“I think we knew that Exeter was going to be a powerhouse team, just because their roster is so deep and they consistently produce great runners. But I think one of our main goals as a team, with both varsity and JV, was to give them a good race, because we knew that they were our main competition. Also [Loomis Chaffee (Loomis)]and NMH were right up there as well, so I think definitely [beating] Loomis and NMH and give Exeter a run for their money was the main thing for us,” said Fleury.
The combination of hilly terrain and uneven trails at NMH was a different type of environment for the Andover runners, even though this was the team’s second time racing on the course this season. According to Sam Capobianco ’21, though Andover’s course features hills, NMH is a much more hilly course overall.
“I think just the hills on that course were really what makes it difficult. You have uneven surfaces and hills at the same time, for the first half mile, and then once you get into the woods you have Jacob’s ladder, which is a half mile hill that starts around mile one. That honestly just takes a toll on you. Once you get passed Jacob’s Ladder, you got these steep little down and up hills that take a toll on your joints and everything,” said Capobianco.
He continued, “I think it’s a lot more challenging than Andover’s course because it’s those long hills and short uphills, there’s no real flat part, whereas Andover you do get some flat racing on even surfaces.”
Cold weather and mud caused a few incidents on the course. A few of the team’s runners fell mid-race due to these conditions, like Capobianco, who just nearly missed the top 20 places according to Fleury. All of the runners finished the race and contributed to the team’s score, despite the unexpected set-backs.
Fleury said, “[W]e had a lot of runners step up and really perform well. Like Sam…he had an unbelievable race, he’s been battling injury the whole season, but has been very consistent, and always brings it in the race no matter what. Like the tough course at NMH, it’s cold, he steps up, and he’s our third runner for the team, just missing out on top 20 which is unfortunate but next year I know he’s gonna keep working hard, and big things to come.”
Ratcliffe, Fleury, Capobianco, Will Sheehy ’22, and Ellerman Matteo ’21 secured the top five varsity spots on the team, contributing to the overall score. Although the team will be losing many seniors next year, including its top two runners, Ratcliffe and Fleury, Capabianco and Fleury have confidence in the team’s future success.
“Next year we will also have a strong team, as we got some runners that really stepped up during the race, and I think we can [use] that next year. Even though Exeter is going to be really good as well, we can keep building upon this momentum that we’ve [created] to improve our team.”
Fleury said, “Going forward I think that we have a lot to look forward to because we are graduating quite a few seniors, but at the same time we will have a lot of returning strength. A takeaway is that we can carry this success over that we had this year into next year, and give Exeter another good year in terms of competition from us, and also just bring it at the next meet.”