CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW- EAST DIVISION III
As wide open a division as there is in the state, DIII EMass will be a war from the time the gun goes off until the 100th runner crosses the line. This meet will come down to depth, 5th runners on several teams, and team pack tactics. For this reason, coaching will play a major part in who comes out on top, especially with a relatively new course being used for the meet. With the top 5 finishers from 2011 graduating, the race at the top will also be anybody’s guess, although picking favorites will be much easier there. Every top-9 team from last year loses at least 3 of its top 7 runners, with Walpole getting hit hardest by the graduation of six of its top group. All this means is that it truly will be a meet without a solid favorite, and that anybody’s guess as to who will win this thing is foolish. Always willing to look like a fool, here I go…
A totally wide-open affair, the top 5 runners from 2011 are gone, and the top five underclassmen form last year’s race finished within 5 seconds of each other. Daniel McDonald-Meter’s 4:21 clocking outdoors seems to give him the edge over the rest of the field, which appears to be spread out among runners from several different teams, making the team race as wide open as the individual one. While Chris Allen seemed to get all of the King Philip hype last spring, quietly sophomore Owen Gonser put on a show, closing out his campaign in 4:22 at his divisional meet. Concord-Carlisle senior Seamus Lawlor is another possibility, having gone 4:30 in the spring, as is Gloucester’s Noah Mondello, who ran 9:57 during his track season, and Whitman-Hanson’s Nate Stephansky.
TOP 10 TEAMS
10. DRACUT- The Middies were dominated by sophomores in 2011, and that group seems ready to make the leap into the top 10, up a spot form last season. Tim Poitras should lead the way, having gone 4:46 at Andover Boosters in the spring. Tim Koufogazos and Mike Anderson are classmates to Poitras, and if they bring themselves closer to their ace, it should bode well for a solid move forward, and then another big push in 2013.
9. TEWKSBURY- A team with a really solid top 3, the Redmen really need to improve their 4-5 spots, but can. Brian Amaral and Corey Thomas are as good a top 2 as there is in this class, Amaral having gone 9:36 this spring, and Thomas not far behind at 9:55. These two seniors will be battle tested in the tough MVC, which is loaded with DI powerhouses like Lowell and Methuen. Another senior threat will be Nicholas Souza, who dropped down to show middle distance prowess on the track that will come in handy. Help is needed to move up, but a top-10 finish is expected.
8. GLOUCESTER- The Fishermen, once the greatest program in the state, are hoping to return to some of that glory in 2012, and have a nice nucleus with which to do just that. Noah Mondello is the top guy, coming off an 8th place finish at EMass, and will be counted on to bring in another small number. After him, Jacob Holscher appears to be another senior on the rise. But, what could really drive the Fishermen forward will be the work of a pair of sophomores, Matt Ciaramano and Willie Pierce, who happened to be the #2 and 3 freshmen at DIII’s in 2011. The season looks bright.
7. NORTH ATTLEBORO- The Rocketeers, a true track powerhouse, will sorely miss Mike Curley, their ace. However, junior Ian Flanagan comes back after a solid spring track season, and senior teammate George Bradley is poised to run step-for-step with him. Two won’t be enough, so guys like Mike Kelleher and Dominick Pacelli will have to close down the pack to move NA up form this ranking.
6. WALPOLE- Coach Tim Giblin has built the Rebels into a solid year-in, year-out program, one that can survive the loss of six of its top 7 runners. That’s the scenario painted for Giblin’s troops, but it was a squad that was deep long after its top 7 in 2011, when they finished 6th in DIII. Anthony Divirgilio, Sean Herlihy, Ryan Morris, and Kevin Delaney are all top-40 contenders in the class, and Giblin always seems to put his troops together in a tight pack, meaning a 5th will be found easier than most. However, their ultimate undoing could come at the top, where there isn’t a top-20 runner as of yet.
5. SHARON- Coach Tim Cimino’s Eagles look solid from top to bottom, featuring a troika of juniors, Brendan Lee, Adam Selsman, and Yadin Rosen, all of whom appear ready to crash through the 17:30 barrier. While Sharon lacks a real #1 guy on paper, making them a longer shot for the team title, they are still very much in the hunt due to a nice grouping within their pack. As I have said all along, track help cannot be expected in a poll, but yet another junior, Paul Fleming, had a huge spring, going 4:46. He could just be the piece that puts Sharon into the hunt for the team title.
