CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW- EAST DIVISION II
It appears the (girly country) theme some of Eastern Mass. XC in 2012 is “Wide Open Spaces”, as almost every class enters play in September with no real clear-cut favorite, with the exception of Whitman-Hanson and Bishop Feehan’s girls’ teams. However, DII boys takes the cake in many ways, as no dominant team appears on the radar, and as many as 6 or 7 teams look capable of stealing it when all is said and done. Defending champion Lincoln-Sudbury loses two top 10 runners, as well as 5 of its top 7, making a repeat contingent upon bringing along new blood. They barely even crack the top-10, although I know they will bring along some track talent, but I can’t assume which guys will come over. Runner-up Mansfield loses a pair of top-12 runners, and 2011’s 4th place team, Marshfield, loses all-everything dup Kevin Thomas and Joel Hubbard, the division’s top two runners a year ago. The top teams will likely shift, with Needham, Chelmsford, Masconomet, and Central Catholic bringing back serious contenders. It’s anybody’s guess who takes it, but here goes mine…
As said before, it seems like everyone who was anyone in this class moved on to the college ranks, as household names like Thomas, Hubbard, Massey, Sullivan, and Barnes will take their talents to some of the top schools in the region. The top returnees are Lincoln-Sudbury’s Eli Hoenig, who is a little bit tough to figure out because he didn’t run track as a junior, and Mansfield’s Dan Caughey, who went 9:49 in his outdoor track season, and has flown under the radar since XC. So, there must be a chance for some of the less heralded runners to take the title, given that Needham’s Dan Alpert, Adrian Amaya, and Tyler Hagen weren’t world-beaters in 2011, but each went on to successful track seasons for the Rockets. Another star to watch for will be Chelmsford’s Quinn Cooney, who ran 4:32 at NB Nationals in the freshman mile, and could be one of the state’s top sophomore harriers in 2012.
TOP 10 TEAMS
10. LINCOLN-SUDBURY- The Warriors will almost certainly finish better than this, as Eli Hoenig has the potential to win the class, and a bevy of milers showed major promise during the outdoor season, making them almost a shoe-in for a reload type of season. After Hoenig and fellow senior Matt O’Brien, they’re just a little bit tough to figure out. However, it’s rare for a team to win its class and then just drop off the face of the Earth, so I don’t think LS will end up out of contention. In fact, with that 1-2, it wouldn’t surprise me if they reloaded and won the whole thing, a la Mansfield. Milers Luke Goodrich, Josh Kerber, Ryan Honenes, and Tim Orie all ran faster than O’Brien during the spring, so if even just two of these guys come out, it’s their class to lose again.
9. PLYMOUTH SOUTH- A fascinating team in 2012, as the Panthers had the dubious distinction of not qualifying a full squad at EMass, making them ineligible for a team score, a year ago. But sophomore Maxwell Bassett was a bright spot, and the cupboard isn’t bare after him. Greg O’Brien had an off day at DII’s, but ran 17:14 in the 10th grade race at the McIntyre Invite. Rawson Randlett can move, and if they get the addition of Jason McCue, a 4:44 guy himself, they have the makings of something in Plymouth.
8. FRANKLIN- The Panthers are a really deep, tough team that gets very little attention, compared to what they deserve. Andrew Hood has graduated, and takes his 4:26 mile with him. However, they are far from bare, as Devin Strok and Jon Geramini bring back a nice 1-2, and Korey Hunt ran 2:00 flat this spring. The Hockomock League will be its usual deep self in 2012, with Sharon, OA, and Mansfield battling for supremacy; but why not these guys?
7. WESTFORD ACADEMY- For this team to be 8th in 2011, this had to be a tough class, and it was. Patrick Turpin and junior Dillon McGee return as the top two EMass finishers, and the gap to 3rd is bigger than they’d like. However, 3-4 guys Nick Sciuto and Dan Regan put up enormous mid-distance springs, running 2:00 and 2:03 in the open 800. Although it’s always hard to know how 800 times will translate to cross, you know these two are two things- strong and fast. At Wrentham’s flat, fast track, that could be enough for a major rise.
6. MARSHFIELD- You simply cannot replace Kevin Thomas. You simply cannot replace Joel Hubbard. When tasked with replacing both guys, Coach Shepherd must wake up in the middle of the night screaming at times. But the rams’ cupboard isn’t bare, in fact, there’s plenty to be optimistic about. One thing that having guys like Thomas and Hubbard around does is up the ante of a program. Matt Meehan and Mike Tautiva might not equal the duo’s resume yet, but the juniors have already gone 4:33 and 4:35, and although Meehan hasn’t run XC yet, who knows, he just might. Even without him, Craig Decesare was 17th in 2011, Luke Davin ran 17:41, and Russell Santos has plenty in the tank. An All States trip isn’t out of the question.
