The 87th New England Cross Country Championships are Saturday at Ponaganset High School in North Sciituate, RI. All New England states except Massachusetts will be competing. Each state is allowed 6 teams and any other individual placing in the top twenty five of their respective state meet. The boys race first at 11:30am and the girls are slated to take off at 12:15pm. NH always stands united in our friendly competition with the other New England states! So wear your NHCC shirts! Cheer for one another! We will be there snapping pics, recording races and conducting interviews!!!
In this spirit, we will have a few guests involved from other states this weekend contributing to the race videos and interviews. Scott Bliss, long time coach of Champlain Valley, has penned quite the comprehensive preview. Since leaving coaching, he has started a free website to truly cover Vermont High School Cross Country (sound familiar?). With his permission, his preview is posted below. Please check out his site! It genuinely reminds us of, well, us! We have also talked Scott into being a guest commentator during the races on Saturday. He brings experience from a coaching career which included numerous state and New England titles as well as multiple trips to Nike Cross Nationals. Thanks Scott!
By Scott Bliss
Connecticut – Glastonbury – 123, 106, 105, 105, 92, 89 & 77
Maine – Bonny Eagle – 125, 104, 95, 91, 78, 72 & 36
New Hampshire – Hanover – 102, 90, 85, 84, 76, 60 & 50
Rhode Island – East Greenwich – 129, 111, 91, 90, 88, 70 & 66
Vermont – Champlain Valley – 120, 111, 100, 98, 90, 82 & 70
I have one hope for this race….that the weather doesn’t help play a part in who wins. I know it is part of cross country but this could shape up into a very interesting team race with probably 3-4 teams feeling like they have a good chance of winning a New England Championship. The team champion will most likely come from a group that includes Glastonbury(CT), Champlain Valley(VT), Bonny Eagle(ME) and East Greewich(RI). One thing that is great about this race is that teams from 4 of the 5 states have a legitimate chance of winning the title.
The three teams with the best chance of winning are Glastonbury, Champlain Valley and Bonny Eagle. East Greenwich will probably need some things to go right for them to sneak into the top spot. On paper Glastonbury is the favorite. With Brooke Strauss coming back into form that only strengthens them. They won the Ocean State Invitational and the Covered Bridge Invite at Ponaganset without her and racing without Brooke for about a month may have only strengthened their 2-6 runners. They run a very tight pack and have already shown they can run fast on this course. This should only give them confidence that they can repeat the performance again this Saturday.
Champlain Valley has the New England Championship pedigree with 6 championships and multiple top 3 and top 5 finishes since their first title in 2004 but this is a brand new team. Not one runner on this team has been a part of that run of success. Their challenging schedule venturing into NY multiple times and racing in races with Saratoga and the Eastern States race at the Manhattan Invitational has certainly helped to prepare them for the pressure of the race this Saturday. Alice Kredell and Estella Laird give them one of the best 1-2 combos in the field. Their challenge will be can their 3-5 get into or in front of the Glastonbury pack at the same spots. This race is most likely going to be decided by the 3-5 runners. There is just not enough displacement between each teams #1 runner to make a significant difference BUT at the point where the 3-5 runners are finishing there will be a lot of displacement opportunities and this could be where the race is won.
Bonny Eagle has the top end talent to run with both Glastonbury and Champlain Valley but my theme once again goes to the 3-5 runners. Can they move forward enough to challenge the other two favorites? Addy Thibodeau gives them a very good #1 and Allie Hesler follows her with a competitive #2 but their 3-5 are a bit back on paper. The experience of finishing 2nd at New Englands last year should help them to be prepared for this Saturday and may help them move one more step forward for a New England Championship.
East Greenwich probably has the best 1-2 combo with Reese Fahys and Rylee Shunney. Reese Fahys has high end ability and Rylee has shown that she is capable of popping a big race too. The issue for them again comes down to the amount of points gained at the #1 position is limited. There are only so many runners to displace the other teams top runners. Add in the fact that a number in the top 10 area are individuals and don’t count in the team score and it lessens the displacement opportunities even more. Their 3-5 runners are not that far back of the other teams 3-5 so they certainly are in a position to contend for the championship. Their familiarity with the course at Ponaganset should always help them and help them be a serious contender for this title.
This could really end up being a great team race where almost no one knows who won until the results are posted. Each team has a very good #1 runner. All of their #2 runners are pretty much in the same area with only about 10-15 seconds separating them on paper. That’s why this will probably come down to the 3-5 runners and will show why cross country is a team sport. All of these teams will need great efforts from all 5 runners and, preferably, all 7 to help them displace other teams top 5 runners if possible. Hopefully Mother Nature won’t disrupt the racing too much. This is shaping up to be a great race and good luck to all!
The team race is extremely interesting and should be fun to watch. There are so many variables that no one will know until the gun goes off and the race starts to play out. That’s why you run the race!
