Cross Country Edges Out Exeter for Second Place in NEPSTA Finals

Boys Cross Country completed an exceptional season last Saturday, finishing second at the New England Prep School Track Association Division Cross Country Championships. Andover went into the race seeking victory coming off an electrifying win at Exeter, but the chronic injuries plaguing team members since early in the season proved too much to overcome as Andover fell valiantly to a phenomenal St. Paul’s. Going into the championship, the only blemish on Andover’s record was an early season loss to the top team in the league, St. Paul’s. Andover’s strategy was simple: start out fast and try and hold on. In order to take the title away from St. Paul’s, Andover had to run a perfect race. Andover accelerated hard off the line, with Mike Discenza ’09 leading the charge. Discenza stuck with top runners from Avon and St. Paul’s, while Tim McLaughlin ’11, Captain Eli Howe ’09 and Charlie Ganner ’10 were only seconds behind. Freshman James Hamilton led Andover’s last pack of Declan Cummings ’09 and Patrick Wolber ’11. But after progressing through the second mile, the situation took a turn for the worse. Andover started to show fatigue, as every runner started to fall back in the pack, enabling the leaders from Avon and St. Paul’s to pull ahead. While Andover struggled, St. Paul’s dominated. Their older and stronger team pulled away in the last mile, and Andover was unable to make up ground. The runners from St. Paul’s executed a nearly perfect race, with their top three runners all placing in the top ten. All three boys from St. Paul’s crossed the line ahead of Andover’s first runner, Discenza, who finished eighth with a time of 16:46. McLaughlin placed tenth overall with a time of 16:54, followed by Ganner who finished twelfth with 17:02. After Howe finished his race with a time of 17:13, it was up to James Hamilton to clinch second place as Exeter was charging hard in the last mile. All season, Hamilton had come up with incredible finishes, and this one was no different. He nosed by Exeter’s fifth runner, and finished in 17:34, inches ahead of the rival. St. Paul’s finished with 40 points, far ahead of Andover’s 73 and Exeter’s 85. On the rain drenched Avon Old Farm’s course, Andover managed to finish its top five runners in a one minute span, a goal set by Coach Stableford at the beginning of the season. The depth of the team shone through, as the Andover JV squad dominated its race and won, placing five runners in the top ten. Matt Appleby ’11 led the JV squad throughout the whole race, and finished third with a time of 17:52. Jack Walkovic ’09, Ben Ho ’11, Michaeljit Sandhu ’09 and Forrest Cox ’09 rounded out the top five, finishing fifth, seventh, ninth and tenth to secure the win and complete a highly successful season. Patrick Wolber ’11 commented on the team’s performance: “As a team, I definitely think that we could have been a bit closer to St. Paul’s. Most of our top seven did not have the races they needed to have, but St. Paul’s ran an incredible race.” Upper Scott Fleming’s comments echoed Wolber’s thoughts: “As a team I think that we didn’t perform to the best of our capabilities. I think that a lot of individuals had unlucky races and that all added up to a second place finish. However, I think that second is very respectable, as St. Paul’s had an incredible race. But I definitely think that it could have been much closer.” Coach Stableford said, “St. Paul’s ran their best race of the season. We did very well to finish second as we had injuries to three of our top runners. All season long we trained hard and developed a deep and committed team. Every athlete achieved something significant and we can look forward to a successful season next year.”