Local girls’ X-C previews: Concord assumes pole position in Division I

  • The Concord girls’ cross country team pose at Derryfield Park in Manchester after winning the 2019 Division I championship, the team’s first title since 2003. The Crimson Tide enters this season as the favorites to repeat in D-I. Courtesy of NewHampshireCrossCountry.com

  • Concord’s Sophie Hopkins (137) and Morgane Orcutt (141) head to the finish line during the 2019 D-I cross country championships. The Crimson Tide won the team title and is favored to repeat this season. Courtesy of NewHampshireCrossCountry.com

  • Concord’s Morgane Orcutt runs to the finish line during the 43rd Capital Area Cross Country Championship last year in Penacook. Orcutt finished third in the girls’ race, leading Concord to first place as a team, and also helped the Crimson Tide win the 2019 D-I championship. Concord enters this season as the favorites to repeat in D-I. JASON ORFAO file photo / Monitor staff

Published: 9/23/2020 11:34:23 AM


Monitor staff

Last year, the underrated Concord girls’ cross country team shocked the competition by winning its first Division I title since 2003 and then finishing third at the New England championships, making the Crimson Tide the top Granite State team at the event. This year, nobody is overlooking Concord.

“We’re projected to win Division I again,” said sixth-year coach Ally Davis, who was a member of the 2003 champion team.

That statement is backed by a No. 1 preseason ranking by New Hampshire Cross Country (a poll done every two weeks by coaches across the state) and a No. 6 northeast regional ranking.

Last year the Tide was propelled by a strong pack mentality that could work again this season with six of its top seven runners returning. Sophomore Sophie Hopkins, senior co-captain Morgane Orcutt and junior Katherine Kennedy finished 9-10-11, respectively, at the D-I championship to lead Concord, with sophomores Alexis Christie (18th) and Molly Nyhan (22nd), and senior co-captain Katie Watt (27th) also returning for the defending champs.

The Tide had so much depth last season that varsity-caliber runners such as juniors Abby Goulas and Quincy Bolduc, and sophomore Gracie McHugh, didn’t make the top seven for last year’s championship. Those nine aforementioned runners, plus freshman Alina Pincoske, give Davis 10 viable options for seven varsity slots in whatever championship meets are on the table.

“These girls will really thrive in any race, no matter the competition,” Davis said. “They race so close in time, that they will always have one another to push. During these weird times without invitationals, having one another will help them still race well.”

Coe-Brown coming off a runner-up finish to Souhegan last season and 12 straight years of qualifying for New Englands and should be in contention for a D-II title. The coaching tandem of Brent Tkaczyk and Tim Cox (who have led Coe-Brown together for 20-plus years) have a deep lineup that includes sophomores Sheldyn Fisher (eighth in D-II in 2019) and Mallory Taylor (10th), seniors Tessa Millette (16th) and Samantha Lemay (18th), and junior Amelia Edmonds (25th) returning from last year’s team.

The Bears (currently ranked No. 2 in the state by New Hampshire Cross Country) will also be bolstered by the return of a healthy No. 1 runner – senior Addison Cox – who finished seventh in D-II in a season hampered by a battle with Lyme Disease but benefited from an extended offseason with spring track being cancelled.

Juniors Cadence Howard and Libby White, sophomore Natalie Sicard and freshman Bella Lemay will also fight for varsity roster spots.

This “great mixture of experience and youth, if they stay healthy, could challenge for the top spot of D-II,” coaches Cox and Tkaczyk said. “(Addison) Cox being fully healthy greatly helps their chances with a strong front runner, combined with great pack running by the underclassmen. Millette is the general ensuring this will happen.”

D-II will feature plenty of local talent at the top of the leaderboard. Merrimack Valley junior Sophia Reynolds won the 2018 title as a freshman and finished fifth last year, leading the Pride to third place. MV will be without last year’s fourth-place finisher Sophia Rebenciuc and 12th-place finisher Emma York, but coach Dave Irving, a veteran of 18 years in charge of the Pride’s running program, always has a squad that is prepared to compete at a high level.

Bow finished 15th last year, but has a new coach in Alli DeStefano, who returns to her alma mater with a strong contingent that returns six of last year’s top seven, including sophomores Maya Brochu, Delia Brochu and Susanna Zahn, who led a strong class to the freshmen team title at last year’s Manchester Invitational. The Falcons also return senior captains Louisa Carey, Autumn Boisvert and Katelin Howe, and junior captains Cassie Murphy and Leah Boisvert.

John Stark, led by coaches Pat Scott (seventh year) and Christine Anderson (fifth year) finished ninth in D-II last year.

Pembroke did not have enough runners to score at last year’s state meet, but returns its top runner – junior Charlotte Corbitt – and a pair of strong freshman runners in Quinn Lesmerises and Adison Mayeu.

In Division III, Hopkinton was undefeated heading into the championship meet before falling to Kearsarge by four points to finish second.

The Hawks return sophomore Hannah Bennett (eighth in D-III as a freshman), junior Anna O’Reilly (11th), junior Cailey Stockwell (14th) and senior Cate Westbrook (22nd). Sophomore Clara Locke didn’t run at the state meet last year due to Hopkinton’s depth and is a strong addition to the varsity team this year.

The Hawks are currently ranked No. 6 by New Hampshire Cross Country, the only D-III team in the top 10.

“The girls might be returning only four of their top seven from last year’s team, but with their depth, they continue to have a strong top five and beyond,” fifth-year coach Rob Rothe said. “They have worked very hard all summer, and though no freshmen have come up this season, they have some good experience in their ranks to achieve some really great results.”

Neither Bishop Brady, nor Hillsboro-Deering had enough runners to field a full team last year, but are looking for more team results in 2020.

The Giants, who only had two girls on the team last year, narrowly lost to Mascenic – one of D-III’s best programs – in their first meet of the season. Senior Abby Shagena finished 20th in D-III last year and finished seventh in the season-opening race against Keene and Mascenic, while a newcomer – junior Katie Palmateer – finished second in that race.

Brady is coached by 19-year veteran Bill Heath and H-D is coached by Steve Cousens (fourth year).

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