Girls Individuals in the mix at New England Championships by state(with highest 2022 speed rating I could find):
Brooke Strauss, Glastonbury – 123
Kathryn Marchand, Trumbull – 121
Chase Gilbert, Lyme-Old Lyme – 121
Katherine Bohlke, Newington – 119
Hannah Andrejczyk, Shelton – 118
Alexa Ciccone, Cheshire – 118
Ruth White, Orono – 145
Cary Drake, York High School – 129
Addy Thibodeau, Bonny Eagle – 125
Amelia Vandongen, Mt. Desert – 122
Teanne Ewings, Houlton/GHCA – 116
Brianna Malone, Portsmouth Christian – 128
Haley Kavanagh, Oyster River – 114
Fiona Lee, Bedford – 113
Sheldyn Fisher SR Coe-Brown – 112
Gorriaran, Sophia, Moses Brown School – 136
Cummings, Caroline, La Salle Academy – 122
Sullivan, Rory, St. Raphael Academy – 121
Deal, Jessica, Mount Hope – 118
Fahys, Reese, East Greenwich – 116
Shunney, Rylee, East Greenwich – 115
Alice Kreddell, Champlain Valley – 120
Scarlet Stimson, Essex – 119
Tess Drury, Mt Mansfield – 118
Estella Laird, Champlain Valley – 111
This race looks like it could be a two or three person battle for the top spot and everyone else battling for top 25 status. If I was a betting man, which I’m not, it would be hard not to put my money down on
Ruth White of Orono, ME. Ruth is the defending NE champion and comes in with clearly the highest speed rating of all of the runners in the race. She is fun to watch and should be the one to watch. Also in the top tier is Sophia Gorriaran of Moses Brown School in RI. Sophia just ran 18:18 to win the RI State Championship on the Ponaganset course that they will be racing this weekend. She has the experience on the course to be a threat for the overall title.
Cary Drake (York HS ME), Reese Fahys (E. Greenwich RI) and Brianna Malone(Portsmouth Christian NH) are the next group of 3 who could be contending for a podium spot. Cary is in the unfortunate position of racing in the same state as Ruth White! Her 129 speed rating is 3rd highest from all of the NE states qualifying races. On any given day she could definitely be in the mix for a top 3 spot. Reese Fahys is a little hard to pinpoint. Her qualifying race rating was a 116 but her class rating was a 129…on the same course. The question is were there different tactics involved that had her running more conservatively or was it just a day where she was off a little. She surely from past history has the ability to run up front and be a contender in this race but this year it has been a little challenging to get a gauge on where she belongs in the pecking order. Brianna Malone looks like the next best chance to challenge for a podium spot. Brianna has convincingly won her division race and the state open championship in NH over the past 2 weekends. She will definitely be in the mix with the top runners in the NE championship.
There also is one runner who could be a pretty big wild card and they are the #1 runner on the team that many would consider the favorite for the team championship. Brooke Strauss was 7th last at the NE championships at Thetford VT as a freshman and came into her sophomore year looking to improve on that. Part way through the season, after having great early season results, she unfortunately was injured and missed around a month of the season. She has now returned to being #1 on the team after winning the Connecticut State Open last weekend. The question is how far along is her fitness one week later. She made a pretty impressive improvement from the CT Divisional Championship to the CT State Open. Can she take another step forward and push to be inside the top 5?
The next group of runners all are so close that it is almost impossible to predict where they will all end up. One thing that is easy to figure out is that this is the group that has the best chance of filling out some of the remaining spots in the top 25 and the prestigious honor of being All New England. These runners include Caroline Cummings (La Salle Acad RI), Amelia Vandongen (Mt Desert ME), Rory Sullivan (St Raphael RI), Kathryn Marchand (Trumbull CT), Chase Gilbert (Lyme-Old Lyme CT), Alice Kredell(Champlain Valley VT), Katherine Bohlke (Newington CT) and Scarlet Stimson (Essex VT) are part of a large group that are probably separated by no more than 15-20 seconds on the course. They all should have solid chances at being inside of the top 25 and help to propel their teams in the team race. Some of this could be determined by the season that their teams have taken part in. An example of this would be Alice Kredell and Champlain Valley. They have raced in NY multiple times. At Queensbury they raced against Saratoga the #1 team in the country. They also raced at theManhattan Invitational in the Eastern States race where Alice finished 11th overall. That experience should help her deal with the pressure and the level of high end talent at New Englands.
The girls close the show at Ponaganset on Saturday with a start time of 12:15 pm and this could be a very exciting race. One last factor to add to the uncertainty of the race is what condition the course will be in for the last race of the day. The remnants of the hurricane that is hitting the south will be making its way through the area on Friday into Saturday morning. There will be about 250 boys running over this course before the girls race. The field portions of the course could get very chewed up which will create another issue for these young women to deal with. It could create a few strength sapping sections of the course and some unsure footing in the field section that they traverse multiple times throughout the race. One more day and they will get to prove it on the course and I for one can’t wait!