Cross country: Freshmen Howland-Vlahakis, Lane sweep individual titles; Concord girls win 11th  in a row, St. Paul’s tops boys’ teams at Capital Area Championship

By DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 10-20-2023 12:43 AM

PENACOOK – Every year the Capital Area Cross Country Championship provides one final tuneup before the NHIAA division championships and for local runners to determine who is the best in the area. As it turns out, this year, they’re both freshmen.

Gilford’s Bocelli Howland-Vlahakis won the boys’ title in 16 minutes, 39.17 seconds, and Hopkinton’s Maddy Lane clocked a 19:16.1 in the girls’ race that followed, while the Concord girls won their 11th consecutive team title and St. Paul’s won the boys’ at the 46th annual Capital Area Championship on Thursday at Merrimack Valley High School.

Howland-Vlahakis and Concord sophomore Josiah Conley were neck-and-neck for just about all 5,000 meters of the race, with Howland-Vlahakis besting Conley (16:43) by four seconds.

“This race is definitely a hard one,” Vlahakis said. “Going down that hill, it really gassed me out, especially in that first mile. … We were with each other the whole race. It feels good to win, it definitely gives you motivation heading into (the championship) at Manchester (next weekend).”

Winning a division title isn’t within every team’s grasp, but many have aspirations to advance to the Meet of Champions, a meet that features the best teams from all three NHIAA divisions (the top seven teams in Division I, top six in D-II and top five in D-III qualify). 

“I just wanted to hang on as long as I could,” Conley said. “It’s good to see how we stack up against D-II and D-III teams that we don’t normally see. We don’t normally race Gilford. (Howland-Vlahakis) ran a great race.”

Proctor Academy’s Max Preuss (third, 17:26), Hopkinton’s Matt Clarner (fourth, 17:28), Bow’s Alden Betterley (fifth, 17:28), St. Paul’s School’s Jonathan Dase (sixth, 17:30) and Andrew Carroll (10th, 17:46), John Stark’s Eli Lemire (eighth, 17:34), and Newfound’s Colin Foster (seventh, 17:33) and Evan Foster (ninth, 17:41) rounded out the top 10.

Owen Gorenc (13th, 17:53), Chappy Carroll (17th, 18:28) and Cameron Perry (21st, 18:36) were the other scoring runners for St. Paul’s.

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Bow finished as the runner-up for the second time in three years and was led by Betterley, Aiden Ciminesi (16th, 18:17), Wyatt Worcester (18th, 18:29), Owen Miller (30th, 18:50) and Thomas Sargent (34th, 19:22).

The girls’ race wasn’t nearly as close, with Lane crossing the line just over 52 seconds faster than the runner-up, Kearsarge senior Molly Ellison (20:08), taking the lead from the starting gun and building on it throughout the race.

“My overall plan was just to get out really hard and sort of settle into it as the race went on. And I think I did that pretty successfully,” Lane said. “The first mile was my fastest, but maintaining that fast pace through the second mile was really good.”

Winning the 16-team Capital Area Championship is the second major invitational that Lane has won in her rookie campaign, having also won the 17-team Pelham Invitational last weekend on Oct. 14.

Like her team as a whole, everything's coming together at the right time for Lane.

“I think I’ve progressed over the season. I’ve just felt better and better each race. It’s been really great to win a few bigger ones to boost that confidence.”

Lane’s teammate, junior Shaylee Murdough (20:21), finished fourth, but the Crimson Tide showed its depth, placing five runners in the top 14 to win its 11th straight title.

“We were really nervous looking at Hopkinton’s results,” Concord girls’ coach Ally Davis said. “They are so strong. They have Maddy and Shaylee, and we felt like this might be the year where we couldn’t pull off that streak any longer, but they ran their hearts out and they were incredible today. They ran hard, they worked together.”

Junior Shelly Smith (sixth, 20:55) and senior Chloe Gudas (eighth, 21:11) led the Tide in their usual 1-2 positions, but freshman Quinn Doherty had a breakout day, finishing 10th in 21:28.

“She was third for us today, she’s usually our seventh,” Davis said, while also noting fellow freshman Mahalie Burdette’s performance (14th, 21:45). Burdette, typically eighth on the team, was Concord’s fifth runner on Thursday.

Morgan Doherty (13th, 21:39), Bella Komorek (17th, 21:57) and Ava Philbrook (27th, 22:32) were also on the champion squad.

Elizabeth Trafton (21st, 22:08), Reese Bove (23rd, 22:14) and Amelia Walsh (32nd, 23:12) were the other scoring runners for Hopkinton.

Newfound’s Emerald Briggs (third, 20:19), St. Paul’s Aedyn Kourakos (fifth, 20:21), Proctor Academy’s Niko Cole-Johnson (seventh, 21:03) and Bow’s Julia Hou (ninth, 21:11) rounded out the top 10 finishers.

Concord beat Hopkinton, 51-81, for the team title, while St. Paul’s (107), Newfound (124), Bow (142), Gilford (158), John Stark (168), Merrimack Valley (174), Proctor (215), Kearsarge (253), Belmont (271), Prospect Mountain (290), Bishop Brady (364) and Winnisquam (418) were the other girls’ team scores.

St. Paul’s (49), Bow (80), Hopkinton (93), Merrimack Valley (99), Gilford (99), Concord (112), John Stark (151), Belmont (186), Bishop Brady (230) and Prospect Mountain (290) were the boys’ team standings.

Next up for area cross country programs are the state championships. All six NHIAA division championship races will be held on Oct. 28 at Derryfield Park in Manchester.