Preview: Area XC teams prepared for Derryfield Park

Kearsarge’s Molly Ellison (center) and Hopkinton’s Maddy Lane (right) head to the front of the pack early in the Girls’ Small School Race at the 48th Manchester Invitational at Derryfield Park on Sept. 23. Lane finished fifth and Ellison finished ninth out of more than 200 runners. Ellison and Lane will battle for the Division III individual crown at Derryfield Park on Saturday.

Kearsarge’s Molly Ellison (center) and Hopkinton’s Maddy Lane (right) head to the front of the pack early in the Girls’ Small School Race at the 48th Manchester Invitational at Derryfield Park on Sept. 23. Lane finished fifth and Ellison finished ninth out of more than 200 runners. Ellison and Lane will battle for the Division III individual crown at Derryfield Park on Saturday. JAY SMITH / NHXCTF

Coe-Brown’s Jamie Lano (1632) and Phillips Exeter’s Byron Grevious (2362) run in the lead pack half a mile into the Boys' Large School Race at the 48th Manchester Invitational at Derryfield Park on Sept. 23. Lano and his Coe-Brown teammates return to Derryfield Park on Saturday to defend their Division II title.

Coe-Brown’s Jamie Lano (1632) and Phillips Exeter’s Byron Grevious (2362) run in the lead pack half a mile into the Boys' Large School Race at the 48th Manchester Invitational at Derryfield Park on Sept. 23. Lano and his Coe-Brown teammates return to Derryfield Park on Saturday to defend their Division II title. JAY SMITH / NHXCTF

By DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 10-27-2023 7:35 PM

On Saturday, every NHIAA cross country program will grace the course at Derryfield Park in Manchester for the running of the NHIAA division championships. Individual and team titles are at stake for a few of the area’s elite, and several more are in contention for qualification for the Meet of Champions, which will be held on Nov. 4 at Alvirne High School.

Here is a preview of all three divisions, both boys’ and girls’ races, in the order that they will be run:

Division I

Girls’ race 10 a.m., boys’ 10:40 a.m.; top 7 teams and 30 individuals per race advance to Meet of Champions.

Area teams: Concord.

Girls’ runners to watch: Concord’s Mahalie Burdette, Quinn Doherty, Morgan Doherty, Gianna Gualtieri, Chloe Gudas, Bella Komorek and Shelly Smith.

Boys’ runners to watch: Concord’s Josiah Conley and Tyler Watt.

Notes: After getting overlooked in the New Hampshire Cross Country preseason poll (voted on by coaches), the Concord girls have been a fixture in the top 10 since late September. The Crimson Tide are coming off its 11th straight Capital Area Championship title, led by a consistent 1-2 of Smith and Gudas. The Tide girls are a deep squad, anyone else in the top seven is capable of having a breakout day, and they are aiming for a spot at MOCs. The boys are a young team that is rebuilding but have some strong individuals who are quickly improving. Conley, a sophomore, narrowly finished second at the Capital Area Championships and is one of D-I’s top individuals.

Division III

Girls’ race 11:30 a.m., boys’ 12:10 p.m.; top 5 teams and 20 individuals advance to MOC.

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Area teams: Belmont, Bishop Brady, Hillsboro-Deering, Hopkinton, Winnisquam.

Girls’ runners to watch: Hopkinton’s Maddy Lane, Shaylee Murdough, Reese Bove, Elizabeth Trafton and Amelia Walsh; Kearsarge’s Molly Ellison and Amelia Lefebvre.

Boys’ runners to watch: H-D’s Elijah Bodanza; Hopkinton’s Ben Daniels and Matt Clarner; Kearsarge’s Daniel Dalbec.

Notes: Very few teams have beaten the Hopkinton girls this season and even fewer of them are in D-III. The Hawks have only lost to a D-III team once – to Mascenic at the Manchester Invitational on Sept. 23. Hopkinton has won three straight team titles and four in the last five years. The Hawks graduated a talented class or runners last year but have freshman phenom Lane. She is coming off big victories in the last two meets of the season (Pelham Invitational and Capital Area Championship) and is considered a favorite for the individual title, along with Kearsarge’s Ellison. Clarner and Daniels have been one of the best 1-2 punches in the division since they were freshmen. Now seniors, they have more depth behind them, and the Hawk boys could finish in the top five.

Division II

Girls’ race 1 p.m., boys’ 1:40 p.m.; top 6 teams and 25 individuals advance to MOC.

Area teams: Bow, Coe-Brown, John Stark, Merrimack Valley, Pembroke.

Girls’ runners to watch: Bow’s Julia Hou, Hannah Pawlowski and Lena Thompson; Coe-Brown’s Paige Murdough, Madison Taylor, Meredith Kerivan, Mary Bergeron and Anna Bergeron; John Stark’s Anna Chasse, Kayla Barriere and Rylee Barnard; MV’s Madison Geddes, Lily Moser and Sydney Spack.

Boys’ runners to watch: Bow’s Alden Betterley, Aiden Ciminesi, Owen Miller, Thomas Sargent and Wyatt Worcester; Coe-Brown’s Jamie Lano, Luc Kerouac, Liam McLean, Sanjith Nomula and Keegan Sousa; John Stark’s Eli Lemire and Austin Patenaude; MV’s Mychal Reynolds and Nathan Bain; Pembroke’s Caleb Saturley.

Notes: The Coe-Brown boys have won eight of the last nine team titles, including the last five. The Bears entered preseason ranked sixth in the state but moved into the No. 1 spot in mid-October. Coe-Brown is led by Lano, last year’s fifth-place finisher and the only returning member of the Bears’ top five. Hanover joins Coe-Brown as the favorites for the top two spots in the team standings. Bow missed out on MOC qualification last year but has steadily improved over the last couple of seasons and could take a top six spot. The top of the girls’ standings might be out of reach for area teams, but Coe-Brown, Bow, John Stark and MV all have a realistic chance at claiming a spot in the top six.