MSTCA Twilight Preview (updated)


Last week at the Brown Invitational we witnessed pack running teams struggle to regain the tight 1-5 gap structure that usually helps them to low point totals.  The starting line format, course layout, and speed of the first mile were all contributing factors that led to the separation of teams with solid depth but no superstars.  Most coaches and athletes agreed that the pace of the first mile was the most influential component in their lackluster performance.  But when the #1 runner in the country is in your race, and he draws the pack out at a sub 5 minute pace, what choice do you have?

The same is going to be true this weekend at the MSTCA Twilight Invitational; except the variable that disrupts the pace of the first mile will be adrenaline.  There is something about racing at night that causes athletes to lose their feel for pace and forces them to run an abnormally fast first mile.  This scenario will force athletes out of their comfort zone early in the race, and will once again separate those pack running squads that thrive on their ability to work together.  The teams that maintain their composure in the first mile, and practice patience until the half-way point, will most likely prevail. 



Almost half of the Division 2 state ranked teams will be in attendance on Saturday, and adding to the depth of the field will be Division 1 ranked teams Newton South (#7), Shrewsbury (#9), Needham (#12), and Notre Dame Academy of Hingham (#13).  But the team battle up front will be between Bishop Feehan and Weston; the two top ranked teams in Division 2.  Both have had impressive seasons to this point, but what makes the match-up so intriguing is how different they are with regard to their team structure and racing style.

Bishop Feehan enters the meet as the #1 team in Division 2 and has remained in the top spot since the beginning of the season.  They opened the year with a decisive win at the Martha’s Vineyard Invitational (26 total points) and then followed-up that performance with a second place finish at the Ocean State Invitational.   From that point forward, they continued to utilize their depth to remain undefeated in dual meets, and then traveled to North Carolina where they finished 10th overall behind several nationally ranked teams at the Great American Cross Country Festival. 

What the current season resume tells you about Bishop Feehan is that they have the right racing background for success in a meet like the MSTCA Twilight Invitational.  They obviously have the personnel to pull-off the victory, but more importantly, they have been engaged in races that have started very fast and have found a way to remain under control while executing their race plan.  Abby McNulty, Katie Powell, and Erin Svensen will put together their traditional group of three in the front pack, but the meet will come down to depth, and success may rest in the hands of Abby MacBeth, Brynna Harum, and Marybeth Nametz.

Weston opened their season at the Bowdoin XC Classic in New York where they took second to La Salle Academy of Rhode Island by only 8 points.  The Wildcats returned three weeks later to post a major league victory by handing Lincoln-Sudbury their first dual meet loss in five years.  In that meet the Weston trio of Olivia Brackett, Charlotte Walmsley, and Abigail Pohl swept the race and mathematically sealed the win. 

Questions regarding Weston’s depth plagued them in the early season.  It looked as if Weston would be very impactful dual meet team, but would struggle with large point totals in major invitationals.  Then coaching and athlete development started to kick in.  Zoe Snow and Read Allen seem to be benefiting from the added weeks of training, and their performances at the Weston vs. Lincoln-Sudbury meet indicate that Weston may be a much more complete team now.  Snow improved her 5k time from 22:12 at Bowdoin to 20:22 at the Weston vs. Lincoln-Sudbury dual meet.  Likewise, Allen went from 23:52 to 21:14 at the same two meets. 

Unfortunately, Weston will not be running their usual rotation, but Brackett, Pohl, and Edom Wessenyeleh will toe the line in the varsity race. Snow and Allen wil be in the sophomore race, but the combined effort will provide good insight on how the two division powers match-up.

Newton South has hovered right around the #7 spot in the MSTCA Division 1 rankings all season.  Their crafty and methodical coach Steve McChesney has kept the group fairly quiet over the first half of the season, but like most elite teams, they appear poised to start posting fast times in preparation for the post season.  The Lions were tested early in the DCL at a meet where three Massachusetts ranked teams took to the line.  Newton-South finished second behind Lincoln-Sudbury that day, but a lot of training time has passes since September 27th.  Sophomore Anna Rhatigan has been fearless in her attack on the DCL, and her young supporting cast shares her confidence.  Newton South will be in the mix. It may not be flashy or fancy, but they will chip away at teams in the second half.

Jordan O’Dea of Dennis-Yarmouth and Jessica Cardin of Sutton have already gone head-to-head at the Bay State Invitational.  O’Dea put a significant gap on Cardin and ran away with that race in 19:29.  Cardin finished second (20:03) against a very respectable field and should benefit from the pack density that Bishop Feehan and Weston will add to the race.  Jessica Currier (Dennis-Yarmouth) and Arianna Maida (Bishop Fenwick) should also be in the top 15 as D-Y, Notre Dame Academy, Shrewsbury, Needham, and Sutton all battle for the podium.



Brookline is coming off a solid performance at the Brown Invitational where they finished third in the Championship Division behind US#30 St. Anthony’s and in-state rival Pembroke. This week they will be challenged again by another Division 2 power in Bishop Feehan.  Chernet Sisay is the dominant individual in the meet and should help Brookline with some very low points as their top runner, but then the real battle begins. 

Bishop Feehan won the Ocean State Invitational with 93 points; just 2 points ahead of St. John’s and 5 points ahead of LowellHenry Dodge led the team that day by finishing 10th in 16:42, but the most damage was done by the Feehan pack.  Rich Moschella, Mike Hanley, Mike Wood, and Alex Conway all came storming in with a 15 second gap to seal the win.  If Brookline wants to get the team win they will need to match-up and outrace their respective counterparts.  Thankfully for Brookline, Mark Perry, Matt Goroff, Aaron Klein, and Even Sternstein have the ability and competitive drive to do so.

Sandwich is a group that survives on the strength of their pack.  As noted in the beginning of this preview, the Brown Invitational was not conducive to their style of running, but Coach Infascelli will never give you that excuse.  The Blue Knights are looking to rebound from an average performance at Brown, and their dual meet on Tuesday was a good test of their resolve.  Sandwich traveled to Marshfield where the two ranked teams battled it out from the gun. It was Sandwich who escaped with the 10 point win, but they had to work to do it.  The MSTCA Twilight Invitational will be their third hard race in just seven days, but their depth has allowed them to rest athletes in dual meets and the squad should be ready for the challenge.

Zach Ganshirt ignited the Walpole program with his winning performance in the Division 2 race at the Brown Invitational.  To prove it was not fluke, Ganshirt returned on Tuesday to set a new course record in their tri-meet with Weymouth and Braintree.  His teammates have taken notice, and the performances have sparked a resurgence in the program.  Walpole finished 4th in the Division 2 race at Brown and then returned to beat Weymouth and Braintree in their tri-meet.  They will not be racing a full squad on Saturday, but the experience will become a valuable tool in developing their depth for the post season.

The remainder of the field is a toss-up and many of the ranked teams will meet for the first time this season.  Martha’s Vineyard (MA#8), Dennis-Yarmouth (MA#10), Sutton (MA#14), Whitinsville Christian (MA#17), and Hopkinton (MA#19) round-out the Division 2 ranked teams that should be in contention for a podium spot.  Brendan Sullivan of Foxboro finished second in the Divison 2 race of the Bay State Inivitational and seems to be adjusting well to the coahching change that took place this summer.  The modest, yet confident, harrier from Foxboro will be in the front pack and will challenge for a top 5 finish. 

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