5. CENTRAL CATHOLIC- How close was Central Catholic to not making All States in 2011? Every second literally counted. They tied with DI 5th place team Weymouth with an identical 5-man average, sending both teams to Franklin Park in an unprecedented fashion. Now, they’re hoping to drop the drama, and crack the top four. Losing two top-15 guys will make it harder, but #1 guy Danny O’Connell will make things bearable. Nick Bowden and Matt Elia ought to move up into the top-20 or so, and from there, it will be the team’s impressive depth that needs to come through. Look for Simon Serrano (10:09/4:44) to take over that 4th spot, and onward and upward the raiders should climb.
4. MANSFIELD- Dan Caughey is plenty to build off of, but the Hornets will have plenty more where he came from. See, the XC times were just fine, but then the track season began, and as they always do, Julie Collins and her staff just kept getting these guys better and better. Don’t lie and say you’ve heard of Connor Monks (4:40) when he breaks 17:00 this fall, or Val Madonna-Lendai (4:38) when he does the same. Actually, putting this team here makes me queasy, because I’m sure if some clown put a prediction together last preseason, he wouldn’t have thought they would be runners-up.
3. NEEDHAM- If the Rockets win this meet, I want to be the first to say, I told you… they might. Chris Van Cott’s team is talented, deep, hungry, and they have momentum beginning to swing in their favor. Junior Tommy Kelly was always the top guy, but he now has company, and plenty of it. Tyler Hagen missed most of 2011 to an injury before coming back strong near the end; he went 10:08 this spring. Adrian Amaya was about the 10th man for Needham last fall; he went 9:50 in the spring. Dan Alpert went 4:36 in the spring, and would make an enormous addition. Mike Newfield, Zach Heier, and Alex Elman are solid candidates for a solid pack. Be not surprised if this is your 2012… and 2013 champion.
2. MASCONOMET- In Marco Caserta, Liam Davis, Jake Moorman, and Jay Polakiewicz, the Chieftains have four runners who were in the top 35 in 2011. The problem then was the gap to #5, which dropped them all the way to #7. This time, it should be different. That senior quartet knows it can win this meet, and finding just one guy, perhaps Alex Gikas (2:00), from the solid track program could seal the deal. Chelmsford is, on paper, just a notch better, but the experience of those four runners could toss that paper in the trash.
1. CHELMSFORD- With Robert Massey gone, the Lions lose their only sub-17:00 guy, a factor that could put them in the hole when dealing with such a close class. But Chelmsford has sophomore Quinn Cooney leading the charge of a team that placed 3rd a year ago, and thus knows how to get it done. Cooney went 4:32 this spring, so a sophomore slump appears unlikely. Dan Nolan, Matt Higson, Nick Arena, and Matt Arsenault were all in the top-50 in 2011, and all solidified their places in the spring. Sophomore Kevin Murphy has a 4:48 clocking to his name. Classmates Tim Miragliulio and Jack Newcomb look promising. The depth is there, the talent is there, they are well-coached. Look for the Lions hoisting the trophy at Wrentham in November.
This class is deep and tough, with Lincoln-Sudbury most likely on a mission to prove it belongs in the driver’s seat, after being upset by Masconomet a year ago. Masco doesn’t appear to be a major threat, but they didn’t last year either, as they came into EMass unranked in the MSTCA poll, only to win the whole thing, and then take 4th at All States. A solid Chelmsford team, led by Alli Wood, and a deep Needham team, led by Caroline Turner, are the strongest threats to LS, but right now, it would be hard to find a way to knock the Warriors off, especially when they are upset and hungry from last year’s results. I wouldn’t bet against them in 2012 is all I’m saying.
This class is deeper than it is top-heavy, without a single returning runner under 19:30, and only 6 under 20:00. Franklin’s Lauren Hagen is the top returner, after taking 3rd a year ago, and also has the best 5K time of the group of 19:20. A speedster with 5:13/ 2:17 speed, Hagen will be chased by a whole slew of runners, including Westford’s Emily Ruggiero, who went 11:25 last winter, Chelmsford’s Ali Wood, who took the spring off of running, and a whole slew of Lincoln-Sudbury runners, including, but not limited to, Katie Lascaleia, Brianna Bisson, and Sydney Clary. Clary might be the real dark-horse from this group, as she didn’t even make the LS varsity in 2011, but could compete for the class title in 2012. Go figure!
TOP 10 TEAMS
10. BILLERICA- 5th a year ago, the Indians will have to go it without the graduated Megan Mahoney. I simply love what the duo of Cairo Thompson and Kylie Reardon did, each breaking 12:20 in the spring. But that pales in comparison to the season Julie Schulz had as a sophomore, and if she joins the fold, along with Alison Carbone and/or Emily Hanlon, Billerica could move way up from this ranking.
