Friday November 16, 2012

Berkshire County's success in last weekend's Western Mass. cross country championships is no surprise to Monument Mountain boys coach Ted Collins.

"This is what I'd hoped we would do," he said. "I knew Berkshire County was dominant over the Pioneer Valley."

In Division II, that's even a bit of an understatement. The Berkshires swept the team races, as Monument, Lenox and Mount Greylock will send their boys and girls teams back to Northfield Recreation Center for Saturday's MIAA state championships. They'll be joined by Pittsfield High School's boys and girls, though the Generals are in the Division I field. Scott Carpenter goes back to Northfield as a two-time defending Western Mass. champion who is unbeaten this season. He finished third in last year's state race at Boston's Franklin Park. Greylock's boys and Lenox's girls run as newly crowned Western Mass. champions.

MIAA State Meet
at Northfield Recreation Center
Start times:Girls -- Division I, 11 a.m.; Division II, 11:40 a.m. Boys -- Division I 12:20 p.m.; Division II, 1 p.m.

The girls will run first, with the Division I race at 11 a.m. and the D-II race at 11:40 a.m. The Division I boys run at 12:20 p.m., and the D-II boys run at 1 p.m.

Division I

On the girls side, Pittsfield has already accomplished much this season. The Generals earned the North Division championship, beating out fellow state qualifiers Lenox and Greylock. Top runner Lauren Farry won every race she started until the county championship meet. PHS finished second as a team in the Western Mass. meet.

In their minds, though, that's not yet enough.

"There's definitely [still] something to prove," junior Makayla Powers said before practice Wednesday. "This year and last year, we really proved we are tough competition."

Farry, Makayla Powers, Mackenzi Powers, Liza Smith and Mollie Daly were PHS' top finishers last weekend. Daly said she took the opening hill slowly in order to pick up the pace through the woods.

That approach, along with many approaches, won't change this weekend.

"I think we all ran it pretty well," Daly said.

For the boys, a season of work culminated in a loud celebration when the D-I results were posted Saturday at Northfield. Senior Ethan Winslow was so happy, he found his way into a nearby pond.

"I said that if we made states, I would jump, figuring we didn't make it," Winslow said. "The girls coach [Theresa Apple] said that she told her team, if they won the county, she would dye her hair purple. She said I'd better jump in."

Pittsfield was led to states by senior Dan Brien's fourth-place finish. The Generals' upper-class leadership was their strength, as the top five finishers -- Brien, Cody Lucido, Matt Nesti, Justin Hopkins and Jon Lee -- were all seniors.

That senior group has its sights set high against Massachusetts' best this weekend.

"I saw online that we were ranked 17th in Western Mass.," Nesti said. "We proved everybody wrong by coming in third. So at states, we're projected to be 28th. We want to get the top 10. We've still got to prove that."

Division II

The top four Western Mass. finishers on the boys side all came from Berkshire County schools. Lenox's Carpenter and Tucker McNinch took first and second place, respectively. Hoosac Valley's Travis Ciempa was third and Greylock's Will Kirby was fourth. Greylock's Carter Stripp was sixth and Monument's Logan Morton was ninth. Greylock, Lenox and Monument were the top three and qualified for states, while Hoosac took fourth place.

The Hurricanes missed qualifying as a team by just two points. Travis Ciempa, Austin Poulton and Trevor Ciempa qualified by finishing inside of the top 10 runners on teams that didn't qualify.

"We're not expecting that much [at states]," Stripp said. "We're just going to go and run hard."

Kirby, Stripp, Sam Kobrin, Jake Kobrin and Will Nolan were Greylock's top five finishers last week.

For Monument -- whose top five finishers were Morton, Kelt Wilska, Austin Rybacki, Mike Kotleski and Dylan Cole-Kink -- the focus had been on the sectional meet. Still, another group of solid finishes wouldn't surprise Collins.

"I think we'll actually run better times, because we'll get sucked along in the faster race," he said. "My seven guys are -- I wouldn't say interchangeable, but a more tight pack."

This is the second of three races Carpenter has prepared for since the end of the spring cross country season. He's the top 2011 finisher returning to states -- and now he's the front end of a 1-2 punch with McNinch. Ben Herrick, Sam Darbey and Eric Lomaglio rounded out the top five for Lenox.

"It definitely gives us a lot of confidence," Carpenter said after his win.

Elizabeth Jarck, in ninth place, led the Lenox girls to a sectional championship. She, Hannah McClusky, Kate McNinch, Emily Tibbetts and Ella King were Lenox's top five.

Jarck said last weekend that the key to Northfield's first hill is pacing yourself and "kicking," or really picking up the pace, at the top. She plans to go slower on the first hill Saturday, but faster on the second.

"Your legs hurt and you're breathing heavier, but you just have to relax, get into a pace and take every hill hard," Jarck said.

Lenox coach Jeanne Teasdale said her girls aren't tired after last week's win. She's got no expectations of a state championship, but would still like to have a good showing.

"Saturday, [we'll] just take the hill a little bit easier," she said. "The plan after that is to pick off as many runners as we possibly can."

Greylock's Emily Kaegi, who finished second individually at Western Mass., said she thinks the Mounties have individual goals rather than team goals this weekend.

"I think our goal was just to get to [states] and have another week of practice," Kaegi said.

She, Kat Chenail, Amalia Leamon, Jenna Phelps and Laura Galib were Greylock's top five. Hoosac Valley's Kalyn Alibozek and Sydnee Gallup will also be running after qualifying as individuals.

Monument's top five finishers at Western Mass. were Heather Hassett, Maeve Wilber, Jordan Begley, Kayla Dillon and Sarah Benedict.

"Certainly, having the experience of running [Northfield] is a great thing," Monument coach Chris Unsworth said. "When you get to states, you can have a fun day. You can be loose; you can go after certain parts of the course, [since] you know it a little better."

To reach Matthew Sprague:
msprague@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6254.
On Twitter: @EagleSportsZone.