After losing three meets to in-league competitors, Andover Boys Cross Country avenged its losses by racing to a second-place finish in the NEPSTA Division I Cross Country Championships in its last meet of the season. This marks the first time Andover has placed in the League’s Top Three since 2010.
“Given how competitive the field was this year, I’m really happy with the second place finish, [and] I think it was a great place for us to end the season,” said Head Coach Jeff Domina. ¨I think the team peaked really well, we saw some strong races from individual competitors at that point in the season, and we finished with a lot to feel good about.¨
Despite losing to Rosemary Choate Hall and St. Paul’s School, 32-25 and 33-23, respectively, Andover defeated both teams at the Championships and fell only to Phillips Exeter Academy at the Championships.
“A greater number of runners on teams such as Choate and St. Paul’s go to school early for pre-season. Hence, these schools have an advantage over Andover at the beginning of the season. What contributed to Andover’s forward momentum throughout the season was the flexibility of the runners to mature and develop during the season,” said Ian Whittall ’14, Andover’s number one runner and three-year veteran.
Andover also placed second at the Northfield Mount Hermon (NMH) Invitational, defeated 26-33, and swept Deerfield Academy, 15-50, to cap off its regular season.
Whittall took second at the NEPSTA Division I Cross Championships with a time of 16:12. He earned All-New England Honors and was named Andover’s Most Valuable Runner for the second year in a row.
“I always ran the farthest option available, despite how tired I was, even when I started out running lap after lap on the Great Lawn. I love that I can physically feel the effort I put in and know that I will claim reliable, measurable gains, unlike in many built up skill sports […] Each race — even the ones I did not win — helped me gain confidence and become more independent. By the end of the season, I was comfortable leading the team during races. I enjoy Cross Country because it allows me to clear my mind and give myself a mental break from the calamity that accompanies being a student at PA,” said Whittall.
“He really came into his own this year. He had been a super talented runner from the start and had a lot of competitive success, but this season he became a leader,¨ said Domina.
Ethan MacIntosh ’15, the 2014 Boys Cross Country Captain, placed seventh at the Championship race with a time of 16:36. MacIntosh’s Top-20 finish also earned him All-New England Honors.
Captain Scott Diekema ’14 placed third for Andover at the Championships with a time of 17:19. Diekema’s leadership proved valuable in Andover’s race to the podium.
“The most rewarding aspect was definitely the opportunity to be a role model for younger runners on the team,¨ said Diekema.
“He led by example. His leadership was clear to his teammates from early on in his cross country career. He dealt with some chronic injuries patiently, intelligently, [and] with the kind of toughness and cheerfulness that was appealing to his teammates and coaches,” said Domina. “He’s a really strong runner and was able to push other runners and pull others along.”
Additional Varsity Cross Country runners who will be graduating include Logan Blaine ’14, Daniel Lee ’14, Matthew Fischetti ’14 and Chase Gottlich ’14.
“My fellow Seniors were [also] crucial in helping to lead the team, for it is certainly not a job for one. They served as great role models on the team, showing younger runners what it takes to perform at their best,¨ said Diekema.
When I signed up for Cross Country, I signed up for a 10-hour weekly commitment of daily runs and competitions. I didn’t know then about how daily runs were disguised hour long conversations, debates, laughs, smiles, grunts and grimaces,” said Gottlich. “Cross Country was a brotherhood where I met some of the greatest friends, students and coaches that I experienced during my time here. I was so blessed to be a part of it at Andover and for it to become a part of me forever.”
Andover will return five runners from its 2013 Top Seven, including Ralph Skinner ’16, Paul McGovern ’15, Kailash Sundaram ’15 and Tom Burnett ’15. Other runners to keep an eye out for include 2014-2015 Boys Indoor Track Captain John Gorton ’15, Jake Peffer ’17 and Keton Kakkar ’15, who did not compete due to injury.
“I’m pumped to beat Exeter next year. We’ve got many more returning runners to the team than Exeter, so already, we are breathing down Exeter’s collective neck,” said McIntosh.
With returning runners and developing talents, Andover looks to capture the 2014 NEPSTA Division I Cross Country Championships.
“I think the key next year to winning races next year will be pack running, especially in those bigger invitational meets. If we can train together and work hard next fall, we have what it takes to win those key races,” said McIntosh.