CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW- EAST DIVISION V
Newburyport was the runaway team champion in 2011, scoring a low 70 points, and has 4 of the top 20 returners in the race, making them the favorites once again. However, Martha’s Vineyard brings back the whole gang from its 3rd place team a year ago, making the Newburyport edge by the narrowest of margins. On paper, these are the top two teams by a good amount, with Westwood taking a big hit to graduation and most teams in search of their 4 and 5 runners in the early stages. One team to take a long look at is Old Rochester, a team that was 5th a year ago, the dreaded spot in EMass that does not move on to All States. They ought to move up, thanks to Mike Wyman and a solid group under 18:30.
The top 4 runners return from Franklin Park in 2011, so I don’t expect a huge change in that group, although the places might be very different. The edge might actually have to go to Old Rochester’s Mike Wyman, having gone 4:19 for 7th in the mile at All States this spring. The rest of the group, while they might have fallen short of Wyman’s impressive track resume in 2012, actually all beat him at EMass in 2011, as Wyman finished 4th in 16:57. Weston’s Matt Herzig, the defending champion, was 10th in the 2 mile outdoors at 9:27, just one spot behind Peter Hale of Swampscott (9:25), the 2011 runner-up at EMass. Westwood’s Bobby McLaughlin was 3rd a year ago, making this a true 4-man battle. Wyman, Hale, and Herzig showed a huge leap forward this spring, so it’s anybody’s guess who comes out on top.
TOP 10 TEAMS
10. PENTUCKET- The Sachems, centered in West Newbury, were back in 14th in 2011, without a runner under 18:00. Although not the typical recipe for future success, this group has a tight pack that could make some real noise in 2012. Brothers Tom and Joe Labrecque will lead the way, as well as sophomore Alex Demeule and Ian Mitchell. The team might lack a true 5th runner, making it hard for them to push closer to the top 5 spots, but these four ought to keep them in close range.
9. WESTWOOD- Last year’s runner-up team surprised a great deal of people, after a high profile coaching change brought former Bentley mentor Ed Lyons into the fold, and he brought the Wolverines close to a divisional title. Graduation losses were heavy, but this team will have a low score coming from Bobby McLaughlin, and enough fire-power from Jim Terzian and Greg Campion to compete in 2012. One slight adjustment would have to be made if the addition of Fawzi Itani, who went 4:40 as a sophomore, entered the fold.
8. HAMILTON-WENHAM- 8th in 2011, the Generals should expect to be fairly close to that finish once again. Junior Matt Gillis and sophomore Jack Blatchford will lead the troops, with Kevin Rutigliano and sophomore Michael Allara not far behind. In a wide-open division, there’s nothing saying that H-W can’t move well up from this spot, but in order to do so, low scores from Gillis and Blatchford would go a long way.
7. MEDFIELD- By far the toughest team to predict in this class. 6th a year ago, the Warriors lost 6th place finisher Jack Moses and appeared on their way down. However, the track season was very good to them, as Ian Robertson (9:25) had a breakout year, brother Sean wasn’t far behind, and Greg Lyons and freshman Austin Scola looked real good as well. I didn’t move them up further, but keep an eye on this group; this team has the best chance to move the furthest up in the class.
6. COYLE & CASSIDY- Last year’s 9th place team, the Warriors essentially return the core of their squad, making them a strong candidate for a big move forward. Junior Dan McSolla led the way last year, and should again in 2012, but the gap from him to the pack simply has to close up. Seniors Paul Lapree, Andrew McCluskey, and Joe Fichera are that pack, and should be motivated to finish their careers the best way possible. Sophomore Scott McCluskey should be another key component, having broken 5:00 this past spring.
5. SWAMPSCOTT- Having made a run at All States in 2011, the Big Blue brings back Peter Hale, whose track season makes him a true threat to win the EMass title this time around. Hale will have help from Matt Mahoney, a top 20 runner last year. The graduations of Ryan Kelley and Nick Hartman will put Swampscott in a tight spot, so they will need guys like Sam Crimmins to step in and step up.
4. WESTON- Matt Herzig’s 9:27 clocking at the All State 2 mile opened up a lot of eyes in Mass. That Weston’s Wildcats are far from simply a girls’ juggernaut. Herzig will look to defend his crown and have some company at Northfield Mountain in 2012, as a nice pack of sophomore Gavin McEwen and seniors Eli Curme and Geoffrey Pendergast will provide the depth. The team will search for a strong 5th runner, and if it finds one, might find itself on the podium this time around.