9. MARSHFIELD- A fascinating team, the Rams have exactly one runner returning who ever broke 22:00, who went 5:31 this spring, adding speed to her distance resume. However, I really like the pack, led by sophomore Olvia Gaeta, who added a 66-second 400 hurdles time to her already solid makeup and speed background. Bring in Katie Dalton (5:30) and you Rams have the ability to really shock the class.
8. NORTH ANDOVER- While the Scarlet Knights lack an ace that could thrust them further up the line, they make up for that firepower with a solid pack, and some returning experience. Katelyn Thomas and Kiera McManus return to guide NA, and not far behind will be junior Mackenzie Mello and sophomore Laura Dellechiaie. Although there is plenty of room for growth here, I expect this group to solidly stay in the top 10.
7. WESTFORD ACADEMY- The top 1-2 punch in the entire class, the Grey Ghosts will count on Emily Ruggiero (11:39) and Tia Caldwell (5:31) to keep their momentum going form solid outdoor track seasons. The problem in 2011 was that, after these two stars were done, the wait to #3 was far too long. However, scoring 5-10 points from two runners is a huge bonus, so if Westford finds one more solid pack kid, like Bridget McCusker, they’ll move up from here.
6. CENTRAL CATHOLIC- We seem to watch every winter and spring in awe as the Raiders win track meet after track meet, and contend for a DII title almost every time out. That success just hasn’t translated to major XC success, but someday it will. 7th in 2011, I expect a modest move forward, thanks to sophomore Tiffany Simone and what I think will be a major improvement from her. Fellow sophomore Katie Ann Hayes and senior Caroline MacDonald will be counted on to bring the pack up, and if sophomore Katie Tovey joins the fray, this team will be tough to match up with.
5. MASCONOMET- In 2011, they snuck up on just about everyone, an unranked team winning its class, and beating the mighty Lincoln-Sudbury Warriors, for the first time since L-S and Newton South were matched up in DI. With Mackenzie Shelgren and Lilly D’Agostino moving on, the deal will be different, but not impossible. Kim Cosgrove and Megan Collins have the makings of a nice 1-2 attack, possible going as low as 10 combined points. Adding Maura Feltault to the fold would be huge, but the Chieftains can survive off of improvements from kids like Milla Zernich in the pack.
4. FRANKLIN- It’s a little strange to predict the Panthers to finish 4th, putting them in danger of missing All States, a meet that has been its birthright over the past several falls. But with individual champion Alex Giese and Emily Stickles graduating, they just might finally move out of the top 4. Still, Lauren Hagen could win the meet, meaning they have to find only 4 runners to score. Sarah Vetrano and Emily Hood are great, each top-25 candidates, and sophomores Jessica Garrigan and Katie Doherty have top-40 potential. The only way they don’t make it, is if another very good team slides ahead of them.
3. NEEDHAM- Injuries derailed a promising 2011 season for Needham, who went 10-1 in the Bay State Conference, but lost Allison Pildner and Hallie Armstrong at the wrong time. Now, Coach Cara O’Connell has Caroline Turner back to lead the way, and a slew of tough runners around her. If any of the Rachel Blaustein/ Sammy Lerner/ Kaleigh Hughes track crew comes out, they could shoot way forward, but even without them, Armstrong (5:49), sophomore Katie Horton (5:48), Erica Koljonen, and Cara Menchin make the Rockets’ red glare hard not to stare at.
2. CHELMSFORD- The Lions might not be at the level of a Lincoln-Sudbury right now, but they aren’t far off, making them a contender for a trophy at All States behind Whitman-Hanson. We already know what Alli Wood can do (19:23), but the 5:18 Jen Pisarik fired up this spring gave Chelmsford two potential top-5 types. Casey Taylor, Kristen Young, and Ally Turner all also ran sub-12:25, meaning none should be pushed out of the top 25. They can stay within 10-15 points of L-S, meaning that any kind of a slip or underperformance by the favorites, and this is your team.
1. LINCOLN-SUDBURY- In 2011, the Warriors were shocked by Masconomet at DII’s, forcing Coach Henry Phelan to collect the runner-up trophy instead of the winning hardware. That simply will not happen again, as Phelan and his troops are motivated to prove that last year was merely a blip on the radar screen. LS has the team back to do great things, starting with senior Katie Lascaleia, and flowing right down the line to Brianna Bisson, seniors Daniela Hargus and Anna Kelly, and track star sophomore Sydney Clary, who burst on the scene to run 5:13, after failing to make the top 7 in the fall. LS is simply way too deep for anyone else to really get close in the class, unless they falter along the way. Returning 10 kids under 5:50 and 7 under 2:27 for 800, there’s little room for error by anyone else in the class to knock them off.