the team battle, Mascenic would prevail by a single point, going 1-5-6 for 12 points, to Monadnock’s 2-4-7 for 13 points and Conant’s 3-8-9 for 20 points. Considering Monadnock and Conant finished second and third last fall (with Mascenic in 7th, 8 points out of 4th) it seems the southwest region of the state is looking to bring it this fall to D3 in cross country.
Monadnock, Derryfield and Mascenic will mix it up again in two weeks at Mascenic’s homecoming, but will also be joined by Hopkinton, Newfound, Fall Mountain, Newport, Campbell and Trinity in a bit of a Whos Who of Division 3 cross country.