Anyone familiar with New Hampshire high school cross country knows about the Coe-Brown Bears girls’ dynasty – a record six straight Division II titles, five straight Meet of Champions titles and five straight years in the top three in New England entering this season.
Despite losing exceptionally talented runners to graduation, Alli Pratt, the lone returning senior and one of two returning varsity runners from the previous season, led Coe-Brown to a close second in D-II, third at Meet of Champions and eighth at the Bears’ ninth-straight appearance at New Englands. Pratt finished eighth in D-II with a time of 19 minutes and 11 seconds, ninth at Meet of Champions with a time of 18:29 and 38th at New Englands in 19:04.
Pratt had the luxury of a strong group of leaders and talented runners (many of her teammates now run in college, including four who run at the Division I level), surrounding her throughout the first three years of her career, but Pratt was by far the most experienced runner entering this season. Embracing a leadership role was a new one for Pratt, but one she handled with grace. Her leadership, on and off the course, and her speed, helped her team surpass all expectations.
“Honestly I think we’re really happy about it because in the beginning of the season we had no idea that we were going to be this good. We thought maybe we’d get top five at states,” said Pratt. “I’m the one who (had) the most experience. I knew I had to be a role model. I tried not to be so tense. I just had to stay calm.”
“She made a great adjustment getting the girls together, getting the team together, and also not feeling sorry for herself with having a brand new team and having to mold a new team senior year,” said Coe-Brown Coach Tim Cox. “She’s been through a lot this season. She ran strong and very courageously… unlike the last few senior classes who have had friends to help them, Alli was the only one.
Pratt was a member of the Bears squads that won titles in 2014 and 2015, her sophomore and junior seasons, and finished second in New England. As a freshman, Pratt finished second in the JV State Meet (a meet Coe-Brown won convincingly) and supported the varsity team as they ran to a New England title that year. Pratt was the third-fastest runner on the team at the D-II championship in 2014 and the second in 2015.
This year’s varsity seven included a freshman, a soccer player turned distance runner and they were surrounded by a host of runners who were new to the sport. Although the talent level and enthusiasm was high, expectations were lower than in past years.
“If you had asked us at the beginning of the season if we’d be happy with runner-up and getting on the podium, we’d be ecstatic and maybe a bit surprised. But it’s a credit to the girls coming together as a team with a lot of different personalities. They put together a great season,” said Cox. “My hat is off to Alli.”