If there was any question about why we always practice in the rain, the answer was obvious on Saturday as we were greeted with cold temps, cold rain, and a cold wind on our arrival at Derryfield Park for the Divisional Championships. My wife always says “cold hands, warm heart”, which for the MVXC team could be modified to “low temps, high spirits”, as it was obvious everyone showed up ready to race. Spikes would be key, as earlier racers crossed the line covered in mud, and the course was not getting any cleaner as the day progressed. In fact, the course became super easy to see as it was evolving into a muddy trench over the field portion. Spectators were setting themselves up at key locations, hoping to witness crashes (this is true, at the bottom of the grassy hill after the 2 mile there were a group of girls watching the boys race. One said “this is the best spot, because people with spikes will slip and fall when they hit the pavement, and people without spikes will slip and fall just before the pavement.”). Strangely for us, I believe every MV runner survived the day upright, not even obviously slipping when others around them were. Smart running, and smart spiking!
The girls race, as is tradition, lined up first. The season goal for the girls was a top-ten finish, although as our season progressed it became apparent that perhaps we could shoot for the moon and land an MOC spot, although it would take a “hero” day by everyone. Individually, Sophia had a shot at the title, although it would mean unseating the defending Division and New England champion, Julia of West. I admit, though I downplayed her chances in the NHCC preview, after her blitzing of our home course last week I was pretty confident the day would be hers. With the whistle the girls were ready, although at the gun there was a mass “Thwack” as almost the entire field slipped on the push-off and puts hands on the grass. Once recovered they were off and running. Sophia executed the race strategy out perfectly as usual, gaining psychological and physical advantage throughout, and eventually winning in the fastest time of the day. I’m not sure she understood what a great time it was given the conditions, as she expressed frustration afterward about not running her PR. A PR on that course? Craziness. Emma ran a solid race and excised her Divisional demons by placing 19th and qualifying for MOC’s for the first time as an individual. It will be fun to see what she can do next week, as she’ll be free to race without the worry of not finishing in the top 25. Sub-20? Dare we say it? Maddy raced fantastic, running another sub-23 and almost cracking the top 50. As an example of how far both Maddy and Emma have come, Emma ran 22:54 and placed 59th last year. A summer of running and who knows; top 25 next year Maddy?
Maizie capped off her MVXC career with one of her best races ever, an almost minute improvement over last year. She was so quick that I missed her on the course twice and thought she had dropped out. Crossing the line was bittersweet, as Maizie has been such a great leader this year and certainly will leave a void, but the team is all the better because of her. Capping off the scoring five was Kate/Katie/Katherine, with a strong run over the final mile. While only running one year on the team, she proved her worth by always running in the varsity 7 this year. Tristan, perhaps affected a bit more than others by the weather and never a big fan of Derryfield anyhow, was the next MV runner to cross the line. Another team stalwart, and a great source of humor as well as inspiration, we have been lucky to have had the last four years with Tristan. Wrapping up the day for the girls was MacNeill, over a minute faster than she was over the same course a month ago and showing she deserved to be in the race.
Overall, the girls placed 8th, achieving the pre-season goal of a top-ten finish and 6 places higher than a year ago. With top three all coming back and the addition of a couple of the best middle-school runners in the state, the team seems to be poised for a multi-year run at a high level; certainly a trip to MOC’s a year from now is on the table at this point.
The final race over the mudfest that is Derryfield Park was the boys Division II Championships. Finishing 7th a year ago, the boys had a goal of a top 6 finish and trip to MOC’s despite losing 2 of the top 5 to graduation. The plan was derailed before it began by a lack of summer running, but as the season progressed and runners improved it became apparent that it was still a possibility, though like the girls it would require a hero effort. Individually, we once again had a favorite in the race, although when you have such a big favorite as David was it gets a little scary as the target on your back grows. In the end, despite suffering from either the cold and wet, nerves, or a lack of calories, DRen proved he was the class of the division, giving MV it’s second individual title of the day, the second time we have done that in the last 8 years. I look at it as a courtesy on David’s part, allowing others to feel hope before snatching it away with 100 meters to go. No such courtesy next week, please! That was a little scary.
Leading from the gun, DRen never was able to pull away, but set just a quick enough pace that no one was able to muster up a kick good enough to steal victory away. He is probably lucky that Matt wasn’t closer, as Matt had one of the kicks of the day, finishing in 9th up from 11th with 1000 meters to go. Matt runs well at Mines Falls, so look out! More on these seniors after their final races. Third for MV was our top returning runner, Ethan. Running his usual dependable race and second fastest of the year. Next across was Connor, only 3 seconds off his PR that he set last week. Connor has really come into his own recently and has seemed like a different runner in practice and racing, full of confidence. He has been a dependable runner over the last 4 years, hopefully running has not seen the last of him! Some summer running and who knows?! Christian rounded out the top 5 for MV with a brave run. Despite hurting from the start, he never threw in the towel and gave it everything he had. We likely would not have placed in the top 6 even if he had placed ahead of Ethan, perhaps easing the frustration a little.
Fuel for the fire, Christian will be back next year as the elder statesman on the team. Just behind Christian was Isaac, still figuring out this whole running thing. Only a freshman, the future holds big things for Space Bear. Running one of his best races of the year, Tomas closed out the day for MVXC. Never quitting or giving an inch, Tomas ran hard all the way to the line. Keep your eye on this guy. Self motivated, hard working, it will be great to see his improvement over the next year.
Overall, the boys placed 8th, just like the girls. The boys have a big challenge ahead of them, with three of the top five graduating and a big time gap to the next returning runners. Summer running has never loomed so big. It’s “create a culture” time, time to turn into year-round runners!