Congratulations to all who competed at the New England Cross Country Championships this past weekend in Rhode Island. Once again, this proved to be the unique event full of pure competition! The course was immaculate and held up quite well after the remnants of a hurricane blew through the evening before. Kudos to the Ponaganset and Rhode Island running community for staging and pulling off a first class event.
While our friend Scott Bliss provides a follow-up recap to his preview, we wanted to specifically congratulate the following athletes and teams from NH as they stood out in the stiffest of competitions! Congrats to PCA’s Brianna Malone as she was an impressive runner-up! Racing strong and solo once again, she placed a comfortable 2nd in 18:33. The Granite State had 4 earn All-New England honors as Oyster River’s Haley Kavanagh, Coe-Brown’s Sheldyn Fisher and Oyster River’s Mackenzie Cook placed 8th, 16th and 17th respectively.
Kudos to Hanover girls as they placed 7th overall with 272 points. This was the highest place of any NH team. Pinkerton placed 12th, Bedford 13th, Dover 14th, Winnacunnet 16th and Oyster River 19th.
The NH boy individuals perhaps had the best overall showing as they placed 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th and 17th. Coe-Brown’s Aidan Cox made a valiant effort coming off injury to take a shot at eventual winner Devan Kipyego of Rhode Island. He was overtaken by Lebanon’s Birhanu Harriman and Gilford’s Patrick Gandini as they placed 3rd and 4th respectively in 15:39 and 15:42 to Cox’s 15:45. BG’s Matthew Giardina was 10th in 15:54 and Londonderry’s Ryan Fortin was 17th in 16:19. NH’s top 5 better than any other state in New England. Coe-Brown had a subpar showing placing 11th sa NH’s top team.
By Scott Bliss
The 2022 New England Championships are wrapped up and we have a brand new first time team winner on the boys side and on the girls side a team winning their second overall but first since 2008. On the individual side the two eventual champions, Devan Kipyego for the boys and Ruth White for the girls, dominated their races and led from the 1 mile mark to the finish. The opposite was true in the team races that were close battles right down to the last kilometer and the finish line. In the end Hall(CT) secured the boys crown and their first New England Champion by racing a near perfect tactical race. Glastonbury(CT) completed the CT sweep of the team titles and won their second championship and first since 2008 by outlasting Champlain Valley.
Results – Courtesy of In Stride Timing
One of the concerns coming into these races was what impact the weather would have on the course. The remnants of Hurricane Ian were heading up the East Coast and rain started Friday early evening and continued into the morning hours. The weather felt more summerish than what should be around in New England on November 12th and may have played a factor in some of the race results. The field area of the course was somewhat muddy and may have created some strength sapping issues from runners, but the entire field was dealing with the same conditions. The humidity and abnormal heat may have been the biggest factor in some of the second half race issues runners encountered and these conditions also were a factor in the exceptional race plan of the Hall team.
The mentality of the Hall team as they entered their championship season of 4 races was to try and run 4 great races and if they lost, to know that they were beaten by a better team. That mentality allowed them to look at this race and break down what they needed to do to run the best race they could. This meant being controlled in the first mile. The first mile at Ponaganset can be fast because it is so flat and can result in many runners going out too fast and then fading in the second half where the long climb comes in. According to Hall coach Jeff Billing there plan was to, “go out the way that you feel sets you up to run your best 5000 meters, and be aware that it may mean you have a lot of people to pass because its New Englands and the first mile is flat and people are gonna go out hard.” These words couldn’t have played out or been more true! At the 1 mile mark Hall was in 5th place. In position but definitely not looking like a huge threat…yet. The next timing mat is at the 4K mark and that was where everyone first got to see how much things had changed. And changed dramatically! The Hall 1-5 runners made up a combined 167 spots between them. The 3-5 runners made up 141 spots between the 3 of them. That is an insane amount of spots to make up in approximately 1.5 miles. Their #4 runner Sophomore Ben Lewis made up an amazing 79 spots after the 1st mile!
Hall was still trailing Bishop Hendricken at the 4K mark but the lead was now down to 9 points and the Hall train didn’t stop moving forward. They ran down the people they needed over the last kilometer to best Hendricken by a narrow 8 point victory 89-97. Coach Billing specifically called out their fifth man Avery Allen who nipped 3 runners at the line as an example of how the team kept fighting through the finish line.
Bishop Hendricken should be proud of their effort because they ran a good race, but Hall executed their plan perfectly. Hendricken led at the mile and 4K marks and actually dropped their team score at each spot. They even dropped their team score from the 4K mark until the finish. Their problem was Hall chasing them down in the final kilometer. Hendricken improved their team score by 3 points over the final kilometer but Hall gained 20 team points over that same period of time.
Connecticut showed the state’s domination by placing 5 teams in the top 6. Hall was followed by Ridgefield 3rd, Xavier 4th, Danbury 5th and New Milford 6th. The Connecticut domination was impressive and when you figure in Staples finishing 10th the entire CT field was in the top 10 for teams. One performance that I don’t think should be overlooked is the final kilometer by Ridgefield. Well really their entire race to be honest. At the mile mark they were 7th with 273 points. They moved up to 5th with 203 by 4K and then blitzed the final kilometer to make up 42 points and vault themselves from 5th overall to 3rd overall and on the podium. That was a solid performance and deserves recognition!
