This Saturday, 43 runners from Andover Boys Cross Country competed at the Phillips Exeter Academy Invitational. Andover placed second overall out of Exeter, Northfield Mount Hermon, and Deerfield Academy. Tam Gavenas ’25 pushed Andover ahead by finishing in second place.
The Exeter Invitational was an opportunity for Andover to inspect the course for the upcoming Andover/Exeter (A/E) meet. According to Magnus Julin ’25, Exeter’s course proved to be deceiving, with various inconsistencies on the trail, forcing runners to focus more deliberately on pacing.
“[The course was] very flat and often very close to water, so it gets very mucky in areas which is the downside. Over the weekend, there were a couple of spots that got really muddy… There were two loops that comprised the course. The first a series of woods trails and the second was across the place that you started,” said Julin.
Nathan Neu ’26 highlighted an important rule that the team has to follow, which is not wearing a watch to track your progress. With a watch on, many racers were able to easily follow a certain pace throughout the race, but without one, individuals are able to push themselves and surpass others more naturally. In this race, Neu emphasized his instinctual pacing.
“I’d say I did well in this race with passing people, staying in the game. My mind was in the right place for this race. I think everyone started out a little too fast this race, and a lot of people fell back…. The second mile went out a little bit too slow. I sped up. On this race where you have sidelines you’ve got to look at the people in front of you and you’ve got to take into your mind that those are the people you have to pass. Those are the people that are going to lead you to a better time,” said Neu.
Andover prepares for meets in a variety of ways. Beginning each race with a walk-through of the trail, Head Coach Patrick Rielly breaks down the course into different sections, and suggests ways to pace through the course.
Neu said, “He talks us through strategy and what we can do to pass people or to run faster and make sure we don’t fall behind. That definitely helps a ton before the race because this is a course for many people who have never run before. [This helps] especially for Juniors like me who are new to this school and new to trails.”
As a Junior, David Song ’26 emphasizes the importance of keeping his momentum going and staying concentrated during races by listening to Coach Rielly’s advice. Coach Rielly utilizes different techniques to drive runners to grow and develop a strong mindset.
Song said, “The biggest challenge is staying in it during a race. Staying positive and staying present and making sure you don’t lose motivation… Our coach always gives us a word to focus on [similar to] a ‘word of the day.’ One of the previous ones has been ‘focus’ and yesterday’s was ‘compete.’ Having some sort of word or phrase to think about while you’re running is helpful.”
The team’s morale is high for the upcoming A/E race. According to Constantine Krenteras ’24, despite no one individually performing their best, the team enjoyed running on the Exeter course, and was able to utilize the race as a stepping stone towards success during A/E.
“It felt fast, it felt smooth, definitely probably one of the easier courses we’ve run this season. [In] the end, no one really set a personal record… This was designed to be a slower week because it’s one of our last harder weeks of workout before we taper for the Championship Season,” said Krenteras.
Andover Boys Cross Country will face Exeter away on Saturday.