The 80th annual New England High School Cross Country Championships will be run this Saturday, November 8th at Wickham Park in Manchester, Connecticut. The event is sponsored by the Council of New England Secondary School Principals’ Association (CNESSPA). The Boys race will begin at 11:30 am and the Girls race will follow at 12:30 pm over a challenging 5,000 meter (3.1 mile) course through open fields and woods. The races will feature the top six teams and the top 25 runners from each of the 5 participating New England states (Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont). The race will be streamed live on the NFHS Network.
The host state Connecticut has the favorites for both individual titles. Hannah Debalsi of Staples (Westport) HS will be defending her 2013 title. Debalsi won a year ago at Derryfield Park in Manchester, NH by 24 seconds. She is currently ranked #2 nationally and the only girl ranked from New England. The junior holds the course record at Wickham Park of 17:41, which she ran at the CIAC Class LL Championship in 2013. Alex Ostberg is the Boys favorite and was second last year at the New England Championship. Last year’s champion, Trevor Hopper of Ridgefield (CT) HS has graduated. Ostberg, a senior from Darien HS, won the CIAC State Open Championship last Friday with a winning time of 14:58, crushing the previous course record by 23 seconds. Like Debalsi, the Stanford bound Ostberg is ranked #2 nationally and the only New England runner listed in top 25.
In the Boys competition, 11 of the 25 2013 All-New England runners are among the starters. Ostberg is the only returner from the top five last year. Runners returning from the top group include senior Ari Klau (Hall-CT) who finished sixth in 2013, current Rhode Island Champion and a sophomore, David Principe Jr., junior Randy Neish (Glastonbury-CT), and Vermont Champion, senior Sam Nishi (Harwood-VT). Other runners to watch are senior Eli Moskowitz (Souhegan-NH), a senior and New Hampshire Champion, senior Spencer Brown (Wilton-CT), senior Austin Gilbert (Ridgefield-CT), senior Class A Champ Aaron Willingham (Mt. Blue-ME) and state runner-ups Tom Grizzetti (Bishop Hendricken-RI), a senior, and Cameron Daly (Inter-Lakes-NH), a junior.
The Girls field includes 13 of the top 25 from 2013. In this group is Rhode Island Champion, junior Emma McMillan (Barrington-RI), sixth a year ago, New Hampshire Champion and Runner-up, junior Maegan Doody (Oyster River-NH), and senior Hannah Parker (Coe-Brown-NH), respectively, as well as Coe-Brown teammate, junior Elisabeth Danis. Others to watch are Vermont Champion, junior Katherine Ogden (Stratton Mountain School-VT), senior Elisabeth Jean (Coventry-CT), sophomore Mia Nahon (New Milford-CT), senior Maine Class A Champ Halee Phelps (Westbrook-ME), and La Salle-RI junior teammates Eliza Rego and Karina Tavares.
In the Boys team competition, the top three teams are again in the field, along with five other teams from the top ten in 2013. La Salle Academy will be the favorite to defend their New England title after winning the Rhode Island Championship, defeating Bishop Hendricken, who finished third in 2013 at the New England. State Champions, Danbury (CT), Pinkerton Academy (NH) and South Burlington (VT), along with Connecticut Runner-up Ridgefield should challenge for the three team trophies.
The top ten Girls teams return to compete for the New England title. Defending Champion Coe-Brown Academy, the New Hampshire Champion, remains the favorite. Coe-Brown defeated Connecticut State Open Champion, Tolland, at the Wickham Park Invitational in October. Rhode Island Champion and Runner-up La Salle Academy and Barrington HS will vie for the top three team trophies. Also watch for Connecticut Runner-up, Glastonbury, and Vermont Champion, Champlain Valley Union HS, to be in the mix.