3. OLD ROCHESTER- Mike Wyman’s name became well-known in the track community in 2012 when the sophomore ran 4:19 at All States in a star-studded field. Those who actually paid attention after Josh Lampron and Joel Hubbard crossed the line saw a young man with more poise and patience than most his age could have demonstrated in that memorable race. But Wyman was surely disappointed when he did not get to race with his entire team at Franklin Park in 2011, as the Bulldogs finished in that dreaded 5th spot. Fellow-qualifier Nick Pacheco returns, giving them on paper the best 1-2. Connor Medieros-Sweet will provide depth, as should sophomore Mike Kassabian.
2. MARTHA’S VINEYARD- Essentially, this was a coin-flip, and the Vineyarders lost to Newburyport. Although not quite that random, the tiebreaker here was experience, as the Clippers found a way to get it done in 2011. Cooper Chapman and Michael Schroeder lead the way for MV, who ended up 3rd in 2011, and graduate nobody form that top-7. Sam Oslyn, Jeremy Alley-Tarter, and James Roddy round out the five, but what might put this team over the top is its depth. Kyle Joba-Woodruff and Deforest Job lead a young group back hungry for a title. What a story it would be if they did win, too. Team travels the farthest and wins it all!
1. NEWBURYPORT- With all I’ve said about Martha’s Vineyard, it was obviously a difficult decision to keep the Clippers here at #1. However, there is something to be said for doing it once, and bringing back the horses to do it again. The graduations of Chris Suprin and Keith Conway makes this a tall task, but sophomore Nick Carleo will be a top-3 candidate, as he was by far the class’s best freshman in 2011. Joe Santo, Chris Orlando, and Max Vye were all top-35 guys, and all return. Sawyer Updike and John Landergan didn’t even make the 2011 EMass squad, and just about everybody on this team had a great spring to go off of. They might not win, but I’m not willing to poke this beast.
In what was one of the greatest meets of all time, Hamilton-Wenham and Weston battled to a 36-37 meet in 2011, with Steve Sawyer’s Generals coming out on top over John Monz’s Wildcats. It was a sign of things to come for H-W, who despite a runner-up finish to Bishop Feehan at All States, came back a week later with a vengeance, winning the Nike XC Northeast Regional and heading to Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, OR. 6 of the top 8 and 12 of the top 18 runners in the race came from these two teams, each dominant in their own right. 3rd place Pentucket, a solid team themselves, was over 100 points back of these two. This time around, Weston loses its top two runners, making this seem like more of a walk in the park for H-W. However, don’t count Weston out, as they have shown an ability to reload and regroup in the past.
Unlike many of the classes we’ve already covered, this one is decimated by graduation, leaving the door wide open for any number of athletes to take over the reins. The top 4 runners are gone, leaving Weston’s Abigail Pohl and Zoe Snow to fend off a quartet of Hamilton-Wenham runners, sophomore Emily Weigand, junior Emily Horgan, and seniors Margaret Blatchford and Claire Pacione. While it is unlikely the individual champion doesn’t come from one of these two teams, based on sheer numbers alone, one candidate might be Medfield’s Taylor Worthy, who was 6th at the outdoor All State meet in the 800 in 2:17 (after winning DIII’s), and could benefit from the faster course at Wrentham against these longer distance stars. A year ago, Worthy was essentially a converted sprinter running XC to get into track shape, so expect her to blast onto the XC scene.
TOP 10 TEAMS
10. COYLE & CASSIDY- Having a 1-2 punch as good as Emily Curley and Megan Hutch is a starting point that many would drool over. These two girls were each top-25 finishers at EMass in 2011, and despite the departure of Megan Ritchie, C&C will bank on their continued improvements. Look for Ivy Loftus, who did not race at DV in 2011, to hold down the 3rd spot, but a search for #4 and #5 is on. Don’t worry, Warriors, you are far from alone in that search.
9. CANTON- The Bulldogs were 14th a year ago and were paced Kelsey Sayers and Michaela Kelly along the way. The move into the top 10, however, should come thanks to a breakout spring season from junior Courtney Loughnane, who ran a breakout 12:51, making her a candidate to soar into the team’s top spot. They will need help from others to move much further up, but this is a strong start.