4. WHITMAN-HANSON-Nate Stephansky is the top returning runner as of now, and thanks to Pat Mulrey’s return and possible top-10 finish, the expectation is that Coach Vercollone’s Panthers don’t move back much from last year’s solid runner-up finish. The gaps need to close from 2-3 and beyond, but don’t count out W-H as a top-4 team yet.
3. CONCORD-CARLSILE- In Seamus Lawlor, the Patriots have a top-5 potential finisher, making the rest of the team’s task somewhat simpler. However, to move up from its 4th place finish in 2011, or even to qualify for Northfield, will take major pack experience and improvements. Brian Rich and Russell Walton will be tasked to maintain the momentum from their strong spring campaigns, and if the addition of Ben Schofield were to come through, they would be closer to a lock.
2. WELLESLEY- Possibly the best young distance team in DIII, the Raiders and Coach Lou Pearlman will survive the losses of James Eisenstein and Bijan Mazaheri and look to juniors Danny Palladino, Christian Freniere, Ben Griswold, and Chris Ulian as well as senior Ryan Chan to give them depth throughout the pack. Making their prospects even more enticing was the spring season of Joe Mears, a guy who went 4:35, but has never run XC. They will be Oliver Ames’s stiffest competition, and might actually be the best team on paper right now.
1. OLIVER AMES- After literally changing my top 5 around 5 or 6 times, I have settled on the Tigers as my #1 selection, but this is far from a lock. In fact, there’s no guarantee that OA makes All States, although it would be a surprise if they didn’t. Dan Moverman is really good, having gone 17:17 for the champions in 2011, and he’s not alone. Guys like Drew Beck will be missed, but this is a program, and they find a way to reload talent each fall. Another junior, Briton Copley, was 7th in 2011, and will be asked for a huge leap forward. Expect big work from sophomores Connor Donovan, Cameron Gardner, and Matt Leppo, and they should be right back where they’re used to being. And All States- watch out for these guys in 2013!
In 2011, Whitman-Hanson survived a scare at Eastern Mass. when Rachel Baker, one of its top runners, nearly went down before the finish line, suffering from late-race exhaustion. She finished 6th for the team, but incredible depth and balance allowed them to earn a dominating win, and they went on to win the program’s first All State title a week later in dominating fashion. Now, Baker and twin sister Abby are back, as well as Gianna Cacciatore, Jenny Dimascio-Donahue, and sophomores Kelsey Tierney and Caroline Mulrey, the team’s entire top 6 for those counting at home. Along with maybe Bishop Feehan, the Panthers are the surest bet in all of Mass. this fall. Another All State title appears to be imminent for Coach Keith Erwin’s squad. If they should slip, it would still take a major improvement from a team like Oliver Ames of Concord-Carlisle to knock them off. Crown them now.
Unlike the team race, this actually has quite a bit of drama built in. Falmouth sophomore Lauren O’Neill should be the prohibitive favorite should she stay healthy and avoid a sophomore slump, and there’s reason to believe she’s on the right track, given her 11:37/ 5:23 spring, as well as her 5:14 mile this winter. But, there are plenty of candidates to unseat O’Neill from her perch, including Megan Rattclife of Concord-Carlisle, who raced to 5:13 and 11:17 times this spring, and Sharon’s Caroline Sun, who was 4th a year ago. The truth is, Whitman-Hanson could put pressure on any of this group, as any of its six stars could be in the top 10. Expect a breakthrough season from senior Gianna Cacciatore after her 5:11 clocking at Weston Twilight this spring, as well as another stellar campaign from Abby Baker.
TOP 10 TEAMS
10. FALMOUTH- Lauren O’Neill might be a year away from having an All State title to add to her resume, but in the meantime, she is the favorite to win DIII’s, and give the Clippers a chance to compete with virtually 4 runners scoring. Caroline Cobb and Corinne McGillicuddy are the next two for Falmouth, who simply must close the nearly 4 minute gap form 1 to 2 in 2012.
9. NATICK- With the graduations of Annie McElaney and Ellie Holman, the Red and Blue will turn to Erin Murphy to be their star, a role she should have no trouble playing with her 5:20 mile best. There are questions behind Murphy, making a trip to All States a tough task, but Ali Rabideau and Maggie Ryan should help them contend in 2012.
