KHS Cross-Country - girls at Meet of Champions

The Kennett High girls' cross-country team — (from left) Grace Castonguay, Madelyn Marcotte, Shannon Derby, Sierra Abrams, Grace Perley, McKayla Dockham, Kaylee McLellan, Amy Burton and Dylan Derby — capped its season by running in the prestigious Meet of Champions in Manchester on Saturday. (LINDA DOCKHAM PHOTO)

CONWAY — The Kennett High cross-country season came to an end at the prestigious 43rd annual New Hampshire Meet of Champions at Derryfield Park in Manchester on Saturday. The KHS girls, who qualified as a team after a top 6 finish at the Division II Championships the week before, finished 17th overall, while Kennett senior Chris Desmarais, who finished in the top 25 individuals at the Division II meet, was 44th overall on Saturday.

Coach Bernie Livingston was pleased with all of the performances.

“Our girls, collectively, ran 25 seconds faster per person than at the Division II Championships and we lost places,” he said. “I can’t believe the amount of quality in the field — everyone is so fast. The top 18 girls all broke 19 minutes. There were 21 guys who broke 16 minutes, and the top two boys broke the state record and the boy who finished second is only a freshman.”

For the girls, with the 18 best teams in the Granite State competing, Souhegan, the Division II champs, garnered team honors by placing three girls in the top 5 to score 80 points. Joining the Sabers on the podium were Bishop Guertin and Concord, who finished second and third respectively, with 109 and 11 points.

Kennett was 17th with 413 points.

Two of the Eagles’ season-rivals, Oyster River and Hanover, finished 11th and 13th overall with 296 and 305 points.

Fellow Division II schools, Coe-Brown Northwood Academy was fifth with 166 points, and Merrimack Valley was seventh with 199.

Individually, Bishop Guertin senior Caroline Fischer topped a field of 140 runners over the 5K course to win by 4 seconds in 17:55. She averaged a 5:46 per-mile pace.

Souhegan sophomore Caroline Trudel, the Division II champion, was second on 17:59, while Bishop Guertin senior Caroline Towle was third, 18:02.

Kennett was led by talented sophomore Amy Burton, who was 72nd overall, setting a new personal record in 20:26 (she 20:56 on the same course the week before).

Burton was followed by Grace Perley, 94th in a new PR of 20:53 (ran 21:53 the week before); Sierra Abrams, 95th, in a PR by 30 seconds in 20:55 (ran 21:32 the week before); Grace Castonguay, running with an injured hip, 117th, 21:41 (ran 21:57 the previous week; Kaylee McLellan, 120th, 22:02 (ran 21:55 last week); McKayla Dockham, running on a sore ankle, 125th, 22:19 (ran 21:47 the previous week); and Madelyn Marcotte, running for the under the weather Dylan Derby, 137th, 24:05.

“McKayla’s ankle is not getting any better,” Livingston said. “She wanted to run for the team and turned in a real gutsy performance. If it had not been the last race of the season I’m not sure she would have raced.”

For the boys, Coe-Brown Northwood, the Division II champs, had six boys in the top 21 and ran away with the team title with 57 points. Pinkerton Academy and Concord finished second and third, respectively, with 105 and 107 points.

Individually, in a field of 142 runners, Keene senior Jake Velazquez broke the state record by winning by 5 seconds in 15:12. He averaged a 4:53 per-mile pace.

Coe-Brown sophomore Aidan Cox, a freshman, who was second in Division II, also broke the state record, finishing second in 15:17. Masonic Regional junior Lande Vaillancourt was third in 15:26.

Desmarais, who was 18th the week before in the Division II Championships in 17:03, was 14 seconds faster on Saturday, finishing 70th overall in 16:49.

“It was an incredibly fast race,” Livingston said. “Chris ran the first mile in 5:05, wanting to try to keep with the top tier and managed to hang on for the first mile and a half. He wanted to try to finish in the top 25. He was disappointed in his time, not in the effort.”

Livingston added: “It was an incredible experience to see so many fantastic teams and runners. I think it shows how much the sport has improved over the last 10 years. I was so proud of girls and Chris and I told them there was no other group in the state that I would rather be coaching. They competed to the best of their abilities and represented themselves and Kennett so well.”

The top 6 boys and girls teams along with the top 25 individual boys and girls will head to Wickham Park in Manchester, Conn., this Saturday to run in the New England High School Cross-Country Championships.

Livingston will be making the trek to see his granddaughter, Caroline Livingston, who was second in the Rhode Island High School Cross-Country Championships last Saturday while running for Barrington High School.

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