Western Mass. cross-country: Harriers head to Northfield looking to win individual, team titles
Berkshire County harriers will return to Northfield Mountain Recreation Center on Saturday for the Western Massachusetts Cross-Country Championships.
The Western Mass. meet returns to Northfield after two years at Stanley Park in Westfield. Runners will tackle a new course on the mountain, as construction projects have changed the general layout of the recreation center.
At Stanley Park the past two years, runners enjoyed a relatively flat course with very few hills. At Northfield, they will encounter some serious terrain obstacles. The first mile runs up the mountain, before runners start their descent to the finish line.
Runners and spectators should be prepared for cold weather. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association put out a weather notice this week that stated the National Federation of State High School Associations' uniform rule will not be enforced at the divisional meets. Competitors just have to make sure their bibs and chip timers are correctly attached. Undergarments are allowed under the top and bottoms of uniforms. The predicated temperature around race time will be 32 degrees.
Northfield has been kind to county runners. In the 2014 race, Berkshire County boys took the top nine spots in the Division II race, led by Lenox's Tucker McNinch, and the Lenox girls took four of the top five spots in D-II.
This year, the Mount Greylock boys and Lenox girls are looking to repeat as D-II champions. Greylock is going for an eighth consecutive sectional crown, and the Lenox girls are looking to make it four in a row.
Races will begin at 1 p.m., with the girls' D-II race. The girls' D-I race will start at 1:35, the boys' D-II race at 2:10 and the boys' D-I race at 2:45.
The state championship meet will be Nov. 18 at the Wrentham Development Center. The top three teams from each Western Mass. divisional race, and the top 10 finishers not on those teams, will advance to the state championships.
The Millionaires are the team to beat in Western Mass., and this year the Mount Greylock girls will be hoping to give the Millionaires a run for their money.
Lenox's Ellen Huth won the Berkshire County Individuals two weeks ago and will look to repeat that performance at Northfield. Two Millionaires this year ran in the 2014 race — Alice Najimy and Maggie Sorrentino. Sorrentino has been strong for Lenox all season, and Najimy has been working her way back from injury and has started to find her form again.
The Greylock girls have been buoyed by the additions of Jackie and Lilly Wells this season. Jackie did not run in the Berkshire County Individuals, but she should be good to go this afternoon.
Josie Smith was Greylock's top finisher at the county meet, in fourth overall, followed by Lilly Wells (seventh) and Hazel Scullin (eighth).
Monument Mountain duo Jasmin Johannsdottir and Grace Phair finished second and third, respectively. at the county race, and will be right in the thick of things at the top of the Western Mass. leaderboard.
The Wells' former team, Mohawk, will be one to watch from the Pioneer Valley, after Meghan Davis finished second in the PVIAC meet last weekend. Hampshire Regional will also bring a solid team, after it finished third at the PVIAC meet, and Greenfield is a third valley squad to watch for.
Lee, Hoosac Valley and Mount Everett all have full teams entered in the race.
Wahconah, Pittsfield and Taconic will all have teams in the D-I race.
The Warriors qualified as a team for the 2016 state championships, and the sister duo of Gabby and Dani Orlando will lead Wahconah again. Haley Crosier has burst onto the scene for Wahconah this year.
Cameron Diehl has led the Generals this season, and she finished 14th at the Berkshire County Individuals.
Amherst's Sophia Jacobs-Townsley crushed the PVIAC race to take home an individual title and help her team to victory. Northampton was second as a team and Agawam finished fourth.
The Mount Greylock boys have been untouchable for almost a decade. If a team is going to take the crown away from the Mounties, it is going to have to be a fivesome that can pack run near the top of the finishing order.
Jesse Seid claimed the Berkshire County Individuals title and helped his team to victory. Around him, Sam Culver, Jacob Fink, Owen Brandriss and Josh Cheung give the Mounties a stellar top five.
Ted Yee leads the Lenox boys into the D-II race after finishing sixth at the county meet, and teammate Ryan Silverstein also posted a top-10 finish. Monument freshman Peter LaRochelle has had a stellar season and will look to keep it going.
The Frontier boys pose the biggest threat to Mount Greylock, from the Pioneer Valley. The Red Hawks finished sixth as a team at the PVIAC race and were the highest D-II team. Carsten Carey is the top runner for Frontier.
One wild-card team is Pope Francis, which did not run in the PVIAC race. With the rest of the valley teams coming in with one week of rest, the Cardinals will enter just as fresh as the Berkshire teams that haven't run since Oct. 28.
Taconic and Pittsfield enter runners who can qualify for the state meet, if not qualify their whole teams.
Taconic's Jake Paris finished second at the Berkshire County Individuals and has been a top county runner all season. Mike LaFreniere finished 12th at the county race for Taconic.
The Generals have found a stellar 1-2 duo in Amin Purry and Paul Wales. Purry, in his first year running cross-country, was third at the county meet; Wales finished in fifth.
Wahconah's PJ Pharmer finished 11th at the county meet.
The Northampton boys enter as the team to beat after winning the PVIAC meet, while Holyoke was second and Amherst was third. Amherst's Jack Yanko was the top runner at the PVIAC meet.
Geoff Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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