Invited Teams: Belmont, Bishop Brady, Campbell, Hillsboro-Deering, Hollis-Brookline, Inter-Lakes, John Stark, Laconia, Mascenic, Newfound, Moultonborough Academy, Prospect Mountain, Trinity, White Mountains, Winnisquam, Lin-Wood, Lebanon
While I swear I’ve written the 42nd Jeri Blair Invitational before, the paperwork for this year lists it as the 42nd rendition. Regardless of the exact amount of years, we know that it will include the requisite start across the soccer field, 3/4s of a lap around the track at both the beginning and end of race, two laps riddled with single track, sand, grass and pavement, the 380 meter grind of a hill, twice, and all the old school charm Scott Clark and the Red Raiders can summon up. Pretty sure we’ve been attending the meet for at least half of those years, and probably more, as I do believe I’ve seen a third place plaque from there in our trophy case from years before I took the helm. We’ll be there again, looking to take on the challenging course and many of our D3 rivals, and some friends from D2 as well.
Last year we had anticipated a showdown with Hopkinton and Mascenic, but due to the new date, Hopkinton had opted for racing at Coe-Brown two days later and it seems they are choosing to do the same this year, leaving Mascenic as the top seed coming in. Coming out as NH’s #9 team in the merge, the Vikings look to have full sails coming into this one. Led by the O’Shea sisters, along with a strong cast across their starting six, the Vikings should have what it takes to get it done.
Behind them I’d expect Moultonborough and Newfound to be looking to run with the Vikings, to see if they have a chance of upsetting the apple cart. Adah Chapman of MA is the likely favorite, having beaten everyone before at the Newfound Invite. With a few less schools in the mix to steal points, maybe the Panthers will be disruptive enough to sneak out a win.
The Bears of Newfound, led by Ceili Irving, have been getting better week to week. Soon the full return of last year’s #7 D3 athlete Addie Alpers will manifest and depending how long it takes her to get back into racing fitness, we might be seeing a vastly improving bunch from Bristol right before our eyes.
As stated before, I expect Chapman out front, with a throng of Vikings behind her, with Irving and teammate Emerald Briggs in there too.
There are no ranked teams in the boys race, but looking across the scant race results available, it might seem that the Mascenic boys might be the team to beat. However they do not have the dominance the girls do (for a change) and really surprised everyone, including us, when they took second to Plymouth at the Newfound Invite. Led by Dylan Callahan and Derek Somero, the Norse are coming around nicely.
Third at the Newfound Invite was InterLakes, with some excellent frontrunning in Ronan Hird and Isaac Nudd-Homeyer. I expect to see them out together at the front looking to control the race. Again, with a slightly smaller field, the scores could tighten up and it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see the Lakers upend the Vikings longboat on this one.
Behind these two are Merrimack Valley and Newfound. The Valley are led by Ben Geoffroy and Tony Wang and beat Newfound by 16 in Bristol. Newfound, under the leadership of Evan Foster, and aided by his brother Colin, will be looking to crack the podium at Belmont.
Individually I see Hird and Nudd-Homeyer at the front, shadowed by the Foster brothers, with Callahan and Somero, Brayden Townsend of Belmont and Geoffry and Wang in pursuit.