The sport of cross country has of way of challenging us in ways we do not anticipate. We spend hours training and run miles upon miles to improve our stamina and speed knowing that the extra effort today will pay off down the road. We run hills and track workouts to test and expand our limits. We try to balance this effort with rest and recovery to prepare our bodies for the next test. As we traveled up to Marianapolis on Saturday morning with all this in the bank, we were prepared for the ultimate test against 40 other teams at the NEPSAC New England Championships. When we arrived, we found a course that no one could have been properly prepared or even imagined (except maybe the home team). Ankle deep mud and standing water throughout the course the worst of which runners had to traverse twice, a small stream of mud and water strategically place 200m from the finish, 20 mph winds buffeting the field...This race could have qualified as a TOUGH MUDDER...the only thing missing was a rope wall to scale. While hopes for fast times and personal records were dashed by the conditions, there was still the New England Championships to contest and this Chase team had their story to write.
The Chase girls team braved the cold and wind before the start of the Varsity Girls race and were first to venture down the course. It did not take long for the course to claim its first victims as three harriers lost their shoes in the mud within the first 50 meters of the race including Chase's Cheryl Li. Cheryl returned to retrieve her shoe but ran the entire first half of the race carrying it, not wanting to take the time to put it on. Her teammates were navigating the course as well as any with Loren Tuck at 46th place and Eliza Slevinski at 60th place at the mile and 1/4. Loren maintained her spot through the 2-mile mark while Eliza slipped back on the wooded trails. After trailing the field shoe in hand, Cheryl began to move past some runners once stopping to return her shoe to the proper place. Loren finished strong, moving up to 40th place with Eliza finishing at 65th and Cheryl at 115th. All were wet and splattered in mud kicked up by the 120 runners on the course.
The Boys Varsity race followed which turned out to be hotly contested as anticipated. The early pace was set by Patrick Guiness, the Tilton School standout who won the NEPSAC Div III XC Championship in 2017 and one of the favorites after moving to Div IV this year. He passed the mile at 5:04 which was remarkable given the conditions with Chase's Ethan Puc ten meters back. There was a large gap to the Marianapolis runner who led the rest of the field and the race was quickly turning into a two-person battle. When the course moved from the fields to the woods, Ethan Puc had closed the gap to a stride or two behind the Tilton runner. Chase's Rafael Mahario passed in a pack about the 10th place while Tommy Lapham, Colby Calabrese, and Robby Jones were further back in the field looking to move up into better positions.
The front-runners battled through the rolling hills of the woods with Ethan Puc testing the Tilton runner through each hill. He made a decisive move about the midway point and opened an immediate gap on the Tilton runner suffering from an early pace. The Tilton runner began to lose sight of Ethan as the gap widened to 15 seconds after 2 miles. Ethan continued to pull away down the stretch, never to be threatened to claim victory by over 20 seconds in 17:25 and was crowned the NEPSAC DIV IV New England XC Champion! Ethan is the first ever New England Boys XC Champion from Chase Collegiate.
Rafael Mahario continued to impress teammates and the competition by unleashing a powerful kick and capturing a top ten placement (9th) and joining Ethan Puc in securing NEPSAC All-New England team honors. This was the second straight year that Chase was the only team to place two runners in the top ten at the New England Championships. Our next runner, Tommy Lapham, finished in the top 40 (38th) and the first eighth grader to cross the line. Colby Calabrese ran a strong 49th place just 36 seconds behind Tommy while Co-Captain Robby Jones was our final scoring member in 73rd place. Jamal Clarke made his debut on the varsity team at New Englands taking 112th place out of 208 runners. Unfortunately, Senior Co-captain Jason Harte was unable to compete due to an asthma flare-up in the first quarter mile of the race.
The team competition was a battle happening right over Rafi's shoulder with Dublin School and Beaver Country Day placing three athletes in the next 15 and Dublin securing the narrowest of victories with their 4th and 5th runners just ahead of Beaver's. Chase Collegiate earned a 4th place plaque just 14 points behind Dexter-Southfield and improving from a 7th place finish in 2017. With our top 4 runners hoping to return next year, we should continue to move up.
The JV boys race had some of its own theatrics with Bill Chen running a strong first mile in 3rd place until he lost his shoe in a mud pit. By the time he retrieved it and returned to the race, he had fallen back 30 places. All the runners battled the course conditions which deteriorated with each race. Evan Harte finished in 1st place while Bill Chen battled back up the field to take 20th place, both earning medals for their efforts. Gunther Wang, Jack Johnson and Tim Xu rounded out our finishers who took 4th place as a team.
That concludes an exciting and memorable XC season. Please wish Ethan Puc and (perhaps) Rafael Mahario who will compete at the Foot Locker Regional XC Championships at Van Cortland Park in Bronx NY on November 24th.
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-Coach Kevin Grimes