Mascenic star wraps up career; Conant, ConVal race at Meet of Champions

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic, Conant and ConVal raced at the NHIAA cross-country Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/8/2020 7:49:05 PM

The best cross-country runner in Mascenic history went out with a race to be proud of at the NHIAA Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua Saturday, where Conant and ConVal joined the Vikings to finish the fall season strong. 

Mascenic senior Landen Vaillancourt said he’d run the Division III championship race last week as the favorite, thinking he needed to lead Patrick Gandini of Gilford the whole way, before flagging, cramping and finishing second. But with Division II champion and world-record holder Aidan Cox of Coe-Brown up front serving as his white rabbit, the pressure to lead was off.

“This time, I had my sight on this kid who’s going to go to the Olympics probably, and it definitely took my mind off of everything else,” Vaillancourt said. “All I wanted was to finish behind him, but I started to drift out of consciousness on that last mile...It didn’t even feel like I slowed down that much, those guys just started going faster. 

Cox won the race in a stunning 14:58, setting the Mine Falls course record as the first runner ever to finish under 15 minutes; Vaillancourt ended in sixth place (15:47) with only runners from Division I champions Concord and DII powerhouse Coe-Brown ahead of him.

“It was a good way to finish up,” said Mascenic coach Mike Smith. “Obviously he wanted to run better than he did last week, and you saw that he did, and he wanted to give Aidan a shot as well, and he did...When you get the steamroller that’s Aidan Cox, what are you going to do? Aidan Cox would have beaten anybody on any year. You can’t really dwell on that.”

The rest of his Viking teammates ran well; Jethro Somero (56th, 17:34) and Ryan O’Shea (73rd, 17:57) set personal record times, and Connor Traffie (44th, 17:09), Drew Traffie (89th, 18:11), Dominic Cichetti (114th, 19:51) and Payton Vaillancourt (117th, 20:37) gave Mascenic enough to finish 9th overall and leapfrog over Monadnock for best of Division III. 

Vaillancourt finishes as a three-time team champion, a one-time Division III state champion (2019) and a three-time runner-up, as well as the Mascenic home course record-holder (16 minutes). Smith said he told his team earlier in the week “without hesitation” that Vaillancourt was the best he’d coached in the Vikings’ storied history. 

“Landen’s by far the best, talented, hardest-working kid to ever achieve what he’s achieved,” Smith said. He’ll go out without a Meet of Champions victory, the one goal he didn’t reach, but there’s no regret given the level of competition he faced over the years. 

“I didn’t win an MOC, that’s something that I’m not proud about,” Vaillancourt said, “but when you look at all the guys I raced, they’re so awesome, so fast, and they’re really dedicated to the sport, so there’s no shame in losing to them.”

Vaillancourt took a moment to let memories wash over him in the bittersweet moment as Saturday’s golden sunset did the same.

“It’s sad,” Vaillancourt said. “High school cross-country was a big part of my life, since ninth grade. I can remember it, our first race down in Hillsborough, I can remember it like it was yesterday and now here I am, no more cross-country races to have. I’m really glad that I gave my all today and went out with something to not be disappointed about.”

Conant improves on DIII races

The Orioles had some unfinished business after finishing third in Division III last week, and they took care of it Saturday. Senior Matt Bernier said the Orioles had been gunning for a top 10 finish but knew that was a long shot; ultimately, Conant grabbed 13th overall, still behind Mascenic and Monadnock, but with better races all around. 

Bernier improved upon last week’s race, though he still ran into a little trouble early; he’d started in the second wave of runners and had to try to jostle his way through the pack of slower Wave One runners as the course narrowed to a chute in several locations, which slowed him down a bit before he was able to get out and run on the open trails. 

“I had a decent finish so that helped me out a bit,” Bernier said. “I felt a lot better, but I was basically playing catch up the rest of the time.”

Bernier finished in 76th place (17:59), with teammates Ethan Vitello (42nd, 17:05) and Ethan Weinhold (72nd, 17:55) ahead of him and John Mormando (82nd, 18:01), Austin Poikonen (103rd, 18:47) and freshmen Alex Cummings (105th, 19:00) and Austin Richard (116th, 20:25) behind. 

“Everyone laid it out there,” head coach Bill Edson said. “Everyone ran a good race and we can go away satisfied this week.”

Before the race, Bernier and his teammates discussed their former teammate Trevor Pierce, the Class of 2020 graduate who was tragically killed in an accident at Syracuse University while attending college earlier this year. 

“We were all just racing for him,” Bernier said. “We had a talk about it before the race – what would Trevor be happy with, what would make him proud if he was still here? I think he would be proud of what we did.”

ConVal gets their shot

ConVal’s Ian Post didn’t expect to be racing in Nashua in November. The Cougar junior only had 16 practices through the course of the fall – less than he’d have participated in by September of a normal year – before learning in late October that he and his teammates were approved to compete in the NHIAA Division II championships.

“That was kind of surprising,” Post said. “I wasn’t thinking anything along these lines so I’m just happy I got a chance to race.

Post finished 16th at Derryfield to earn a trip to Saturday’s Meet of Champions. 

“I was ready for it,” Post said. “I don’t think I missed the other races, I think I was just more fresh.”

Post finished in 32nd Saturday in 16:47, the same time he’d put up the previous week. 

“Putting in the work with such an uncertain season ahead of them and then getting a chance to have a couple races and have somebody qualify for Meet of Champions was really exciting,” said ConVal head coach Lance Flamino, “and I’m really proud of all the hard work he put in.”

Post said he couldn’t have done it without his teammates. 

“I was thankful that we had a team and that I didn’t run by myself,” Post said. “They were watching the live stream and they helped push me on last week – I was thankful for our team.”


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