The 88th New England Cross Country Championships are Saturday at Belfast Middle School in Belfast, ME. All New England states except Massachusetts will be competing. Each state is allowed 6 teams and any other individual placing in the top twenty five of their respective state meet. The girls race first at 11:30am and the boys are slated to take off at 12:15pm. NH always stands united in our friendly competition with the other New England states! So wear your NHCC shirts! Cheer for one another! We will be there snapping pics, recording races and conducting interviews!!!
In this spirit, we will have a few guests involved from other states this weekend contributing to the race videos and interviews. Scott Bliss, long time coach of Champlain Valley, has penned quite the comprehensive preview. Since leaving coaching, he has started a free website to truly cover Vermont High School Cross Country (sound familiar?). With his permission, his preview is posted below. Please check out his site! It genuinely reminds us of, well, us! He brings experience from a coaching career which included numerous state and New England titles as well as multiple trips to Nike Cross Nationals. Thanks Scott!
By Scott Bliss
Qualifying Teams! (Speed Ratings Courtesy of Tully Runners)
CVU – 126, 124, 121, 117, 111, 91 and 84
Oyster River – 128, 126, 109, 108, 100, 77 and 65
Hanover – 130, 119, 117, 95, 90, 88 and 67
Pinkerton – 120, 118, 113, 104, 90, 50 and 45(ran without their normal #4 runner)
Greenwich – 119, 112, 105, 95, 88, 67 and 44
Cumberland – 125, 104, 103, 98, 85, 76 and 63
Bonny Eagle – 117, 96, 89, 83 and 79 – no data for 6 & 7
This race looks like it could be a barn burner! It looks like 4 teams could have a legitimate shot at the championship and if things break right for them one more could be in the mix. It definitely does look like five teams are clear of the rest of the competition. If we break them down, the four who will most likely be battling it out will be CVU from Vermont against the trio of NH teams which includes Oyster River, Pinkerton and Hanover. On any given day, any of these 4 teams probably could end up on top. Just outside of these 4 is Greenwich of CT, which would need some things to break right for them to leap frog all 4 teams ahead of them.
The two teams that seem to stand out above the rest are CVU and Oyster River, These two teams are very similar to each other and I will admit that I’m surprised Oyster River hasn’t gotten more attention outside of the NH area. CVU is ranked #30 in the latest Dyestat/Runnerspace national poll and has sat at #3 in the Northeast most of the season. CVU seems to be running the best that it has at this point in the season following a 2nd place finish at Eastern States at the Manhattan Invitational and a perfect score at the VT State Meet. CVU is led by their duo upfront of Alice Kredell and Estella Laird. They have consistently led the Redhawks all season and should be in the front pack of the race. Right behind the top 2 is a pairing that could determine the race. Lydia Donahue and Audrey Neilson have swapped the 3 and 4 spots over the past month. Both are certainly capable run big races this weekend. Charlotte Crum usually rounds out the team’s scoring and is just off the middle duo. As close as this race is between these two teams if it is a tie CVU may have the stronger 6 and 7 runners in Annalise Wood and Noe Jenni who were both inside the top ten at the VT State Meet.
Oyster River has just been improving all season. This has been a team that I have enjoyed watching their progress from the beginning of the season until now. They have gradually improved over the last couple of months to put them in a position that they are a true New England caliber team. There are some very similar traits between CVU and Oyster River. One is the powerful duo at the front of the team. Mackenzie Cook and Haley Kavanagh should also be in the top pack with the CVU duo. There most likely won’t be many points gained between either teams top 2 runners because they should be very close together. Oyster River then has their solid 3rd and 4th runners in Haley Bezanson and Neely Roy. I expect that they will be in the same area as the CVU 3rd and 4th also. Amazingly the Oyster River 5th Madelyn Cook is very similar to the CVU 5th. A very good 5th runner who is just off the teams 3rd and 4th. This is going to be a great race and should come right down to the line between the two teams.
