The Black Bear Invitational at Coe-Brown has an alternate name among MV runners; the PR meet. With 11 all-time PR’s set and 6 more season bests (SB), that only leaves 7 runners who didn’t set a PR of some kind on Saturday. I’d call that a record, but last year was pretty much the same. Good weather, fast competition, a fairly flat (all things considered) course, and another great week of training set us up to run well.
The day started with an early bus at 7am, and another new bus driver. Arriving as the first high school team, we were able to snag the empty dugout and avoid setting up the EZ Up. We also got a nice leisurely stroll for the course walk, which Maizie of course won. Some peppy music and a couple fun middle school races (go Andover and miniRen!) passed the time, and soon enough it was time for the JV races.
Our HUGE JV girls squad of MacNeill, Ashley, and Sharoll got us going yet again, lined up way over in box #1, out of harm's way. They do say that smiling uses fewer muscles than frowning, and MacNeill is the master of saving facial muscle exertion. She ended up with an SB, only 21 seconds off her all-time PR, smiling all the way. Sharoll, after an exuberant start, settled down a bit and cruised in under 28 minutes for the first PR of the day. Ashley would finish just a bit later, also running an SB.
Next up, the largest race of the day, the boys JV. It is neat to stand just over the lip of the first hill, waiting as 270 boys come charging across the field and over the hill into an entrance much, much narrower, often causing carnage. No such luck, er, misfortune befell any racers this time though, as all successfully navigated the bottleneck. Among our boys, Isaac threw down the gauntlet, racing to a huge PR and staking a claim as one of the favorites for next week’s 5th Seed Thetford race. Next across, Andrew, in an SB! Then Tomey, who decided that the course was not “scenic” enough (he loves the hills of Great Glen - well Tomey, you’re going to LOVE Thetford!), but almost ran a PR despite lugging his cast along for the ride. He was followed by Wylie, in a PR time, and Lucas, in an all time PR, which is a big deal because Lucas is an old man. He’s been around a while and run a lot of races. But this was the fastest! Aiden was next across and also ran a PR, a pretty big on at that. Elisha followed, and he definitely did NOT run a PR, but he ran with courage anyhow, with some soreness issues. Finishing up the JV runners for MV was Mitchell, who also ran an SB.
Finally the week long wait was over, and it was time for the varsity races. Would the win streaks continue, or would someone else gather the individual honors for the first time in three or four weeks? Sophia was up against two girls who raced faster than her at Manchester, plus her first meeting with Coe-Brown’s Addie Cox, one of the top DII returners. David was up against the Concord duo of Forrest and Eli, neither of whom had been beaten by a NH runner yet this year, plus a couple quick Coe-Brown runners. Sophia got it started in the girls race, and it had all the drama of today’s Patriots game, which is to say...not much. But it worked out very well for our side! Sophia pretty much dictated the pace, and made a move as planned just past the halfway mark, running away with a 21 second victory and the only girl under 19. Emma, dealing with a little soreness of her own, got off to a great start and held her own the whole way, just missing the top 20 in 21st place. Maddy again had one of the races of the day, with her first sub-23 clocking and a PR. Guess what she did for maybe the first time on Sunday? Ran! And then she ran a PR at the next race! Hmmm, could the coaches have been right this whole time? Now if we could get a certain few other people to self-motivate… Bigger things are in store for Maddy, as she seems to suddenly be a Runner with a capital “R”. Maizie was back into our 4th position, and had some serious battle wounds to show for it. Not one to get a little blood and missing skin slow her down, we discovered much later (“I think I ran in the high 24’s, blech”) that she actually ran faster than she thought, in fact running her fastest XC race ever. Woo-hoo! She had less of a wobbly head today, so all that forward momentum must have helped (although that wobbly head comes out when she lectures Trish). Kate was our 5th runner today in an even 25 minutes; missing from the race roster last weekend she showed toughness today. Our 6th runner (tie-breaker, should we need it) was Tristan, aka Trish, with a very smooth and controlled race, as she’s banking energy for Thetford. Overall the girls placed a remarkable 12th of 29 teams, one heck of an improvement from last year when we were 19th of 23. Great job ladies!
The boys had a directive to get out quick, before the narrow funnel of the woods. As I sprinted away from the start area to make it up to my spot in the woods I saw Matt and Dave right out front with a great start. One of the best things about spectating cross country is the waiting game, waiting at different points of the course to see who pops out first. This is particularly fun when 1) you have a front runner, and 2) when that front runner has competition. So the game was at it’s peak at Black Bear. The first sighting, at about the ⅔ of a mile point, had Concord 1-2 with MV 3-4. Seeing David and Matt together was a great thing, especially considering Matt’s been under the weather recently. I almost missed Ethan and completely missed Connor, as each had gotten much better starts than expected. I didn’t miss Christian, as I wanted to give him $100 of encouragement (he was being bribed. Whatever works!). At the 1 ¼ mark, the top three had separated, as David had wisely decided the pace was too slow and began pushing. Then nothing for a half mile, until the top of the hill just before mile 2. David had put a small gap on EBD, and a larger gap (10 meters) on Forrest. Finally, at the 2 ½ mark, DRen and EBD had separated, and the race was down to 2. Exciting! Disappointment, with a glimmer of hope, a few minutes later as EBD pops out of the woods first and heads down the track toward the finish. 15 meters back was DRen, and at that point second was looking pretty good. But not good enough! With his renown “sneaky speed”, and with COURAGE BORN OF FORTITUDE AND BELIEF, DRen ran out into THE LANE OF HIGH HOPES and ran EBD down, capping the win with an unnecessary but dramatic lean at the line for a photogenic (but not photo) finish. I’m not sure the last time I jumped as high as I did when I realized he had won - probably the finish of the 2011 State Meet which had identical finish drama. The great races continued for the rest of the team farther back, as MRen finished a solid 20th in an SB, Ethan ran a PR and almost broke 19 (so close!), Christian ran a PR as well but missed out on $100 for at least another week (breakind 19 at Thetford would be worth at least $150, I would say), and Connor ran an SB. Not to be forgotten was Abuth, running in the varsity race because he’s had a couple great weeks of training, and we were curious how he would run all by himself (he tends to follow). The result was a huge PR, so now we know! The boys finished a solid 14th out of 30 teams, and while it’s still early, 6th for DII if you add in Souhegan. We have the right trajectory, gentlemen!