8. OLD ROCHESTER- The Mattapoisett-based Regional School is perhaps better known for its track success, having produced stars like Ally Saccone in recent years. However, this XC squad can motor and should improve greatly from its 15th place finish in 2011. Juniors Sam Barrett, Paige Santos, and Hannah Veira return, giving the Bulldogs a solid top-3 to work with. They’ll need to tighten up beneath that trio, but look solid for a top-10 clocking.
7. MEDFIELD- Last year’s 7th place team brings back Taylor Worthy, their only top-10 runner from that team, who also went 2:17 at All States, showing off impressive wheels. Junior Ashley Campisano returns as well, giving them a nice top 2 on paper. The gap to #3 Sally Todd was large, although her 5:33 clocking this spring indicates it will close. With a solid spring from Sarah Bock and Kelly Gair, the Warriors, like their male counterparts, could easily move forward from this ranking.
6. PENTUCKET- EMass runner-up Rebecca Morse is gone, but the Sachems chances are far from over. Finishing 3rd in 2011, albeit a distance away from H-W and Weston, they will now count on sophomore Kelsi McNamara and junior Emma Marchant, each who put together very impressive outdoor track seasons. Sophomore Brianna Repke will be another solid pack runner, and if Pentucket can find one or two more to fill in the key 4-5 gaps, they will be a tough out for anyone in DV.
5. ARLINGTON CATHOLIC- A solid 6th in 2011, the Cougars will look to move up a spot, and perhaps into All State qualification position, a year later. Kaitlin McCauley and Janelle Solviletti were a great 1-2 punch a year ago, each going in the top 15 at EMass, and there appears to be no slowing this dup down. Solviletti went 5:20 at her conference meet, making her a potential breakout star in the division. Help from Kathleen McLaughlin and Lauren O’Neill would go a long way toward bringing this team to All States for the first time in recent memory.
4. NEWBURYPORT- The Clippers should make All States once again, a year after earning the DII wild card slot. Then, as now, they did it without a top-30 runner, something only made possible by the virtual dual meet that played out in front of them between Weston and H-W. Kelly Conway, Erin Carroll, and Kristen Mackie, however, are all top-20 returners, and should they get better, will be a super trio in this class.
3. MARTHA’S VINEYARD- Like Newburyport before them, the Vinyearders did it a year ago without a top-25 athlete, placing 4th at EMass after making the longest commute. Four of the five are back, led by sisters Julia and Lilly Neville, as well as Willow Maynard and Hannah Moore. All are top-25 contenders, but they will have to go it without a true ace, making a run at H-W or Weston a long shot. MV would benefit from an improvement at 5th, but so would just about everybody else.
2. WESTON- I can’t say enough about the job Coach John Monz has done with this squad the past two years. XC success has begotten track success, which has then begotten XC success. In 2011, they were the best team of any division or gender not to earn a trophy at the All State Meet, missing out to Bishop Feehan and Hamilton-Wenham, two of the Northeast region’s best squads. They lost to H-W at EMass by one point, an agonizing result given their impressive performance. They put three different girls at 5:10 or under last spring, and two more under 5:30. Charlotte Walmsley and Olivia Brackett might be gone, but star Abigail Pohl is joined by Zoe Snow, Edom Wessenyeleh, and Read Allen, making it four top-20 finishers coming back. As of now, Lina Makino holds down the 5th spot, and there is not much chance anybody comes and steals a trophy from the Wildcats.
1. HAMILTON-WENHAM- Coach Steve Sawyer knows a few things about ups and downs. After beating Weston by one point at EMass in 2011, and then being knocked off by archrival Bishop Feehan for an All State title, the Generals came back to win the Nike Northeast XC Regional and qualify for the National Championship meet in Portland, OR. This time, it seems impossible that H-W wouldn’t find a way to win DII at Northfield, given their top-25 national ranking and 5 top-notch returnees. Sophomore Emily Weigand should lead the charge, but hardly by much, as seniors Margaret Blatchford, Claire Pacione, and Sarah Duffy join junior Emily Horgan to form perhaps the best team in the entire state. There is a bit of a gap to #6, so if there’s any Achilles’ heel with this team, it just might be depth.