Two meets marked the final weekend of invitationals on the Massachusetts cross country calendar before the schedule gives way to conference meet season. Some headed West to Northfield Mountain for a preview of the All State Championship course, while others headed South to race the Brown Invitational at Warwick, RI's Goddard Park. Two very different courses, one tactical, slow climb up a mountain, the other a fast track, perhaps just short of a 5K, but who's counting anyway?
Bay State Invitational- Northfield Mountain, Northfield, MA
Every three years, when the All State Meet heads West to Northfield, the MSTCA puts on an invite there to get runners accustomed to the steep climb of the early portion of the race. Some simply put their head down and find a way through the hills, while others would prefer hiring a Sherpa, viewing the steep ascent as more of a death march than a cross country race.
One guy who isn't complaining too much is St. John's (Shrewsbury) Jonathon Green. Green led the way in the DI boys race, leaving behind Lexington's Nat Adams and Wachusett's Colin Bennie with 1000 meters to go, only to finish in 15:54, good enough for the 3rd fastest time in the course's storied history. He stands now behind only Ryan Collins (15:49) and Victor Gras (15:52), with another shot to break the course record in a few weeks. The race was also a terrific one for Adams (16:15) who managed to outkick Bennie (16:19) with a furious move over the final 400 meters, no small feat given Bennie's impressive middle distance resume to this point. Methuen's Mike O'Donnell (16:24) and Arlington's Daniel MacDonald-Meteer (16:57) rounded out the top-5. The team score was dominated by #4 St. John's, who used Green's lift to get them to 60 points, with Alex Crowley (7th; 17:00), Kyle Johnson (16th; 17:24), and Connor Murphy (18th; 17:27) all garnering top-20 placings. #13 Lexington was 2nd, as Ben Jacobson (17th; 17:26) joined Adams in the top-20, and the young Cambridge R&L squad took 3rd, thanks to great races from freshmen Sam Stubbs (8th; 17:08) and Esitya Elemseged (12th; 17:14). Ranked teams dominated the rest of the top-10, with #8 Shrewsbury, #18 Methuen, #23 BC High, #11 St. John's Prep, and #6 Wachusett all attempting to conquer the mountain before it conquered them.
In the DII boys race, #3 Bishop Feehan took the crown over #21 Newburyport and #25 Hopedale, but the title race ended up closer than many would have expected. The Clippers' Nick Carleo ('s Way) took home a close win (16:20) over Burlington's Paul Hogan (16:23), each distancing themselves from Norwell's stallion Owen Wiggins (16:47; 3rd) in the later stages. After Feehan's Evan Grandfield (4th; 16:56) and Mike Hanley (5th; 16:59) crossed the line, Newburyport countered with Joe Santo in 6th (17:110, and then clung to a one-point lead through three runners, thanks to Chris Orlando (18th; 17:43) nudging in right behind Feehan's Henry Dodge (17th; 17:40). Feehan put away the 20-point win on the strength of their tight 1-5 packing, something the Clippers were unable to replicate.
The girls races unfolded similarly to the boys, as in the DI race, Catarina Rocha of Peabody simply torched the field in 18:49, making her the 6th fastest ever on the course, a list headed by Olympian Shalane Flanagan in 17:54. Rocha's aggressive front-running style might have cost her a few seconds on the clock, but her experience and intelligence makes her almost impossible to beat come November. Acton-Boxborough's Christine Davis crossed in 20:11 in 2nd, ahead of Colleen Sands (20:23) of Wachusett and Shelby Cuddleback of Attleboro (4th; 20:27). The team race was much more interesting this time, as #1 Peabody rode top-10 finishes from Lauren Barrett (5th; 20:30) and Sam Allen (7th; 20:48), and won with 88 points, despite missing Heather MacLean. #19 Lexington, without a top-10 finisher, used its impressive pack to take 2nd, with Cassie Peterson (15th; 21:09) leading the way. #11 Notre Dame (Hingham) continued its impressive fall, using the threesome of Taylor Kennedy (13th; 21:08), Shauna Owen (16th; 21:11), and Elizabeth Constantino (19th; 21:22) to pull ahead. #25 Wachusett was 4th, one slot ahead of #14 Concord-Carlisle, with #21 Franklin in 9th.
In the DII girls race, an unexpected winner came through in Bedford's Erin Dietz, whose time of 19:20 ranks as a top-20 time in Northfield's prestigious history. In what could be a nice All State preview, minus the Weston Wildcats, #3 Bishop Feehan's girls squad made it a double hardware show, thanks to Abbey McNulty surviving the altitude and scorching the course in 19:33, good enough for 2nd. Teammate Brynna Harum continued her nice fall, going 20:26 for 10th. The Shamrocks (77) were just 16 points ahead of #10 Ursuline for the win, and 16 apart from #4 Hamilton-Wenham, who took 3rd. H-W got a 5th place finish from Emily Weigand (19:47), who came through a tight pack that included McNulty, Sutton's Jessie Cardin (3rd; 19:36), Narragansett's Renee Capps (4th; 19:47), and Dennis-Yarmouth's Jordan O"Dea (6th; 19:49) and Archbishop Williams' Sarah Sacchoach (7th; 19:51). Ursulinegrabbed 2nd without a top-10 finisher, but did get a nice boost from Maddie Wolfe (14th; 20:42), Meghan Grela (17th; 20:56), and Lindsay Baryluk (21st; 21:04).
Brown Invitational- Goddard Park, Warwick, RI
Two Massachusetts teams took runner-up prizes in the Championship sections of the Brown Invitational, each proving their extremely high rankings to be valid. #2 Pembroke's boys gave Greg Zopatti reason to be optimistic of a state title, with their 2nd place haul, behind only St. Anthony's (NY). With St. Anthony's bringing in 6 of the top-16 runners, Pembroke needed simply to hang on to the trophy, and with monster efforts from juniors Christian Stafford (5th; 15:42) and John Valeri (6th; 15:44), the Titans had the top two underclass times of the day. An off-day from senior Pat Cunningham required step-ups from Billy Stafford (16:24) and Alex Bowler (16:37), and the Titans secured a nice result. Lenox's Scott Carpenter gave notice to the state, and ALL of its runners, that he wants to prove he is the best, as he dominated a deep field in 15:15 for the win. #7 Amherst, led by Ryan Stender (16:28), nosed out Whitman-Hanson and Nate Stephansky (16:13) for 6th place by just 5 points. Ludlow's Brian Crowley (16:20) ran 7th in the DII boys large schools race.
#1 Whitman-Hanson's girls' squad staked a claim to regional supremacy, finishing second only to nationally ranked powerhouse Barrington (RI). Seniors Gianna Cacciatore (18:59), Rachel Baker (19:15), and Abby Baker (19:21) were joined by freshman Samantha Coletti (19:14) in the top-20, with sophomore Caroline Mulrey not far behind. #7 Amherst was hot on their heels, taking 4th, as seniors Mel Devoney (18:42) and Sara Vannah (19:15) had top-20 runs as well. Pembroke was the top Massachusetts finisher in the DI small schools race, taking 7th overall, but Tyngsborough's Kerri Keohane (18:33) took the individual honors of that race, running the day's 7th fastest time.