Division 1 Girls - Weymouth anticipated a tough week, and an even tougher weekend. The MA#1 ranked Wildcats had a Bay State League showdown with Needham on Tuesday, and they enter the weekend as the top target of every team at the Bay State Invitational. But this is not Coach Miller’s first rodeo. The savvy head coach took a gamble and rested Bridget Jaklitsch on Tuesday; a move that almost cost them the meet.
“Needham really came to race today, which is a lot more than I can say about us. They put 6 in front of our 5th, and had the meet won through 2 miles. Jaklitsch rested; almost cost us a league title.” Weymouth escaped with the 25-31 win, albeit closer than Miller would have liked, but should be at full strength in the Division 1 race on Saturday.
Whitman-Hanson enters the meet ranked 4th in the state and may have the best shot at upsetting Weymouth. The Panthers have been cruising through their league and remain undefeated, but they have not had an invitational test this season. Gianna Cacciatore, Abby Baker, Rachel Baker, and Jenny Dimascio-Donahue have been an impressive group of four in dual meet action, but the team will need Casey Egan and one of their talented freshmen to take an assertive role in the 5th spot.
Andover, Newton South, Franklin, Chelmsford, Notre Dame (Hingham), Lowell, Amherst, and Brookline will all be engaged in a battle for the podium and should contribute some high caliber athletes to the individual title race.
Division 1 Boys – Finally, the time has arrived. 7 of the top 10 teams in Division 1 take to the line on Saturday and we will get to see the much anticipated match-up of Brookline, St. John’s, and Lowell. True to form, Brookline has been very conservative so far this season and they have only raced a complete varsity squad once this fall. That one time was impressive though, as the Warriors crushed the field at the Amherst Invitational by placing four athletes in the top 20.
St. John’s of Shrewsbury also had a nice showing last weekend at the Ocean State Invitational, narrowly missing the Championship Division crown by 2 points to Bishop Feehan. They were followed closely by Lowell who finished just 3 points behind in third, but Lowell appears to be a little banged-up and might not race their usual line-up Saturday. Mansfield, Marshfield, Andover, Whitman-Hanson, and St. John’s Prep all have a shot at the top three if Lowell is not at full strength.
The individual race should be a good one with the usual cast of characters vying for the win. The Amherst Invitational gave us a good preview of the top individuals in the state, but when you add Chris Allen, Josh Lampron, and Jon Green to the equation things may change dramatically. Lampron has been nursing a hamstring injury over the past couple of weeks and intelligently let Chris Allen go in their dual meet on Tuesday. But Saturday may be Lampron’s first full effort if he is feeling healthy and you will most likely see him sitting in the front pack waiting for the right time to strike.
Division 2 Girls – Last weekend was a great match-up between Bishop Feehan and Hamilton-Wenham at the Ocean State Invitational, and we thought we might get a rematch this week at the Bay State Invitational. But Bishop Feehan is splitting their squad and taking the varsity athletes to the Great American Cross Country Festival. This leaves Hamilton-Wenham alone at the top with a little bit of time to work on some details before they take another shot at the Shamrocks. There may not be another team in the Division 2 field that can match Hamilton-Wenham's depth, but it will be interesting to see how they navigate the thick main pack to maintain that small 1-5 gap that makes them so good.
Sutton, Dennis-Yarmouth, Medfield, Dover-Sherborn, Marblehead, Hopkinton, Westwood, and Bedford comprise the remaining ranked teams in the field, and a podium spot is completely up for grabs.
Division 2 Boys – For Pembroke, everything must seem like a walk in the park after racing the #2 team in the country last weekend. CBA got the best of the Titans, but Coach Z’s team showed they can run with anybody. On paper, Pembroke’s biggest challenge this weekend is Bishop Feehan, but the top Shamrock harriers will not be in attendance. That leaves eleven ranked Division 2 teams with the daunting task of upsetting the reigning State Champions. That might not happen, but the struggle for second place may push a team or two dangerously close.
Bay State by the Numbers – Courtesy of Rick Kates
Bishop Feehan will take their top 11 athletes to North Carolina for the Great American Cross Country Festival. Both Shamrock squads are entered in the Race of Champions division where they will truly be tested against some of the best teams in the country. The girls will line-up next to US#3 Saratoga Spring (NY), US#5 Tatnall (DE), US#8 Green Hope (NC), and US#16 Great Oak (CA). The race will be a scorcher, and the Feehan pack will need to operate on a 1-5 gap of under 45 seconds to be in the hunt. US#25 Hailey Pierce of Tatnall will headline the individual race.
The boys Race of Champions division is not quite as deep, but Bishop Feehan will have to contend with US#21 Midlothian (VA) and Bishop Hendricken of Rhode Island. The Feehan boys are coming off a great performance at the Ocean State Invitational where they won the Championship Division by two points over St. John’s of Shrewsbury. The Feehan team has been on a roll and racing hard; we will see if they can replicate another stellar performance.
Also traveling to North Carolina is Amherst, Holyoke, and Ludlow. All three will be in the Red Division on the boys’ side, and Ludlow will compete in the girls White Division. In addition, Amherst, Bishop Feehan, and Ludlow will have several athletes in the JV race. The Amherst boys are riding a wave of momentum after their second place finish at their home invitational. They did not have an athlete finish in the top 20, but their 37 second 1-5 gap illustrated their strength. Amherst will certainly benefit from another race with a similar gap, but they must move their pack forward to have an impact in larger invitationals.
This unique format divides the total number of entrants into races of approximately 150 to 200 runners, based on submitted seed times. The first seven runners for each team, based on time, will be used to compile the team scores.
Amherst (girls), Taunton, Notre Dame Tyngsboro, Hampshire, St. Mary’s, and Swampscott are the only teams from Massachusetts that will travel to Thetford Academy and challenge the 2010 New England Championships course. Teams from six surrounding states will be in attendance, including US#24 Champlain Valley, VT.
Taunton recently suffered a setback when the team learned that Andrew Doherty will most likely miss 6-8 week of the season because of a back injury. The tenacious sophomore was part of a dynamic group of young runners who were rapidly developing into an EMass threat. Taunton Head Coach Wyatt Clifford acknowledged that Doherty was a big component of the varsity program, but has the rest of the troops prepared to make-up for his absence. “Scott Tran, Jake Rogers, Damian Collins, and Colby Correira know that they need to step their game up now that we lost Andrew.” This weekend’s race will be the first invitational without Doherty – although he was nowhere near 100 percent last weekend at the Ocean State Invitational – and the race will give us a good indication of how competitive the Tigers can be without him.