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Bright attitudes at cross-country championship

PENACOOK - Wet weather made for a muddy course and less than ideal conditions for the 36th annual Capital Area Cross Country Championships, but it didn't discourage Concord High. The Crimson Tide embraced it.

Going into the meet with a positive attitude and enthusiasm, the Concord cross country teams came away with three victories. B.J. Smith and Smita Boesch-Dining won the boys' and girls' races, while the Crimson Tide girls claimed the team title. The Merrimack Valley boys defended their home course, coming in first as a team.

Merrimack Valley Coach and meet director Dave Irving commented on the muddy conditions on his home course, which hosted this event for the first time since 1998 (Belmont hosted from 2000-11).

"Our one hill is very steep. It was essentially a muddy slip n' slide," he said. "But it made for true cross country conditions and the kids loved it."

The conditions certainly didn't bother Smith, who led the boys' race right from the start and didn't back down, winning in a course-record time of 16:40, ahead of Bow's Andrew Weckstein(16:58). Colin Phillips and Vinny Tevnan (both finished with a 17:10) and Colby Clark of Sant Bani (17:12) rounded out the top five.

"I felt pretty good. I felt relaxed," said Smith following his win. "The hill was muddy, so I ran up the side (of the trail), but other than that the course was fast."

The MV boys made the most of running in those conditions on their home course, finishing with five runners in the top 17 and eight in the 30.

"We challenged the boys to go out and defend their home course," Irving said, "and they responded well."

MV won with 38 points, ahead of second-place St. Paul's (70) and third-place Bow (89). Concord (102), Prospect Mountain (122), Kearsarge (161), Newfound (201), Pembroke (222), Bishop Brady (242), Winnisquam (279), Belmont (318) and Hillsboro-Deering (355) rounded out the 12 team scores.

In addition to the fourth- and fifth-place finishes from Phillips and Tevnan, Carter Saltmarsh (sixth, 17:23), Brandon McCoo (11th, 17:54), Brendan Polichronopolous (17th, 18:12), Keegan Hanks (25th, 18:40), Mark Roy (26th, 18:42) and Damon Parron (30th, 18:56) all contributed to MV's win.

Alex Kim (10th, 17:51) led St. Paul's to its second-place finish, followed by Max Abram (13th,17:56), Jack Evenson (14th, 18:02), Matt Fisher (18th, 18:16), Marc Roy (19th, 18:20), Colin MacIntosh (21st, 18:28) and Patrick McCarthy (35th, 19:14). Bow was led by Weckstein, Alex Evans (12th, 17:54), Kevin McCully (22nd, 18:35), Peter Lariviere (29th, 19:12), Ben Evans (31st, 18:59), Andrew Attorri (38th, 19:26) and Sam Evans (39th, 19:27).

Other top local finishers included Concord's Pepper Smith (14th, 18:00) and Peter Asmar (20th, 18:22), Kearsarge's Connor Terhune (seventh, 17:24) and Sam Vanetten (28th, 18:52), Bishop Brady's Warren Bartlett (23rd, 18:36) and Stephen Weinmann (52nd, 20:15), Pembroke's Kam Anderson (37th, 19:21) and Connor Boucher (53rd, 20:16), Winnisquam's Mike Roy (33rd, 19:13), Belmont's Kyle Patten (68th, 21:01) and H-D's Andrew Roberge (81st, 21:33)

Conditions worsened for the girls' race, which was described by Irving as "one of the most epic things I've ever seen."

The rain was steadier, the wind picked up, and the course was already muddy and worn out from the boys' race. But the Crimson Tide girls couldn't have been happier.

Briggie Carr (second, 20:42)of Kearsarge had a good-sized lead for more than the first mile, but was followed by a pack of 10 or so runners, including several from Concord and Hopkinton. Boesch-Dining caught up with her around the second mile on the infamous muddy hill and passed her with about a mile to go to win the race in 20:29 (a course record for girls) and lead Concord to a team victory.

Emily Calder of Hopkinton also ran well and had a strong finish, narrowly losing out to Carr in a sprint to finish third in 20:43. Calder's teammate Sarah Nadeau (20:54) and Michaella Conery (21:16) of Concord rounded out the top five.

"I just went out there with a positive attitude ... and ran through the puddles, which made it more fun," Boesch-Dining said.

Concord girls' Coach Lyn Vinskus echoed Boesch-Dining's and her entire team's enthusiasm.

"The girls were excited to run in these conditions," said Vinskus, who also attributed strong pack running to her team's win, stating that "their abilities match up really well."

Concord's pack running paid off as the Crimson Tide placed four girls in the top seven and eight in the top 30. Concord's 34 points were enough to beat runner-up Hopkinton's 48. John Stark (103), Bow (129) and Pembroke (165) finished off the top five best team scores. Merrimack Valley (174), Kearsarge (190), Newfound (209), St.Paul's (229), Prospect Mountain (227), Hillsboro-Deering (258) and Bishop Brady (262) finished sixth through 12th.

Kate Andy (sixth, 21:20) and Erin Waters (seventh, 21:23) finished in a pack behind Conery, with Hope Morrison (15th, 22:13), Samantha Pearl (18th, 22:16), Sabrina Lawrence (22nd, 22:43) and Laura Braley (29th, 24:03) also finishing in the top 30 for Concord.

Katie Irwin (eighth, 21:27), Emma Geiger (16th, 22:14) and Shannon Nadeau (17th, 22:15), in addition to Calder and Sarah Nadeau, scored for Hopkinton.

John Stark's third-place finish was led by four top-15 finishes, with Virginia Jones (21:39), Madeline Ishak (21:51), Hazel Johnstone (21:57) and Hailey Nase (22:02) finishing 10th, 11th, 12th, and 14th, respectively. Rachel Huckins (71st, 26:46), Hannah Erskine (86th, 29:21) and Alexia Perdikes (93rd, 30:00) also contributed for John Stark.

Bow's Katrina Wiesner (19th, 22:25), Allie Krause (23rd, 22:59) and Hannah Weckstein (27th, 23:36) led Bow's fourth-place finish, and Elizabeth Abbott (13th, 21:59) and Mariah Mitchell (34th, 24:18) led Pembroke to fifth. For only the second time this season, MV had enough girls to register a team score, and was led by Raquel Gelinas (ninth, 21:33) and Cassie Owens (21st, 22:40).

Other top local finishers included Kearsarge's Maggie Bolger (25th, 23:16), H-D's Maggie Girard (26th, 23:24), Bishop Brady's Amelia Toole (31st, 24:06), and Kerry Swartz (51st, 25:21) and Samantha Yates (52nd, 25:22) of St. Paul's.

The meet wraps up the regular season for the majority of area cross country teams as they prepare for the Division I, II and III state championships next Saturday at Derryfield Park in Manchester.

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