Surprise Strategy Cripples Andover

Ian Whittall ’14 led the pack once again in Andover’s home meet against Exeter on Sunday, crossing the finish line with a personal record of 16:02, only 22 seconds under the 15:40 course record.

“Ian’s determination and strength as a runner makes him a great role model for the rest of us on the team. The Exeter pack was on his heels through the first half of the race, but he did a great job fending them off and breaking away for his first place finish,” said Captain Scott Diekema ’14.

“Ian [held] up well against the pressure of the Exeter pack just behind him,” wrote Head Coach Jeff Domina on the Andover Boys Cross Country page.

Despite Whittall’s first place finish, Andover fell to Exeter, 24-34. Whittall was closely followed by Exeter’s Tyler Corville, who finished seven seconds behind Whittall in 16:09. Corville engaged in a sprint at the finish line with Ethan McIntosh ’15, who finished only two seconds behind Corville in 16:11. Diekema finished third for Andover with a time of 17:19, and Ralph Skinner ’16 and Kailash Sundaram ’15 finished fourth and fifth for Andover in times of 18:03 and 18:04, respectively. Tom Burnett ’15 and Paul McGovern ’15 rounded out Andover’s Top Seven.

Going into the race, Andover’s strategy was for Whittall to take the lead in the race, McIntosh to get ahead of Exeter’s third runner, and Diekema, Skinner, and Sundaram to get ahead of Exeter’s fourth runner. With this strategy, Andover would have defeated Exeter, 27-28.

On the other hand, Exeter’s strategy was to trail Whittall. Thus, the race started off faster than expected, surprising an Andover team that was expecting an even pace. Within the first 500 meters of the race, Exeter’s top six runners led all Andover runners except Whittall.

While McIntosh eventually passed five of Exeter’s six runners in the Cochran Bird Sanctuary to place right behind Exeter’s number one runner, Andover’s other runners were unable to get ahead of Exeter’s number four runner.

Between Exeter’s number one and number five runner, there was a 51-second spread difference, compared to a 97 second spread difference between Andover’s number one and number five runners.

“They’ve done a great job tightening their pack over the season and that surprised us on Saturday. They ran a great race, and we’re hoping to bring our pack forward,” wrote Diekema in an email to The Phillipian.

“In spite of the loss, there were some brilliant individual performances. It’s late in the season, we’ve begun to taper, and many of the guys are running exceptionally well right now,” continued Domina.

As Andover prepares for its NEPSAC Division I Interscholastic Championship this Saturday, the team will taper to recover for its final race of the season. Additionally, it looks to work on its pack running. The pack running strategy allows teammates to use each other as motivation in tough parts of the race, draft in the wind, and move on opponents together. When asked what he hopes to see at Interschols, Domina replied, “An upset: Andover ahead of Exeter, with the other contenders falling in from there.”