By Mike Smith
If I’ve done my math correct, and I’ll willingly admit I often don’t, this should be the 41st ‘Jeri Blair’ Belmont Invitational. Jeri Blair has been an institution in Belmont Athletics since the Ice Age, coaching both girls basketball and cross country. Back when I started coaching cross country, Belmont was a powerhouse and Jeri was at the helm of that program. Only fitting the event bears his name.
But there are a number of things I am sure about with regard to this meet. With Scott Clark firmly ensconced as the head coach and meet director, you can be sure the races will go off on time. Also you can be sure the course will be 142 meters long and on the slow side. And you can be sure that the 382 meter hill at the end of the lap will feel longer the second time the athletes hit it. And if history proves to be true as it usually does, you can be sure of some great fall racing in the Shaker region on September 29th.
I can’t say what this meet means to other teams and coaches, but for us at Mascenic it means two things. Firstly it means we get to get a real feel for where our fitness is as we come into the second half of the season. The Belmont course doesn’t lie, and if you’re not prepared for the hills and the competition, it will show.
Secondly it provides an opportunity to see many of the schools that hit above the belt within Division 3, always good to know with the last few weeks of training left in order to get ready for championship season. This year’s invite list has 19 teams, and appears to be more competitive on the boys side of things. In that race we have the D3 state champions in Mascenic from last year.
So let’s get into it.
Fresh off a sixth place finish in the Small School Varsity race at Manchester is Mascenic. The Lady Vikes have had a great start to the season and look to be moving up with D3. The two things that are obvious are the summer running went well and the addition of the 9th grade O’Shea twins has helped buoy the Vikings longboat. Finishing seventh last year in D3, the Vikings have been on an upswing having won the Newfound Invitational on Tuesday before Manchester. Their 6th place showing at Manchester shows they are no flash in the pan and the summer grinding is paying off.
Behind Mascenic, sorting out the remaining places is difficult. With few results getting a good look into all things D3 is tough so here’s what we know. At the Newfound Invite, Merrimack Valley finished with 95 points and Belmont with 124 points in fourth and fifth. At Manchester Sanborn was 19th, Hollis/Brookline 22nd and Campbell 25th.
Individually I expect the quartet of O’Shea, O’Shea, Schaumloffel and Lambert of Mascenic to be at the fore, with a chase group that includes Kearsarge’s Kylin Freniewich, Winnisquam’s Brianna Harlow, and Mascenic’s Gracie German, Brielle Shippe and Amelia Smith.
The Mascenic Vikings are last year’s Division 3 State Champions. And while identified as the strongest returning team this fall, Manchester’s Trinity has been having their way with Mascenic over the first two meetings. However Mascenic has been getting better week to week, with their sophomore (and freshman) contingent beginning to close the gap back to their 1-2 senior punch of Drew Traffie and Ryan O’Shea. While I would characterize their outing at Manchester as marginal, they still managed to finish fourth, just one spot behind Trinity. Belmont will provide a good measuring stick to where they truly are.
Much like the girls side, things get a little bit murkier. At Newfound, Belmont was fifth and at Manchester, Derryfield was 23rd. And don’t discount Hollis/Brookline or Mascoma either.
Individually, the front pack should have Mascenic’s Traffie and O’Shea, and Hollis Brookline’s Ryan Burgher. After this expect Campbell’s Devin Lencki, Mascenic’s Derek Somero, Dylan Buttrick and Dylan Callahan.