New England has weathered a freak early season storm, but its disruptive nature has created lasting implications for the New England Championships. Power outages and muddy conditions across the region wreaked havoc on the post season in many of the participating states. As a result, getting a true sense of the race depth is difficult because of the modifications made to many of the traditional qualifying courses, and the postponement of the Connecticut State Open Championships to November 8th.
But it’s the unknown that makes this sport so exciting. Will the weather cooperate? How will the Connecticut athletes respond to racing on just four days rest? Was Chariho’s loss to Bishop Hendricken at the Rhode Island State Championships just a hiccup, and can their 5th and 6th runners deliver Saturday? The only thing that will answer all these questions is a knock-down-drag-out race. Thankfully, that’s what we are going to get.
Here is a look at what each state has to offer:
Scarborough made short work of the post season; winning the Maine West Region Championship with relative ease, and then earning the Class A state crown by 14 points over Bangor. The Red Storm posted the second fastest team time of the day (88:48); due in large part to the 16:46 winning time of Nick Morris and some crafty pack running by Ian Morris, Robby Hall, and Jack Sullivan. Nick Morris was pushed to the brink in that race, holding off Harlow Ladd of Messalonskee by a fraction of a second. Ladd, Chris Dunn (Kennebunk), and Benson Worthington (Brunswick) all went sub 17 minutes that day and should factor into the top 25 Saturday.
Falmouth had the fastest team time of the day in route to winning the Class B State Championship with 64 points. Tim Follo led the group by finishing second (16:32), but the bulk of their damage came from a pack of four that crossed the line with a 12 second spread. Their small gap, which is not uncommon for them, will pay dividends in the larger field on Saturday if they can maintain contact.
Silas Eastman of Fryeburg Academy won the Class B Championships (16:14) by a comfortable margin and was 20th in the 2010 New England Championships as a sophomore. He will be joined by Dan Curts who was third (16:38) behind Eastman and Follo in the Class B Championships but finished 41st in the 2010 New England Championships as a freshman.
But the best shot at a podium spot for Maine may be the result of Matt McClintock's performance. The Madison High star scorched the 5,000 meter course at Twin Book to win the Class C Championship by 45 seconds over a very talented Chase Brown of Booth Bay. McClintock remains undefeated on the season in Maine, and course records were always in jeopardy when he took to the line. His Class C counterpart, Chase Brown, has a resume full of top three finishes from this season and is certainly big race ready after locking horns with McClintock.
Some of the best individuals in New Hampshire are also part of some of the best teams in the state. Bishop Guertin and Pinkerton have been fighting for bragging rights all season long as the two jostled for the top spot in the state. Both teams share a similar profile with a top tier front runner and impressive depth, but it was Bishop Guertin who edged Pinkerton by five points to win the New Hampshire State Meet of Champions. Dylan Lafond of Manchester Central won the individual title in 15:41, but then the two New Hampshire heavyweight teams began to trade virtual punches as they alternated athletes across the finish line. Chris Cogliano (Bishop Guertin) and Grant Langevin (Pinkerton) will have to replicate their impressive performances from last week if they want their team to have a shot at the podium. But more importantly, both teams will need help from their 5th runners if they want a point total that gives them a fighting chance.
In addition to the runners mentioned above, James Godin (Dover), Devin Motivala (Nashua North), Jeremy Brassard (Coe-Brown), and Colton Ham (Merrimack Valley) also covered the 5,000 meter course at Mine Falls in less than 16 minutes last weekend. Add to the mix John Conlin of Merrimack who finished 7th at this race in 2010, and New Hampshire should be well represented in both the individual and team battles.
Athletes from the Green Mountain Sate enter Saturday’s competition with the potential advantage of fresh legs. Their state championships took place on October 29th, providing ample time to rest and recover. No doubt they will be rested, but can they stay sharp with a two week layoff? And just as important, can they extend their peak cycle to span the gap?
