Cross-country: Vikings, Vaillancourt win Division III, Conant has best finish in 25 years

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal competed at the NHIAA Division II and III state championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/26/2019 10:35:16 PM

After a full year as the favorite, Mascenic junior Landen Vaillancourt cashed in on Saturday, leading the NHIAA Division III boys’ state championship race wire-to-wire and leading the Vikings to their third straight team championship. 

“It feels really good,” Vaillancourt said after the race. “It’s one of the best feelings you can get.”

Vaillancourt’s been the heir apparent to the DIII throne since his second-place finish at states last year, and after a stellar season, he could have cruised to an easy victory Saturday. Some would say he did just that as he separated himself from second-place finisher Patrick Gandini of Gilford by a full 20 seconds and ran uncontested down the chute to finish in 16:06.7. But Vaillancourt’s pace was calculated to give Mascenic their best shot at a team championship.

“He hasn’t lost to a public school kid all year, he’s raced some of the big names in the various races, so we knew he should be in the driver’s seat here,” said Mascenic head coach Mike Smith, “but in looking at what’s best for the team, we knew people would be keying off of him big time, and I felt that if we were going to have a shot, we needed to make sure the race didn’t go   slow. He could have sat back and just waited for the last half-mile and probably ou t run every kid, but that wasn’t  going to be a good policy for us, so we wanted to make sure that the race was hard enough to string out the field so our guys who traditionally run better over the second half are chasing and don’t have the guys who might be sitting on a little bit more leg speed than we have still lying in wait.”

The Vikings’ strategy paid off. After Vaillancourt, sophomore Connor Traffie (16th, 17:47) was next across for Mascenic, followed by another Viking burst of senior Zack Allen (18th, 17:51.2) and junior Josh Movsessian (19th, 17:53.6), with sophomore Jethro Somero (34th, 18:25.7) not far behind. 

“Zack, Josh and Jethro all had really good races today,” Vaillancourt said. “I was really stoked to turn around from the finish line and like a minute later see them coming up the hill. Right there I knew we had it.”

Mascenic’s sixth and seventh runners were freshmen Ryan O’Shea (45th, 18:47.9) and Drew Traffie (50th, 19:00.4).

Everything went according to plan for Mascenic, who won their seventh Division III/Class M-S title in program history with 87 points. Hopkinton was second with 112 points, and just behind them, upstart Conant, third with 120 points on a big day for the Orioles, who went from also-ran to program to watch over the span of the season. 

“This is a huge win for us,” said Conant coach Bill Edson, in his second season working to turn around the Orioles. “We have begun a legacy program at Conant High School and everybody knows it, and we’ve done it in less than a year. That’s just remarkable and it’s a tribute to how hard the kids have worked and how hungry they’ve been for so long.”

Edson, an Army veteran, pulled out all the stops on Saturday, hoisting a battle flag high over the Orioles’ tent, not far from where Mascenic’s signature black-and-white banner floated in the sky over Derryfield Park, and sending the Conant boys onto the course with brand-new black uniforms bearing a white-winged ‘C’, a stealthy departure from their typical orange.  

“I’m a military guy,” Edson said. “Military strategy is element of surprise, keep your opponents off balance. In the very least, it gave our guys a bump – who doesn’t like new uniforms?”

The Orioles came out hot and might have been in the running for an even better finish than their already-impressive third, but Conant’s top runner, junior Matt Bernier, blacked out and fell midway through the race before regrouping and finishing the race in 151st (22:30.9).

Without Bernier up front, it was sophomore soccer standout and track sprinter Ethan Vitello who shot up top for Conant, finishing sixth in 17:23.6. Vitello joined the cross-country team partway through the season after Edson and soccer coach Dan Bemis worked out the details, and his addition was crucial for the Orioles. 

“It depends on your perspective,” Edson said. “A lot of people say he’s a soccer player who’s running, I say he’s a runner who’s playing soccer. Either way, he’s an extraordinary athlete, we’re pleased and blessed to have him on our team, and I knew he was going to pop one, and today’s the day.”

Senior stalwart Chris Taylor made his way into the top ten as well, finishing ninth in 17:30.2 to put the Orioles in good position for a strong team finish. Behind him in the scoring five was junior Ethan Weinhold (23rd, 18:03.6), sophomore John Mormando (40th, 18:37), and senior Trevor Pierce (44th, 18:45.1).  Freshman Daniel McIntyre (70th, 19:54) was Conant’s other finisher as the Orioles had their best finish at the divisional meet since 1994. 

“Our depth was the story today,” Edson said, “Matt Bernier ran so hard that he blacked out on the course and fell, and that pushed us back, but we have such depth, and everybody fought, and because of that we reached our goals. You know you’ve made it when you get third and you know you can do better.”

Both Mascenic’s and Conant’s girls had their eyes on at least top-ten finishes, and they both got there, but the Division II girls’ field was loaded, with Kearsarge’s Mya Dube (first, 19:07.4) leading her Cougars to a team title.

Conant’s  young up-and-comers landed in eighth, with freshman Kylie Aho (28th, 22:15.5) the best of the bunch. Following her and scoring were junior Eva Shirey (36th, 23:01.2), freshman Lainey Holombo (49th, 23:39.2), sophomore Alleigh Lapinsky (65th, 24:04.5), senior Bailey Despres (74th, 24:31.8), freshman Laurel Bennett (97th, 26:29.9) and junior Sarah Smith (105th, 27:04.4). 

