Exeter Runners Top Andover’s Best, Varsity Red Scores First Three Spots

The Andover Boys Cross Country team traveled to Exeter on Saturday to take on a team that coaches knew had a solid chance at the Championship. At the Varsity level, Exeter’s knowledge of their home course tipped the scale in Exeter’s favor and they defeated Andover’s Varsity nine by a score of 23-32. The Boys in Blue got their revenge in the JV race, however. where Andover’s second squad dominated the race, winning convincingly with a score of 18-43. As the runners entered the woods of the course, the team, led at that point by Chris Donais ’05, slipped behind Exeter’s first runner, who remained untested by Andover runners for the entire race. By the one-mile mark, Andover could see its race taking shape just as planned, with Donais, Sean Hamilton ’06, Captain Jon Hillman ’05, Ben Bramhall ’07, and Idris Jatoi ’05 in position alongside Exeter’s next three runners. Because his previous running experience came from Texas courses that were flat like Exeter’s course, Jatoi especially hoped for a solid race on Exeter’s plains. By the two-mile mark several distinct battles emerged. Donais and Hamilton jockeyed with the second and third runners in red through the woods. A few seconds behind this lead quartet Justin Lee ’06, Jatoi, Hillman, and Bramhall raced with Exeter’s fourth and fifth runners. As the runners exited the woods Hamilton and Donais led the two runners from Exeter. The Exeter runners’ knowledge of their home course proved advantageous on the sharp penultimate turn, however, as the Exeter runners surged ahead and slowly increased their lead until the finish line. After Exeter’s first three finished, Hamilton crossed in 16:33, with Donais close behind in 16:39. In a great team effort, Lee and Jatoi both out-kicked Exeter’s fourth runner in the final straightaway, with Lee crossing the line in 16:47 and Jatoi just a second behind with a time of 16:48. In their own battle behind Exeter’s fifth runner, Hillman and Bramhall crossed just a few seconds apart in 17:08 and 17:10. Both had a hard time adjusting to the faster turnover of the flat Exeter course and hope to perform better on Saturday at Interschols on a very hilly and demanding course. Will Riordan ’05, continuing his steady improvement through the season, placed seventh for Andover. Geoff Miller ’05 and Jon Weigel ’05 finished just out of the top scoring seven, but Coach Stableford will undoubtedly look to them to lead Andover’s JV seven on the hills of Hotchkiss this weekend. A convincing victory in the JV contest quickly washed out the sour feelings from the Varsity race, where the boys in blue placed five runners in the top six places. Wes Howe ’05 led the way from the start, and Nate Thomas ’08 followed close on his heals. One Exeter runner managed to hang with the leading pair through the first two miles. The Exie, however, faltered in the third mile, giving Dave Heighington ’06 a chance at third place. Howe lengthened his lead by the finish line, crossing in an impressive time of 17:46, with Thomas a few seconds behind, crossing the line in 17:54. Heighington gave the front Exeter runner a challenge to the line, but the Exeter runner’s superior knowledge of the final turns helped him win the battle. Hammering the final nails into Exeter’s coffin, Nick Bowen ’06 and Greg Hsu ’06 crossed the line with times of 18:15 and 18:36, respectively.Entering the final week of training, both the Varsity and JV squads will need to focus and get extra rest to take on their rivals at Interschols on Saturday. Placing Varsity regulars Weigel and Miller at the JV level should ensure victory for Andover. The Varsity contest, however, will prove to be a challenge. Three teams have a shot at taking home the coveted championship plaque. Bramhall was confident about the upcoming contest, saying, “Exeter had an easy race on the flats, but we have been training for hills, and once we get to Hotchkiss, they won’t be able to stick with us.”