The answer may be tied to how hard each team and individual had to run at their state championships to achieve their intended goal.
Mt. Mansfield collected a state title by placing all five scoring runners in the top 20 places of the Division 1 race. Jack Hegman led the group by finishing 5th in 17:25 on the very challenging Thetford Academy course. Back in the first week of October, Mt. Mansfield finished third in the Woods Trail Run on the same course behind two very good teams from Connecticut with a team time of 94:25. In one month they took approximately four minutes off their team time to win the Vermont D1 State Meet in 90.26. Their tremendous improvement is a good sign heading into Saturday, and the team time illustrates the difficulty of the course.
The rest of the Vermont contingent may be too close to call. St. Johnsbury Academy, Mt. Anthony Union, Harwood Union, and Woodstock Union all finished in the top four places of their respective divisions with team times in the range of 91 to 92 minutes. Mt. Anthony may have the best front runner in Mark Brandmeyer, but St. Johnsbury and Woodstock will both bring a solid trio to the line.
The top individual returner from the 2010 New England Championships to represent Vermont is Brendan Copley of Colchester. As a junior, Copley finished 13th overall, and he recently had a very impressive performance at the Division 1 state meet where he finished second by just 6 seconds. He will be joined by Daniel Grosvenor of Montpelier and Zach Chatot, both winners of their respective divisions at the state championships.
For a small state, Rhode Island sure packs some depth. The feature team out of the Ocean State is US#39 Bishop Hendricken. With only one senior in their top five, this very young squad has talent to spare. They run on absurdly small gaps (17 seconds at the RI State Championships) and do most of their damage as a pack in the front third of the field.
Even without a glaring weakness, Bishop Hendricken barely escaped with the Rhode Island state title. Chariho gave them all they could handle by taking four of the top six places, but had a bit of trouble with their back end depth. Bishop Hendricken escaped with a 47 to 55 point win, but any sort of glitch in their pack may have turned the tables. The two teams will battle again for a podium spot and you may see Chariho’s 5-7 runners really take a gamble in the early stages of the race.
Rhode Island will also be a force in the hunt for the individual title as the entire top ten from the Rhode Island State Championships are scheduled to race. Leading the way is Mike Marsella of Chariho who is the reigning Rhode Island State Champion and currently ranked in the top 50 nationally. Marsella held off teammate Jake Kilcoyne by 12 seconds for the win last week, but a Connecticut challenger may force that gap to grow. Trevor Crawley (Cumberland), Dan Kilcoyne (Chariho), and Tyler Henseler (Bishop Hendricken) will also establish themselves in the front pack.
Connecticut had two things working against them last week; weather and depth. The CIAC State Open Championships were moved to Tuesday as the result of torrential downpours that battered the state last week. That explains the weather part, but how is depth a problem? During that race places 3 – 42 were only separated by less than a minute, and the team battle for the podium had three squads separated by only seven points. Simply put, if you wanted to win on Tuesday you had to run hard.
Four days is a short turnaround between championships, but don’t look for athletes from the great state of Conneticuit to just roll over. Connor Rog of Fairfield Prep is currently ranked 24th in the country and blistered a 15:22 (5K) to win the state title. Harry Warnick of Fairfield Warde was unfazed by Rog’s credentials and went after him; only to fall short by 13 seconds (15:35). Henry Wynne (Staples), Muad Hrezi (Naugatuck), and Jake Feinstein (Newtown) all ran under 16 minutes, but then the real battles ensued. The next 75 places clicked off on roughly one second intervals and the depth of the state was on display.
Fairfield Prep won the team title and Rog’s performances appear to inspire his teammates. They have remained tough all year and will be in the hunt for a podium spot with their trio of runners up front. Xavier, Danbury, and Amity were the teams separated by just seven points on Tuesday, and all three have nice solid groups that do their work in the mid-pack trenches. All but Danbury finished in the top 10 last year, and it wouldn’t be a shock if Danbury joined the other three in that elite group this year.
More meet coverage......