Mascenic was just ahead, in seventh, led by junior Quinn Aldrich, who finished 26th in 22:04.5, right along with sophomore Maya Callahan, 27th in 22:14.3. Senior Sophie Callahan was 38th in 23:06.9; sophomore Victoria Smith was 54th in 23:48.9; junior Sydney Bane was 79th in 24:48.3, junior Molly Main was 124th in 29:29.9 and freshman Charlotte Crawford was 139th in 32:37.7.

So it’s off to the Meet of Champions at Nashua’s Mine Falls next Saturday for the Mascenic and Conant boys, where Vaillancourt – the Vikings’ first individual state champion since Tim Fafard in 2013 – will have a shot at an outright state championship. To win it on the speedy, flat course, he’ll have to contend with Keene senior Jake Velazquez, who won the Division I race Saturday in a scorching 15:32.4. 

“I feel like I’m in a pretty good position for next week,” Vaillancourt said. “I’m going to see what I can do. Jake set a pretty high bar today...I don’t know if I can do that, but I know I’m going to give it my all to be there with him.”

Velazquez has been the favorite to win it all despite many teams never seeing him race, as he skipped the majority of the usual New Hampshire races to test his mettle against other competition around New England. But after watching him race at Derryfield, Smith and Vaillancourt can put together a game plan, at the very least.

“Velazquez is pretty unknown in New Hampshire,” Smith said, “because he goes out and races really fast on these other courses but nobody’s really seen him most of the season. So today was actually an opportunity for us to realize that he’s within reach. Whether or not Landen can and will beat him remains to be seen, but he’s within reach.”

Vaillancourt, who ran a season-best 15:41 at Mine Falls earlier this year, said he’s looking for below 15:15 at next Saturday’s Meet of Champions. 

Division II

The  entire state knew that the Division II boys’ race would come down to Oyster River and Coe-Brown, but while there might not have been element of mystery up top, the following places were up for grabs and many – including ConVal – had their sights set high. 

“We were hoping to break into the top five,” said ConVal senior runner Harrison Kim, “because the one and two were pretty set in stone...but from the third to eighth spot, it was kind of a free-for-all, and we were hoping to emerge in the top pack.”

Indeed, Coe-Brown broke the tape, with junior Luke Tkaczyk (first, 16:06.4), freshman Aidan Cox (second, 16:09.1) and senior Dawson Dubois (third, 16:12.1) taking the top three spots; the Bears finished seven runners in the top 12 to run away with the DII crown, with Oyster River second.

Kim said he let the slow-starting race carry him like a stick on a river, sweeping him along as he kept himself within shouting distance of the Coe-Brown pack.

“Once we got to the halfway  point, it kind of spread out but I could st ill  se   e the people that were out front,” Kim said. “I think that really helped me.”

Kim finished 13th overall and had his first PR of the season with his first sub-17 time of his career, 16:48.8.

ConVal got five runners in the top 50 and showed improvements all around; juniors August Kotula (28th, 17:24.3),  Danny Veverka (38th, 17:51.9) and Haven Deschenes (46th, 18:12.21) and sophomore Tyler Beard (49th, 18:16.3) all scored for the Cougars, and sophomores Abe Dreher (56th, 18:32.8) and Jamini Viles (57th, 18:33.2).

But the point totals came across the loudspeaker – ConVal, fifth place, 174 points; Bow, fourth place, 173 points – the Cougars knew: if any one of their top five had passed one more runner, they’d have improved to fourth place as a team.

“I’m happy that they have high expectations of themselves and work hard to get there,” said head coach Lance Flamino. “Everyone who raced today spent the summer training, so the last 18 weeks, they’ve been thinking about this race. They had high hopes and they might have fallen a  little bit from their loftiest goals, but they’re happy where they ended up, and I am too.”

ConVal’s finish still earned them a trip to the Meet of Champions at Mine Falls in Nashua next Saturday as a team, where the Cougars will once again strive to meet their own high expectations.

“Ultimately, I think next week is where we can really show off what we’ve got,” Kim said. “I think we’ve just got to look at it like we’ve survived another week, we’re going to have another week to race, and I think we’re all looking forward to that.”

The ConVal girls didn’t have their expectations quite as high Saturday, as the top four teams – Souhegan, Coe-Brown, Merrimack Valley and Oyster River –  were stacked, and finished in that order. Souhegan’s Chloe Trudel (first, 18:42.5), Georgia Jones (second, 19:01.5) and Mackenzie Hayden (third, 19:05.8) were the first three across the line.

The Cougars wrapped up their season with a 14th-place finish; sophomore Ella Phillips (35th, 21:40.1) was ConVal’s best on the day. 

Senior Marina McMahon (42nd, 21:55.8), freshman Avery Beard (73rd, 22:34.9), junior Anna Taylor (96th, 23:50) and freshman Rya Collins (104th, 24.20.8) all scored for ConVal, and junior Rosie Crooker (106th, 24:24) and freshman Catherine Martin (116th, 25:39.2) rounded out the Cougar runners.

ConVal finished with their usual pluck on both sides, and their two seniors, Kim and McMahon, shone as perfect examples for the underclassmen ready to take their places.

“Both of them had their best time on this course in their four years of running, which is a nice way to go out,” Flamino said, “and if I’ve done my job relatively well, their best races are still to come and will be ahead of them in the future. They both had a really great day and I’m excited for them and happy for them.”


Jobs



Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, your source for Peterborough area news.


Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

20 Grove St.
Peterborough, NH 03458
603-924-7172

 

© 2021 Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy