CONWAY — In weather that felt more like August, the prestigious Meet of Champions at Derryfield Park in Manchester was run on one of the warmest days ever in November on Saturday.
The Queen City reported a record temperature of 78-degrees, which made for slower than predicted times for more than 25 percent of the boys and girls from Division I, II and III and IV, in the state championship meet. Among those to lace up their running shoes was Kennett High’s talented junior Amy Burton, who finished 68th overall in a field of 120 athletes.
“It was almost 80-degrees, it was brutal,” said Bernie Livingston, Eagles’ head coach. “Over 20 percent of the kids ran slower than they did the week before in the divisional meet, including Amy. Two of the top three girls (Mallory Taylor of Coe-Brown Northwood Academy and Caeley Brown or Portsmouth Christian) dropped out because of the heat. Coe-Brown had been the favorite to win the team title, but without Taylor ended up in third.”
Burton covered the 5K course in 21:17. She ran the same course the week before with an inch of snow on the ground and temperatures around 50 degrees in 20:44.
“She really wanted to break 20 minutes, but the weather didn’t help,” said Livingston. “Amy is such a great competitor. She always gives 100 percent effort. She was not overwhelmed by the field. Amy said she felt fine but just didn’t have it on Saturday. It took nothing away from what she accomplished this year.”
He added: “She started the season with a serious ankle injury. She was a really good patient, she wore her brace religiously and did all she was asked to do.”
Burton’s time was her third fastest this season.
“She likes the hillier courses, like Abenaki (Ski Area in Wolfeboro) and Derryfield,” said Livingston. “This week it was almost 25-30 degrees warmer than last week.”
Traditionally, the top six teams and the top 25 individual runners from the divisional meet qualify to run the following week in the prestigious Meet of Champions. This year, due to the coronavirus, only the top five schools were selected and then the top five finishers from outside those schools were selected to continue their seasons.
Fortunately, Burton was among those five finishers. She was second in that group and punched her ticket to the Meet of Champions.
“Amy is a really good leader,” said Livingston. “She’s also such a nice person. She has that even-keel that kids respect and like. She personifies everything you want in an athlete if you are a coach.”
The race was run in four waves, with each wave spread out by 10 yards and each toed the starting line 10 seconds later than the previous wave. Burton ran in the second wave.
“I’m not a big fan of a wave start,” Livingston said. “I would have liked everyone to be able to run altogether.”
The overall race winner was Coe-Brown senior Addison Cox, who won the race by 12 seconds in 18:01(ran 18:21 the week before). She was joined on the podium by Chloe Trudel, junior from Souehgan, who was second in 18:13 (ran 18:28 on Oct. 31), and Sophia Reynolds, a junior from Merrimack Valley, who was third, 18:55 (ran 19:37 in the divisional championship. The trio finished in the exact same order in the Division II championships.
For the girls, top team honors went Hanover with 104 points, followed by Exeter, 105; and Coe-Brown, 115.
The week before, Coe-Brown ran away from the field with 36 points to best Hanover, which was second with 80 points.
For the boys, Coe-Brown captured team honor. The Bears, who scored a staggering 29 points by placing five runners in the top 11, easily beat runner-up Concord, 81 points, and Windham was third with 107 points.
Coe-Brown sophomore Aidan Cox won the race and broke his own course record he’s set the week before by 17 seconds in 14:58. Even Bragg, a senior at Concord, was second in 15:23, while Luke Tkaczyk, a senior at Coe-Brown, was third in 15:28 (he ran 15:55 to take second in the Division II championships).
In the division championships the week before, the Kennett girls were seventh overall with 217 points, just 37 points out of sixth. The KHS boys were 17th overall out of 20 scoring teams with 448 points, just five points out of 16th.
Kennett will lose 13 athletes (six girls — Dylan Derby, Shannon Derby, Kameryn Dockham, Maya Gove, Celia Lynn and Sierra Parsons along with seven boys — Cody Hamlin, Devon Hamlin, TJ Lash, Boone Mixer-Bailey, Dominick Perry, Logan Violette and Caleb White to graduation next June.
“I’m so happy we had a season,” Livingston said. “Although it was different than any other season ever, Eileen (Livingston, assistant coach) and I were so grateful that we got the entire season in. We were lucky while schools like Pinkerton Academy, Berlin, Spaulding and Inter-Lakes weren’t quite as fortunate.”
He added: “We did what we had to do, wear masks and follow all of the necessary protocols. I’m grateful it happened because after not having sports in spring we didn’t know if anything could/would happen in the fall. I really enjoyed this group.”