Pinkerton and Hanover will be waiting in the wings if something goes wrong with the two favorites. It also is kind of interesting these two teams are pretty similar to each other just like the top two. They both have a very strong trio up front and the question will be if either team can close the gap down between their 4th and 5th runners to upset the top two teams. Hanover is led by Lea Perreard, who has been a force all fall with her front running style, but with the lack of displacement in the field up front, she most likely won’t make a huge points difference in the race. She is usually followed closely by Megan Faris and Lila Muirhead and Hanover regularly will have a points lead through three runners. Pinkerton is led by the trio of Contessa Silva, Sookie Folsom and Isabelle Groulx. It is the same story with Pinkerton. They will usually be ahead of Oyster River at this point, but then it comes down to each team’s 4th and 5th runners. Where I think there could be issues with each team’s last 2 scorers is this is the point in the race where there could be significantly more displacement happening it could create bigger point differentials. If either team can close that gap they will definitely be in the race.
Greenwich has a top three that should keep them in touch with the top four teams but the drop off after the top three should be an issue for them. They can’t give away too many points in the 3-5 spots to the other teams in contention, because once again the amount of displacement that can happen in the area of the race where their 3rd through 5th runners should be, could be a problem.
This looks like an exciting race and it may be challenging to know who the winner is before the results are released. It will definitely be important for each team to keep their gaps as small as possible and get every spot possible at the line. Sometimes a second or two can either gain a team multiple points or lose a team multiple points. This should be as exciting a team race as we have seen in years. For the winning team they really are going to have to get out because of the importance of the start on this course and then be able to continue to monitor their effort so that they do not go past their limits. This could come down to which team is the best prepared for the fast pace, run as a team and keep the gaps close. We will find out this weekend who truly is the best team in New England!
Alice Kredell, CVU 126
Estella Laird, CVU 124
Audrey Neilson, CVU 121
Lea Perreard, Hanover 130
Haley Kavanagh, Oyster River 128
Mackenzie Cook, Oyster River 126
Fiona Lee, Bedford 126
Kelseigh O’Neil, Bedford 125
Anique Poulin, Dover 123
Madeleine Lane, Hopkinton 123
Katherine Bohlke, Newington 136
Brooke Strauss, Glastonbury 129
Tess Sherry, Conard 128
Liv Sherry, Conard 126
Harper Shirley, Manchester 125
Alexa Ciccone, Cheshire 121
Rory Sullivan, St Raphael Acad 134
Erin vonHousen, Chariho Reg 131
Keaney Bayha, Pilgrim 128
Kiley DeFusco, Cumberland 125
Jessica Deal, Mt Hope 122
Madeleine O’Neill, Narragansett 121
Abbie Tighe, No Kingstown 121
Ruth White, Orono 155
Teanne Ewings, Houlton/GHCA 146
Cary Drake, York 131
Soren Stark-Chessa, Maine Waldorf 126
- Ruth White, Orono ME 155
- Teanne Ewings, Houlton/GHCA ME 146
- Katherine Bohlke , Newington CT 136
- Rory Sullivan, St Raphael Acad RI 134
- Erin vonHousen, Chariho RI 131
- Cary Drake, York ME 131
- Lea Perreard, Hanover NH 130
- Brooke Strauss, Glastonbury CT 129
- Haley Kavanagh, Oyster River NH 128
- Tess Sherry, Conard CT 128
- Keaney Bayha, Pilgrim RI 128
- Alice Kredell, CVU VT 126
- Liv Sherry, Conard CT 126
- Mackenzie Cook, Oyster River NH 126
- Fiona Lee, Bedford NH 126
- Soren Stark-Chessa, Maine Waldorf ME 126
- Kelseigh O’Neil, Bedford NH 125
- Harper Shirley, Manchester CT 125
- Kiley DeFusco, Cumberland RI 125
- Estella Laird, CVU VT 124
- Anique Poulin, Dover NH 123
- Madeleine Lane, Hopkinton NH 123
- Jessica Deal, Mount Hope RI 122
- Audrey Nielson, CVU VT 121
- Madeleine O’Neill, Narragansett RI 121
- Abbie Tighe, No Kingstown RI 121
- Alexa Ciccone, Cheshire CT 121
Can a preview on the individual favorites start with anyone other than Ruth White (Orono ME)? She
would be the favorite if you are only looking at times for 5K. She would be the favorite if you were looking only at speed ratings and she would be the favorite if you were looking at each runner’s entire career. Ruth has run the Belfast course 2 times this season and she is the only run to break the 17:00 barrier on it. She ran 16:56 in September and followed that up with 16:57 at the Maine State Meet a week ago. If anyone is going to hang with her they are going to have to hurt to do it because Ruth is a front runner and a pace pusher. She will push the pace from the beginning to the end so many of her competitors will need to be smart that they don’t go out too hot and suffer in the later portions of the race.
