Despite pouring rain, deep puddles and swampy grass, Charles Ganner ’10 sprinted through the finish line for a first place finish at the annual Andover Invitational last Saturday with a phenomenal time of 16:34. In the first race of the season, twenty five Andover runners participated, competing against talented teams from Loomis Chaffee, Exeter, Cushing, Worcester Academy, Dexter and Northfield Mount Hermon. Although this race is designed as a fun developmental race to give runners valuable experience, the competition between teams was especially intense this year as many runners posted personal records. Many top Andover runners were plagued by injury and sickness. However, the team managed to record a score one point better than rival Exeter, even with the absence of top runner Mike Discenza ’09. The race began with a fast pace off the line; Ganner positioned himself at the front of the pack, closely followed by Tim McLaughlin ’11, Patrick Wolber ’11 and Captain Eli Howe ’09. After a relatively flat first mile, the pack, led by Ganner, entered the sanctuary and began the slow climb up to the Log Cabin after a quick burst down Heartbreak Hill. Ganner looked very strong throughout the race, and by the time he had reached the last 800 meters, he had established a comfortable lead over Exeter’s Thomas Leger, who was ten seconds behind. Exeter put on an impressive performance and placed a second runner in front of Howe, who finished with a time of 17:08. Single runners from Cushing and NMH followed Howe and Washburn to close out the top ten. McLaughlin finished close behind Washburn with an impressive time of 17:32, for an 11th-place finish. Wolber ran to a 12th-place finish, clearly struggling from his injured left knee. Running fifth for Andover, James Hamilton ’12 rounded out the scoring five in 17:44. Although the race was not officially scored, Andover beat out Exeter by a single point as McLaughlin, Wolber and Hamilton finished in front of Exeter’s fifth runner, securing the win. However, the competition from Exeter will be no less fierce when the team faces off again on the first of November. Howe said, “Now that we know who our main opponents are, I think that the main thing we have to do is to be very cautious about injuries to our top runners. If we don’t get discouraged by little setbacks and keep training hard, I believe we can beat Exeter again come November.” Coach Jon Stableford’s thoughts complimented Howe. “By the end of the season I would like to get five or six of our runners under 17 minutes for our course. We can do this gradually to avoid injuries, but if we can get there by season’s end, then we will be the team I think we can be,” he said. In the JV boy’s race, Andover once again made its mark, placing five runners in the top 15. First for Andover and second overall was Forrest Cox ’09 with a personal record of 18:37, a minute better than his showing in last week’s time trial. Andover had a strong pack trailing Cox, with Eli Grober ’09 in fifth place, and Rishi Jalal ’09, Jim Ricker ’09 and Patrick Woolsey ’09 not far behind.