Four Andover runners broke 17 minutes for the first time this week, as Boys Cross Counrtry defeated Choate and St. Paul’s School. The competitive Choate race was a success, with Andover winning by a four point margin. Two new runners, Chris Batchelder ’11 and Kian Ivey ’12 moved up from the JV race to compete with Varsity. Batchelder ended up beating Choate’s fifth place runner, with Ivey only 14 seconds behind him. Andover runners shared the lead, from the Sanctuary gates all the way to the finish, with the notable exception of Andover’s Zalov. “Zalov took an early lead and never saw another runner except when he turned around the trees on the Great Lawn at the end,” said head coach Jonathan Stableford. Zalov finished first, with a time of 16:37, only five seconds behind his personal best. Following Zalov, the next four runners for each team finished within 11 seconds of one another. Through nine runners, this close end to the race was the strongest dual-meet finish this course has ever seen. Nick Kearns ’11, who had a personal best of 16:55, finished third for Andover. After the fourth and fifth place Choate runners, Matt Appleby ’11 had a personal best of 16:59, going under 17 minutes for the first time in his running career. Tim McLaughlin ’11 finished in 7th place at 17:00, while James Hamilton ’12 came in at 17:03 in 9th place. Coach Stableford said, “We know we have a front-runner and a tight pack that is closing the gap between. We know how to figure out what to do in a race in order to win, and we know that when we are healthy and in full-strength, our strength goes much deeper.” Appleby was also very impressed with the team’s performance. “We were not expecting Choate to have as many strong frontrunners as they did. After our hardest week of training we still managed to set personal bests and battle off an unexpectedly strong team. Almost our entire pack dropped 20 seconds from our previous season bests,” he said. Andover carried its momentum into Wednesday’s race, capturing a decisive victory over St. Paul’s by 19 points. Coach Domina said, “We actually beat St. Paul’s by a greater margin than was anticipated: our top six runners finished before St. Paul’s second runner. Our ‘pack’ made it another very exciting race.” Zalov came in at 16:42, earning second place honors. He was closely followed by Appleby at 16:48, McLaughlin at 16:51, Kearns at 16:54, returning Patrick Wolber ‘11 at 16:56 and Hamilton at 16:58. This race was full of personal bests, with McLaughlin, Kearns and Hamilton all going under 17 minutes for the first time.