Saturday morning dawned drizzly and cold - but came with a special present in a form of a spectacular sunrise accompanied with a double rainbow. A good omen? Only time would tell. All athletes arrived healthy, with the exception of Taylor, our #4 boy, out with a knee injury. No colds or flus, always one of the biggest worries on State Meet weekend. As we rolled towards Derryfield, athletes slept, listened to music, or ate peanut butter toast (Tristan!) in preparation for the big race. The Divisional meets have a rolling schedule each year, 2016 was DII’s turn to go first over the damp course. MV arrived first, claimed our spot, then proceeded to watch Emma’s hands turn blue from the cold. Trooper that she is, she still managed to oversee the braiding of the hair, although not to the tightness level that we witnessed on Pinketon’s team later! As the boys played the “sneak the card into someone’s jacket” game and the girls braided, the day started to dry out and warm up - just a little, but it was enough.
The girls, set to go off at 10:00, set off on their warm-up. Coach Irving had attended a teacher workshop the previous Tuesday and learned (among other non-retained things) that even fake laughing increases your dopamine levels. So the girls laughed awkwardly all around Manchester. No worries, they looked great in their new jackets! When it finally came time to head to the starting line the team was reminded of all the parents, teammates, alumni, and other friends and family who had chosen to attend the XC meet rather than the rescheduled football game back home. Determined to run their best for all these people, themselves, and to accomplish their shoot-the-moon goal set at camp of qualifying for MOC’s, the gun fired and they were off.The girls ran, and boy, did they run great. Nothing too spectacular, Tristan was the only one with a PR (of 1 second), while Lauren tied hers and Kristie ran her best time at Derryfield, but a very solid run. Now it was time to wait. On the NHCC website they were picked to finish 8th or 9th (disclaimer, Irving wrote that preview, but it was very factual, although of course he knew that MV had a shot if the stars aligned), but only the top 6 qualify for MOC’s. After Kristie picked up her 5th-place medal, the girls huddled for power and...6TH PLACE, MERRIMACK VALLEY!! They absolutely had the loudest scream/cheer of any team announced, even the winner. It’s not every year that training works out so perfectly, but this year nothing could have gone better. Run your best at the end, and that’s what the girls did!
On to 10:40, and the boys start. A little short-handed without Taylor, they none the less took to the line in good spirits. A tenth place finish was the modified shoot the moon goal (at camp it was 15th), but again, everything would have to work out perfectly. When the gun started, the boys got off to a great start, particularly Matt R., running right up alongside and even ahead of his brother around 35th place. As the race progressed, Matt slid up in the standings, then back a little, while David picked off runners all along the course. Despite having a slight off day, David still managed to place 21st and continue his season for one more week. Matt had a super sub-17 run, not enough to qualify for MOC’s, but his best race of the year anyhow. Dylan turned in a 1-second PR as MV’s third runner, while Matt L. ran out of his head to finish as our 4th guy and come close to the 19 minute barrier. He is destined for great things next year! River, Ryan, and Connor all came agonizingly close to going sub-20, but unfortunately the course was just a tad too long. Connor did run yet another huge PR despite heading up the start hill in practically last place. That’s good, patient running! In the end, the boys finished a very respectable 15th place to achieve our pre-season goal. With 4 of the top boys returning next year, plus Taylor, top 10 looks like a good place to start with goals at next year’s campfire! On to MOC’s!