ConVal girls qualify for New Englands

  • The ConVal girls cross country team was understandably all smiles after placing third at Meet of Champions on Saturday and qualifying for the New England Championships. Photo by Doreen Michalak

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/6/2018 12:25:19 PM

All those miles over the summer, the long training runs in less than ideal conditions and really, every race throughout the fall have been building blocks toward the last two weekends. Because the goal for every cross country runner is to be performing at their best when the races matter the most.

So after the Mascenic boys won its second straight Division III title, the ConVal girls took runner-up and the ConVal boys placed fifth in Division II last weekend to advance to Meet of Champions, the Vikings and Cougars took to the course at Mines Falls in Nashua on Saturday with hopes of putting together their best performances of the season.

And all that hard work paid off as the local runners proved they belong among the best New Hampshire had to offer. The ConVal girls finished third as a team to advance to the New England Championships at Derryfield Park this weekend, while Mascenic sophomore Landen Vaillancourt placed fifth and ConVal senior Evan Coyne took 24th to qualify as individuals. The top six teams and 25 individuals make it to New Englands.

ConVal Girls

Heading into the season, the Cougars fully expected to make it to Meet of Champions as a team. There was also the goal of sending the top seven to New Englands.

“For the girls, getting to New Englands is icing on the cake,” said ConVal coach Lance Flamino. “And getting there was about putting together great races, which they did.”

Throughout the season, the top three runners for ConVal have been mentioned as one of, if not the best trio for any team in the state and they showed why on Saturday.

Seniors Rachel Hurley and Clare Veverka have been pushing each all year long, trading places as the top finisher for the Cougars. That trend continued on Saturday, as Hurley improved 15 spots over her Meet of Champions finish a year ago to take eighth overall in 18 minutes and 41.9 seconds. It was her best race of the year and came at the most opportune time.

And much like they did last week in the Division II race, when Veverka was fifth, followed by Hurley in sixth, the top two ConVal runners were separated by mere seconds on Saturday to lay the ground work for the team to advance to New Englands – a goal they’ve been working toward all season long.

“They went out fast enough to stay in contact with the front,” Flamino said.

Veverka gave the Cougars their second top 10 finish by placing ninth overall in 18:43.9, as the duo were one of three sets of teammates to finish in the top 10. Merrimack Valley freshman Sophia Reynolds won the girls race in 17:59.6.

Fellow senior Schuyler Michalak ran her best race of the season to take 26th overall in 19:29.9, which at that point had ConVal leading the way in the team competition.

“I’m pretty confident in my top three. They’ve been doing it all year long,” Flamino said.

Senior Sarah Newell finished 68th (20:37.3) and junior Marina McMahon was 102nd (21:16.2) to round out the scoring. Sophomore Reagan Riffle (116th, 21:43.3) and senior Molly Janoch (120th, 21:55.3) were the final two Cougars to cross the finish line.

“We had a great day across the board,” Flamino said. “And in the last two races, (Sarah) really stepped it up.”

As a team, ConVal finished with 155 points, trailing only state champion and Division I runner-up Exeter (118) and Division II champion Coe-Brown (121).

“We were definitely pleasantly surprised,” Flamino said. “Looking at it from a realistic standpoint, we could have a good day and finish anywhere from third or fourth to eighth, it was that close.”

Mascenic Boys

As the now two-time defending Division III champions, the Vikings had high hopes of finishing in the top six to move on to New Englands as a team. But Mascenic came up a little short, placing ninth overall with 233 points, although they remained the top finishing team from Division III.

“We had been eyeing a trip to New Englands,” said Mascenic coach Mike Smith. “So that’s top six and we finished ninth, but my guys all ran good races.”

On the individual front, Vaillancourt put together a race that shows just how talented of a runner he is. He was the top finishing sophomore and one of only two to place in the top 10.

“He’s beginning to understand that he’s going to perform his best when he’s focusing on his race and not what everyone else is doing,” Smith said. “It’s now more like don’t try to beat anybody and go out there and have everyone try to beat you.”

Through the first 200 meters, Vaillancourt was about 40th, but by the time he reached the 1,200 meter mark, the sophomore had made his way into the top 10. From there, Vaillancourt continued to push forward to eventual make it into the top five with a time of 16:09.5, just a fraction of a second out of fourth. It was a vast improvement over last year, when he finished 49th in 16:38.8.

After taking second in the Division III race last weekend to Campbell senior Jeffrey Allen, Vaillancourt was the top Division III runner on Saturday, finishing four spots and 19 seconds ahead of Allen. Concord senior Forest MacKenzie won the boys race in 15:48.

“At this point, he’d be foolish to not try and become New Hampshire’s No. 1 runner,” Smith said.

Vaillancourt will be the lone Mascenic representative at the New England Championships this Saturday.

Sophomore Josh Movsessian placed 53rd overall in 17:11.8, three spots in front of senior Logan Thibault, who completed the course in 17:13.9.

“He picked the perfect time to pop off a great race,” Smith said of Movsessian​​.

Freshman Connor Traffie was 79th in 17:33.2 and junior Dakota Somero placed 83rd (17:36.6) to finish off the team scoring. Senior Robert McLain (112th, 18:16.2) and Zack Allen (118th, 18:33.9) also ran for the Vikings.

Losing only two seniors and just one from the top five on Saturday, Mascenic has a good chance to be back in this position next year.

“We definitely have the best top five coming back,” Smith said of Division III. “So we have the opportunity to be back here again.”

ConVal Boys

The top goal for the Cougars this season was to make Meet of Champions as a team. With their fifth place finish in Division II, ConVal got one last chance to run together as a team.

“They worked really hard for this,” Flamino said.

On Saturday, they finished 13th overall with 331 points, but improved its standing among Division II teams by finishing fourth, ahead of Souhgean, who edged ConVal by 10 points at the Division II race.

Coyne had a personal goal of making it to New Englands as an individual, and the ConVal senior put together his best race of the season to finish 24th overall in 16:40.6.

“His big goal was to qualify for New Englands,” Flamino said. “He just missed it last year, but he had a really strong finish to qualify.”

But it wasn’t easy. With about a half mile to go, Coyne stood in about 30th place, but he fought his way through some traffic to make sure he lived to race another day. As a junior, Coyne was ConVal’s only representative in the state boys race, finishing in 28th.

“It’s a nice way for him to go out,” Flamino said of his top senior.

Junior Harrison Kim maintained his place in the top two for the Cougars finishing 50th with a time of 17:08.1.

Senior Max Boisvert and sophomore Danny Veverka were separated by less than a second. Boisvert was third for ConVal in 100th (17:51.1), followed by Veverka in 101st (17:51.6). Sophomore Haven Deschenes capped off the scoring for ConVal in 104th (18:02.3). Sophomore August Kotula (109th, 18:13.1) and freshman Tyler Beard (114th, 18:25.7) were the final two ConVal runners.

“They all ran great races,” Flamino said. “For most of them it was their best race of the season.”

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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