Devan Kipyego(RI) did his best to make the boys race fairly boring. He had a 2 second lead at the mile and then continued to pull ahead in the 1.5 mile stretch to increase that lead 18 seconds at 4K which basically let him cruise in for a 13 second win and the individual championship. The race behind him was anything but boring! The next 7 runners were separated by only 11 seconds and second through fourth by only 5 seconds. Steven Hergenrother(CT) followed the plan of being controlled early and moving forward over the last 2 miles. He came through the mile in 15th place and moved himself up to the second overall spot by the end of the race. Following a similar strategy Birhanu Harriman(NH) came from 21st at the mile to 6th at 4K and he eventually moved into the 3rd spot by the finish. Harriman has run many races like this where he starts controlled and steadily moves through the field. The strategy clearly works well for him and he has been able to replicate multiple times. The top 5 was rounded out with Patrick Gandini(NH) and Aidan Cox (NH) in 4th and 5th respectively. Patrick has consistently battled with Birhanu throughout the season, beating him by .2 of a second at NH MOC last weekend. This weekend Birhanu had his number to squeak in front of him at the line. Aidan Cox put in a valiant effort considering he has been battling injury for a couple of weeks and has not been able to do much running leading into this race. He was able to hold 2nd place for the majority of the race until in the last kilometer the pack came after him. It would have been great to see what Aidan was capable of if he was fully healthy but a top 5 performance after his training being disrupted was an impressive performance. NH showed its individual runner strength by placing 4 runners in the top 10 and taking spots 3-5. It maybe wasn’t the team domination that CT had but an impressive performance nonetheless.
Results – Courtesy of Inside Timing
The girls race coming into the race was really a two team race with a few teams maybe having a chance if many things broke their way. In the end the two teams, Glastonbury(CT) and Champlain Valley(VT), were the two teams battling for the title. In the end Glastonbury held on for the 17 point victory and their second New England Championship and first since 2008.
Champlain Valley took the early lead at the mile mark and held a 17 point advantage over Glastonbury. They both continued to battle over the next 2+ miles and it wouldn’t be fully decided until the last kilometer. Glastonbury made a nice move in the middle section of the course and took control of the race at this point. The 4K split moved them into 1st place by 9 points 119-128 and they wouldn’t let this race get away from them at this point. Kelly MacElhiney had a huge race for them to finish #1 on the team in 26th place. Her race became important because of the uncertainty of Brooke Strauss and how heathy she was. Brooke had been dealing with an ankle injury for the majority of the season and had just won the CT Open the weekend before but she struggled a bit today as the race wore on. She still gutted out a 27th place finish to finish #2 on the team and that score was huge. If she doesn’t run, most likely the team championship would be going home with Champlain Valley.
Champlain Valley was looking to win their seventh New England Championship but may have gone out too hard in the first mile. They had the lead at the mile but by the 4K mark they had dropped to second and had dropped 18 points in the team score. Estella Laird led CVU in 34th place but Glastonbury had 2 in at this point. Behind Laird, Amelie Scharf and Audrey Neilson had moved forward to try and help stabilize the team. Neilson gained 30 spots over the last 2 miles to run a very good race but at this point Glastonbury had their third runner in. Over the final kilometer Glastonbury had just a little bit more than CVU and increased the final gap to 116-133.
New Milford(CT) ran a solid race at New Englands once again to round out the top 3 and the podium. The defending New England champions had finished second to Glastonbury in the CT Open and continued to show that they are a team to always look to when New Englands rolls around. Bonny Eagle(ME), last year’s runner up, finished fourth and continued a solid string of performances at this meet. They were led by Addy Thibodeau in 10th place and Addy followed the formula that many did, which was to slowly move forward through the field and take advantage of those who went out too hard. She was 23rd at the mile, 15th at 4K and moved to 10th by the finish. The Ridgefield(CT) girls, like their boys team, had one of the most impressive team races when you look at how the race broke down by the splits and team position. They were 6th at the CT Open but what a difference a week can make because they rounded out the top 5 in RI. At the mile split Ridgefield was in 7th place with 302 points they moved into 5th at the 4K split and had dropped their team score to 202. They made up 100 team points in about 1.5 miles. Pretty impressive. At the finish they stayed put in 5th place but had dropped their score again to 190. It’s probably a good thing for some teams in front of them that the race wasn’t another .5 mile longer!
The individual girls race was finished pretty early. Ruth White(ME) was the overwhelming favorite and the powerhouse from ME showed why she was. She led basically wire to wire and just kept building and building on her dominating performance as the race went on. She led at the mile by 9 seconds so still kind of close, but then came the next 1.5 miles of downhill and uphill. She increased her lead at the 4K mark to 43 seconds over Brianna Malone(NH). Ruth cruise controlled the last kilometer to maintain her margin and win by a comfortable 42 seconds over Malone. One of the individual races of the day was behind these two for the 3rd overall spot. Tess Drury(VT) gradually moved her way from 15th place at the mile to 3rd at the line and the final podium spot. The gap between Drury in 3rd and Kathryn Marchand(CT) in 4th was a scant .3 seconds! Only about 2 seconds back of these two was Alexa Ciccone(CT) in what ended up being a battle between these three over the final 2 miles of the race. The next 5 spots in the top 10 were separated by only 10 seconds. Amelia Vandongen(ME) ran a very consistent race to finish 6th followed by Reese Fahys(RI) 7th, Haley Kavanagh(NH) 8th, Sydney Kelleher(CT) 9th and Addy Thibodeau in 10th. Maine and Connecticut each had 3 runners in the top 10 to impressively represent their states.
And that’s a wrap for the New England Championships for 2022. Hopefully teams and individuals are moving on to the remaining championship races to continue their development and be a part of some fun events. Now the planning for the 2023 season begins and teams will try to see what they can do to land on the top of the podium like Hall and Glastonbury. Great job to all the runners, teams and coaches on the effort that you put in to represent your schools and states.