8. BEVERLY- The days of Millie Chapman and Monica Adler are gone, both girls having monster careers at Yale and BU as we speak, but a revival of sorts could be in the making for the Panthers. Juniors Nicole Demars (12:02) and Keely Higgins (5:42) did their jobs this past track season, and will form a 1-2 punch that will be needed to contend. Classmate Jessica Goodall would be a huge pickup for the team, having gone 5:32 herself in the spring. Either way, I expect a huge jump from 2011’s 14th place finish, and this team might be only a year away from contending for real in this division.
7. WELLESLEY- The Raiders snuck into All States in 2011, with Coach Lou Pearlman sweating it out long after the meet was over. This time, Priyanka Fouda’s talents have moved on, and the group of Betsy Waisel, and sophomores Betsy Richards and Mara Roth is poised to take over. It’ll take a big campaign from Katie Pederson, and the usual freshman addition, but Wellesley can get back to that All States position again.
6. DRACUT- At last year’s divisional meet, freshman Katie Colfer had a bit of an off day, surprising, given the 5:28/11:49 spring she went on to have. The Middies now have a bona fide star #1 runner in Colfer, as well as some solid pieces to go around her. Katie’s sister Rebecca, as well as junior Alanna Grondine and sisters Kaylee and Karina Shepherd are the pack, and all had nice track seasons to build off of. Having that top-15 type runner should take some pressure off the pack, don’t be surprised if they’re even better than this.
5. WALPOLE- It’s hard to find even a junior on Coach Jamie Farrell’s 2011 roster, let alone a senior, on a team that will simply churn out strong runners and line them up every meet. Gina Conti’s 5:15 mile is unlikely to join the fold, but if she did, they are a potential top 3 team. Instead, it will be a group led by Rachel Barry, Kristen Coyne (12:24), Megan Peterson (12:21), Allie Morris (12:52), and Lucy Lynch (12:23), all of whom made major strides forward in 2012’s spring season. This pack will be tight, and impossible to ignore.
4. OLIVER AMES- The final All States spot will be a free-for-all, but the Tigers might have the inside track, thanks to the work of the threesome of Maggie Harding, Megan Fitzgerald, and Jillian McAuliffe. All were top-30 kids a year ago for the runner-up Tigers, and despite the graduation of Shannon Hickey, this trio could score as few as 50 points, making the job for #’s 4 and 5 easier. It shouldn’t take less than 150 to make All States, a number OA is more than capable of scoring.
3. NOTRE DAME (H)- Steve George’s Cougars lose superstar Kelsey Whitaker, but not much else, from a team who missed All States by the narrowest of margins in 2011, 5 points. Elizabeth Constantino is a potential top-5 runner, so Whitaker’s ace has been replaced. Behind her, the group of Clara King, Mollie O’Leary (5:21), Grace Pixler, and Olivia Lanagan (12:11) all have track resumes that would lead one to believe that this could be the surprise team in 2012. Good enough to beat Whitman-Hanson? No, but they are far from a long shot for a trophy.
2. CONCORD-CARLSILE- The Patriots have a bona fide contender for the individual title in Megan Rattclife, as her 5:13/11:17 spring would indicate. But what most don’t realize is that C-C’s 1-2 punch could end up being tops in the class, as junior Caitlin Lawlor (5:21/11:35) has the chops to join Rattclife in the top-10. Also, Isabelle Williams ran 5:36 this spring, and should expect to move well up from her 25th place in 2011. Still back from W-H, they will need improvements at 4-5 to hold off NDA.
1. WHITMAN-HANSON- Surely Coach Keith Erwin will be out to prove that 2011 was no fluke, and likely, the Panthers will do just that. Those looking for a letdown need only to look at outdoor track times to look away. Starting with sisters Rachel (5:12) and Abby Baker (2:20), and adding to them Gianna Cacciatorre (5:11), the senior leadership will be off the charts. Then you add in Jenny Dimascio-Donahue, and sophomores Caroline Mulrey and Kelsey Tierney (12:20), and this team is the closest thing to unbeatable in all of Mass. There’s no Bishop Feehan, Hamilton-Wenham, or Weston to deal with, so W-H should be able to stay rested and ready themselves for a run at Portland, OR and Nike Cross Nationals.