Coe-Brown Northwood Academy cross-country co-coach Brent Tkaczyk expects both the program’s boys’ and girls’ teams to contend for a top-10 finish at the New England Championships Saturday. What both Bears teams are aiming for, however, is a spot among the top five.
Derryfield Park in Manchester will host the regional meet Saturday for the first time since 2013, when the Coe-Brown girls won their first ever New England team title. In their most recent visit to Derryfield Park, the Bears won both the girls’ and boys’ NHIAA Division II team championships.
“We’re not going in with the expectation of winning,” said Tkaczyk, who leads Coe-Brown alongside co-coach Tim Cox. “We’re not there yet. We’re a young squad….We’re looking at it as building toward the future, if you will, at that level.”
Both Coe-Brown teams qualified for the regional championship meet with top-three finishes at the NHIAA Meet of Champions last Saturday at Mine Falls Park in Nashua. The boys finished third with 126 points, behind Concord (83 points) and Oyster River of Durham (124 points). The girls finished three points behind Meet of Champions winner Exeter (118 points).
The top six boys’ and girls’ finishers at the Meet of Champions will represent New Hampshire at the regional meet.
Exeter also finished runner-up to defending New England champion Pinkerton Academy of Derry at the Division I championship meet at Derryfield Park Oct. 27.
Coach Joe Scascitelli said this is probably the best Exeter girls team the program has had while competing at the Division I level.
“We’ve been gaining some confidence over the last couple weeks,” Scascitelli said. “At Division I, we fell three points short to Pinkerton… Whenwe entered Meet of Champions, we felt confident we were one of the best teams in the state and if everyone ran their best, we had a chance of coming out on top.”
Exeter saw senior Violet Sullivan (13th place), sophomore Grace Mercier (15th place) and sophomore Grace Jordan (34th place) finish among the top 35 at Meet of Champions.
Led by sophomore Addison Cox’s 11th-place finish, Coe-Brown placed four girls among the top 36 at Meet of Champions. Classmate Ella Malone took 29th in a personal season-best time of 19 minutes, 41.7 seconds despite the rainy conditions.
Manchester West senior Julia Robitaille, who placed second at both the Division II meet and Meet of Champions, is the defending New England girls’ individual champion.
Both Scascitelli and Tkaczyk expect similarly soggy conditions at Derryfield Park Saturday considering the amount of rain recently.
“Last week at Mine Falls, a lot of athletes complained it was like running into oatmeal,” Scascitelli said. “The conditions will be a factor this week. It’s going to be another interesting race because you just don’t know how people are going to perform.”
Considering the expected poor terrain along with the normal challenges of Derryfield, the familiarity New Hampshire programs have with the hilly course should be an advantage. For most New Hampshire teams, Saturday will be their third trip to Derryfield this fall. The course also hosted the 44th Manchester Invitational and the division championship meets.
“Manchester is such a unique course,” Tkaczyk said. “There’s no other course like it we’ve ever experienced. Those hills, people ski on them. It’s a course where you have to be careful. If you go out too hard, you’ll be swallowed by the hills. But if you don’t go out hard enough, you’ll be battling bodies all through the race.”
Scascitelli expects both the Exeter and Coe-Brown girls will be competitive at New Englands alongside the ConVal of Peterborough, Oyster River of Durham and Souhegan of Amherst girls. The New Hampshire team most likely to become New England champion, however, is the Concord boys’ squad.
All seven Crimson Tide boys’ runners placed among the top 28 at the Division I championships to capture their second consecutive title. Concord senior Forest MacKenzie, who recently committed to the University of New Hampshire, won both the Division I and Meet of Champions individual crowns.
In its first visit to Derryfield Park this season, Concord finished runner-up to Bishop Hendricken of Warwick, R.I., in the boys’ large school category at the Manchester Invitational in September.
“We’re rooting for Concord,” Tkaczyk said. “They’re certainly in contention….It’s a big honor when you do win. When we won, it was the highlight of our career.”