CONWAY — The 2019 New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association Cross-Country divisional meets took the center stage last Saturday at Derryfield Park in Manchester, and by all accounts, the Kennett High girls and boys teams turned in strong performances.
The KHS girls finished fifth overall to punch their ticket to the prestigious Meet of Champions this Saturday at Deerfield Park.
The girls from Conway will be joined by senior Chris Desmarais, who finished 18th overall, with the top 25 boys and top 6 teams advancing to the Meet of Champions. The Kennett boys finished 14th overall.
“We had a great day,” said Bernie Livingston, Eagles’ head coach. “Everything went really well, starting with the weather, it was spectacular.”
Running in the morning session, the Eagles were fired up and ready to go on Saturday.
Souhegan, which took the top three spots individually, captured team honors for the girls with 41 points to edge Coe-Brown Northwood Academy, 47, while Merrimack Valley finished third with 94 points.
Oyster River, which had its full team for the first time all season, was fourth with 124 points, while Kennett was fifth, 168, and Hanover placed sixth with 176 points.
There were 18 girls teams that posted team scores. Teams need at least four runners to compile a team score.
Individually, there were 131 finishers in the field.
Souhegan swept the top 3 spots with sophomore Chloe Trudel winning in 18:42, followed by senior teammates Georgia Jones and Mackenzie Hayden, who finished second and third, respectively, in 19:01 and 19:05.
Kennett was led by talented sophomore Amy Burton, who was 17th overall in 20:56.
Burton was followed by Sierra Abrams, 32nd, 21:32; McKayla Dockham, 38th, 21:47; Grace Perley, 40th, 21:53; Kaylee McLellan, 41st, 21:55; Grace Castonguay, 44th, 21:57; and Dylan Derby, 81st, 22:57.
“The girls had the race of the season,” Livingston said. “I figured it would be between Oyster River, Hanover and us for the final three places (in the top 6). I knew how strong Souhegan, Coe-Brown and Merrimack Valley were. We ended up eight points ahead of Hanover, that’s how close we were.
“We had six girls finish 41st or higher, which is incredible,” he added. “Amy Burton ran a phenomenal race. Our two through six runners were only 25 seconds apart — that’s rally what I call team running. Sierra ran the race of her career and Kaylee McLellan ran a new personal best on this course, which is almost impossible to do. Everyone ran so well and ran as a team. The kids ran incredible well. I’m really proud of their effort and their tactics. They did such a great job.”
For the boys, Coe-Brown Northwood swept the top three spots individually on the way to the team title. The Bears placed four runners in the top 6 and seven in the top 12 in a dominating performance to score 21 points and run away from the field.
Oyster River was second overall with 63 points and was joined on the podium by Hanover, which took third with 130.
Kennett was 14th out of 21 scoring teams with 372 points, just five behind Lebanon for 13th.
“When I looked at what everyone did, we really couldn’t have finished much higher,” Livingston said. “If everyone had done what I expected, maybe we could have moved up one more spot.”
In a field of 145 boys, Coe-Brown junior Luke Tkaczyk garnered individual honors, covering the 5K course in 16:06.
Teammates Aidan Cox, a freshman, and Dawson Dubois, a senior, joined him on the podium, finishing second and third, respectively, in 16:09 and 16:12.
Kennett was led by Desmarais, who was 18th at 17:03.
“Chris had a great run,” Livingston said. “He was smart tactically and executed his game plan well.”
Livingston said Desmarais, who is seeded 43rd for the Meet of Champions “has a shot” to finish in the top 25 and book his ticket to the New England Cross-Country Championships the following week.
“He’s going to have to run the race of his life and run somewhere around 16:30,” Livingston said. “He’s capable of doing that after running 16:33 in Plymouth earlier this season.”
Other Kennett finishers were senior Keith Badger, 71st, 18:56; Tristen Smith, who cut 5 seconds off his previous best time, 80th, 19:00; Ben Klementovich, 91st, 19:18; Logan Violette, 112th, 20:09; Ben Biche, who was just back from a hip injury and under the weather, 116th, 20:18; and Gavin Hunt, 119th, 20:24.