If anyone can stay close to Ruth, it will probably be Teanne Ewings (Houlton/GHCA ME) to do it. Teanne finished 19 seconds behind Ruth at the Festival of Champions and 25 seconds behind at the State Meet. She is the only runner in the field that has times near her and speed ratings that are also in the vicinity. Could the third time be the charm for Teanne? If not, it will be hard pressed to see many who will be able to compete with her for the runner up position. This could be a fun race between this ME duo.
After this duo there is a pack of about nine other runners looking to fill in the remaining top 10 positions up for grabs. Katherine Bohlke (Newington CT) is the Connecticut Open champion and will be looking to see what damage she can do on the fast Belfast course. With her should be the Rhode Island Open champion Rory Sullivan (St Raphael Academy RI). Katherine had an impressive time at the challenging Wickham Park course with an 18:16 and Rory set the pace in RI with a time of 18:08 on the Covered Bridges course. These times show that they have the ability to drop under the 18 minute barrier, which they will probably have to do to finish in the top 5.
Erin von Housen (Chariho RI), Cary Drake (York ME), Lea Perreard (Hanover NH), Brooke Strauss (Glastonbury CT), Haley Kavanaugh (Oyster River NH), Tess Sherry (Conard CT) and Keaney Bayha (Pilgrim RI) should be the next pack coming through. Any in this group can dip in the sub 18 area and that will put them in a position to be anywhere inside the top 10. This is a group that needs to be aware of what they are doing and what they can sustain for the full 5k. There is a difference between getting out at the start and then settling into a pace that can be maintained compared to getting out fast and continuing to push yourself over your red line. Making sure they don’t go over their red line could determine how their race goes.
The next group of 9 runners are all capable of all New England honors, top 25, and possibly top 10 finishes. These runners all have the ability to compete high up in this field but some have to be careful because of the importance of their finish on the teams fortunes. Alice Kredell (CVU VT) would fit this example. Alice is the two time VT State Champion and she has to focus on her position to support her team as much as for her own individual accomplishments. This also is important for Mackenzie Cook (Oyster River NH) and Estella Laird (CVU VT). They really have to be careful how big of a risk they take so that they don’t hurt their teams’ chances. Other runners in this group are Liv Sherry (Conard CT), Fiona Lee (Bedford NH), Soren Stark-Chessa (Maine Coast Waldorf ME), Kelseigh O’Neil (Bedford NH), Harper Shirley (Manchester CT) and Kiley DeFusco (Cumberland RI). This entire group of 9 runners will be looking to see if they can put the pieces together to finish in the top 25 and the All New England honors that come with that position.
The girls race will start the show at Belfast and this should provide a lot of fireworks. The team race on paper has the makings of a very competitive race that may be heard to determine a winner until the final results are posted. The weather looks like it is going to cooperate and that should provide for great conditions for some amazing performances. This should be a good way to start the day off on Saturday. Good luck to everyone!