NHIAA Cross Country division meets: Coe-Brown dominates in D-II
The Black Bear girls feature talent, leadership, and a host of underclassmen.
Sophomore Hannah Parker ran a sub-19-minute 5K to win the NHIAA Division II cross country individual championship, and her performance paced the Black Bears to an eye-opening 1-3-5-7-9 finish and a meet low championship score of 25 points at unseasonably warm Derryfield Park in the Queen City Saturday.
In addition, Black Bears junior Jeremy Brassard posted a 16:08 to cop the boys' individual title.
Parker and Brassard are the first individual division champions in school history, and the girls' team triumph was its third consecutive division title.
Following Parker (18:58) through the chute with top 10 performances were freshman Elisabeth Danis in third place with a time of 19:19, sophomore Katie Scannell in fifth in 19:31, ninth-grader Brooke Laskowsky in seventh in 19:44 and junior Jessie Carney in ninth in 20-flat.
All seven of the Coe-Brown runners finished in the race's top 25.
The last Division II girls'team to score less than 30 points in the state meet was Hanover which, led by Georgia Griffin and Heidi Caldwell, also placed its five scoring runners in the top 10 for a tally of 23 points in 2007.
Carney, who is the only harrier to be a member of the Black Bears three championship teams, provides the team leadership. Parker is the fastest girl on the squad and provides the team energy.
'It's pretty easy to coach this team,' smiled Coe-Brown mentor Tim Cox. 'All I have to do is tell the girls to follow Jessie and Hannah.
'Before the race, we didn't tell Hannah to win,' Cox continued. 'We told her, as we do with all of the girls before any race, to go out and race hard. I can't tell you what the finishing order is going to be from race to race. These girls work so well with one another, and they're okay with wherever they finish, as long as the team is successful.'
After the race, Parker echoed her coach's words.
'I just wanted to give all I had and leave nothing out there,' said the race winner who finished second in 18:53 in this race a year ago. 'We really work together as a team. It doesn't matter who finishes first. It's team. We know that if we work together, things will turn out great.'
Brassard, meanwhile, was intent on claiming the boys' individual championship from the pop of the starter's gun. Normally a gold medal winner, a third place at the Manchester Invitational and a fourth place at the Woods Trail Run in Thetford, Vt., earlier this year helped place his season in perspective.
'It's not just one workout that makes a cross country season,' said Brassard. 'It's an entire season of training that makes the product. This race was personal for me, something I knew I could do. I just wanted to do my best. That's all my coach asks for.'
Winning the Division II boys' team crown was Souhegan of Amherst. The Sabers effort was led by Jason Bender who ran third in 16:19 and Eli Moskowitz who ended fifth in 16:31.
Souhegan's five scoring runners enjoyed top 15 finishes for 44 points.
'We have a pretty confident bunch of athletes,' said Souhegan coach Geoff Wilson, 'and we ran to our potential today. After the first mile there was a four-second gap among seven guys. There's a certain energy that they give to each other.'
Sam Ballard (10th), Ryan Hinrichs (11th) and Patrick Lynch (15th) rounded out the Sabers scorers.
Durham's Oyster River was second with a score of 67.
Last year, the Bobcats edged Souhegan by five points for the division title.
'It's been a long year for us,' smiled Wilson. 'We were so close.'
Elizabeth Conway of Manchester Central was the lone harrier to defend her division title, winning the D-I girls' competition for the second straight year in 18:45. The victory was more satisfying as the time was her best on the Derryfield hills since her freshman campaign.
'The PR (personal record) is a great confidence builder,' said Conway who heads to next weekend's Meet of Champions as the state-wide favorite. However, she faces strong competition from last year's MOC winner and Saturday's D-II fourth-place finisher Courtney Hawkins of Milford, newly crowned D-III champion Sami Hicks of Laconia and, of course, Parker.
'I had some setbacks in the early summer, but I worked hard to overcome them, and this victory reminds me that all the hard training pays off,' Conway said.
After a difficult week, Conway admitted she might have been better prepared for the race physically, 'but I was mentally prepared and that's what carried me through. I was focusing on doing the best I could with myself, but also seeking team satisfaction. There are seven girls on the team, and each of us must do our part.'
They did, as Central wiggled its way to a Meet of Champions berth with a fifth place team finish.
Londonderry, led by Colleen Kennedy and Cassandra Cronin, emerged as the division titleist by edging defending champion Bishop Guertin of Nashua, 89-94.
B.J. Smith of Concord relied upon a burst of energy over the final 200 meters to outkick Bedford's Sam Daly to win boys' individual laurels in the most closely contested race of the day. Smith finished in 16:06 while Daly faded to 16:17.
But it was Daly's Bedford teammates who celebrated most vocally as the Bulldogs, who are competing in Division I for the first year, won team laurels over perennial podium finisher Pinkerton of Derry, 57-98.
Less than half a minute separated Daly from Bulldog teammates Tristam Winship, Michael Dee and Scott Daly who secured top 15 finishes.
The most consistent girls' cross country program in the state resides in Hopkinton. In standout fashion, the Hawks won their sixth consecutive D-III crown by outrunning runner-up Pelham, 41-100. In fact, the championship was Hopkinton's eighth in the past nine years.
Coach Rick Welch said the team's success hinges on its philosophy.
'Our goal is to turn out lifelong endurance athletes,' said the Hopkinton coach who, over the years, has coached his cross country and track teams to 24 state championships at White Mountains in Whitefield, Merrimack and Hopkinton. 'The kids are told that our program is not about me, me, me and college scholarships.'
Welch also directs the boys' team which took the top step on the podium Saturday for the first time since 2004. But the same philosophy reigns with this team and has brought comparable success.
Both the Hopkinton girls' and boys' teams have qualified for the Meet of Champions in each of the past 10 years.
Highlighting the Hawks twin-win performance were Emily Calder, Sarah Nadeau, Katie Irwin, Emma Geiger and Shannon Nadeau, and Cam DeBrusk, Sam Smith, Declan Campbell and Cody Roberge, all with top 20 runs.
Sami Hicks of Laconia and Levin Frye of Fall Mountain of Langdon won the division's individual titles.