Cloudy
46°
Cloudy
Hi 50° | Lo 34°

Raider Goes the Distance

Manchester — Because of transportation issues, the Lebanon High cross country team was rarely able to use its wooded home course behind Plainfield Elementary School this season. Raiders senior Josh Fontaine went to Plainfield anyway, putting in extra work on dirt roads to help prepare him for a podium finish at Saturday’s NHIAA Division II state championship meet.

Fontaine’s third-place time of 16 minutes, 21 seconds on Derryfield Park’s 5-kilometer course was 10 seconds behind winner Jeremy Broussard of Coe-Brown, five behind runner up Eli Moskowitz of Souhegan and 30 seconds faster than Fontaine’s 12th place time from a year ago.

The progress was no accident for Fontaine, who resolved last winter to push himself more vigorously.

“I had an awful indoor state meet, ran about 9:30 in the 3,000 (meter run),” he said. “I decided I was going to do better at the sport and definitely put in a lot of work.”

No school bus was available to bring the Raiders to Plainfield Elementary on most days, runners said on Saturday, forcing them to practice primarily on the paved roads surrounding Lebanon High School. For extra work on his own, Fontaine ran along Plainfield’s Ladieu Road, a dirt surface.

“I think we only ever practiced once (behind PES), so I kind of pursued my own soft surfaces to train on,” he said.

Not that Fontaine wasn’t diligent at team practices. He worked closely with Raider coaches to monitor his progress and avoid overexertion.

“We worked hard so that he would peak at the end of the season,” Lebanon assistant Jim Burnett said. “Last year, he might have peaked a little early, so we held back his workouts in certain ways and it paid off. He’s in good shape heading into next weekend.”

The top six teams and top 25 individuals qualified for next Saturday’s Meet of Champions at Nashua South High’s Mine Falls course. Lebanon placed sixth — 19 points ahead of rival Hanover — to qualify for the second straight year.

Senior Zak Kinsman was 15th in 16:54 for Lebanon, 41 seconds faster than last year’s 32nd-place time. Freshman Raphael Harriman (48th; 17:47), junior Nick Orgnic (53rd; 17:55) and senior Cameron Stewart (71st; 18:21) rounded off Lebanon’s scorers.

Despite failing to make the Meet of Champions, Hanover’s top seven runners finished faster than 18:32, six of them setting personal records. Senior Garrett Ruley (14th; 16:53), sophomore Felix Herron (20th; 17:03), Walter Mosenthal (49th; 17:49) and freshman Winter Reed (59th; 18:00) were among those who both scored and had personal records for the Marauders. Issac Jacobs (73rd; 18:25) and Clark Leazier (78th; 18:32) also had PRs, while senior Tucker Cadow (18:17) placed 67th for Hanover.

“We lost six of our top seven from last year,” Ruley said. “We decided that if we weren’t going to make Meet of Champions, we were at least all going to have PRs, and we just about all did that.”

With four runners in the top 25, Oyster River won the boys’ title. The girls’ race was dominated once again by Coe-Brown, which beat Hollis-Brookline 26-101 Saturday after a 25-97 win over Hanover last year in the same meet last year. Led by sophomore Elisabeth Danis — whose time of 18:31 was two seconds behind H-B senior Emma Newton — the Bears placed all five scorers in the top nine. They were so good that junior Katie Scannell’s 11th-place overall finish didn’t even count toward their team score.

“There are a lot of woods around our school, and we’re running in them all the time,” said Danis, whose team is led by 14th-year co-coaches Brent Tkaczyk and Tim Cox and includes about 60 athletes, including jayvee. “At school, everyone calls us ‘the cult.’ ”

Hanover placed third, led by consecutive top-10 finishes from seniors Zola Doyle (seventh; 19:30) and Liesel Robbins (eighth; 19:35). As has been the case throughout the season, they weren’t side-by-side until near the end of the race.

“We have different styles,” said Doyle, who caught up to the front on Derryfield’s sizable hill just prior to the two-mile mark. “Liesel starts off quick and I usually start off slow.”

The Marauders’ chances to challenge Hollis-Brookline for the runner-up spot took a hit when Doyle’s younger sister, Finley, fell on a gravelly path going uphill after the one-mile mark. Taking a moment to dust herself off, the sophomore recovered to finish as the fourth Hanover runner, 33rd overall in 21:09. Finley Doyle is normally the second or third Hanover runner to cross.

“She had a lot of work to do just to get to where she got,” said Hanover coach Eric Picconi. “We thought it was going to be even more of a setback, but she kept picking people off down the stretch.”

Freshman Kirsten Miller (28th; 20:57) and Liza Goss (48th; 21:35) also scored for Hanover, which placed five in the top 50 despite graduating three of its top five from last year’s state runner up.

“We didn’t really know what to expect this year, but we ended up having just as good a season as last year,” Zola Doyle said.

Lebanon’s Nell Houde placed 18th in 20:24, a whopping 2:12 faster than last year’s 75th-place finish while recovering from a hip injury. Seniors Kelsie Atwater (64th; 22:09) and Liz Peterson (85th; 23:21) and sophomores Brenna Peterson (87th; 23:23) and Bella Vice-VanHeyde (90th; 23:27) also contributed to the Raiders’ 13th place finish, with sophomore Caroline Wren close behind with a personal best 23:33.

Lebanon’s runners had to adjust to the loss of fifth-year coach Kim Sheffield, who resigned three weeks ago amid conflict with a Lebanon High administrator. While it didn’t change much of their workout habits — “It was much too late in the season to change our training,” Fontaine said — the loss of Sheffield was a cognitive and emotional challenge.

“We just kind of felt discombobulated,” said Houde, whose team was guided by former assistant coach Walt Chadwick and Burnett, a first-year assistant, following Sheffield’s departure. “It’s hard enough competing senior year with all of the applying for colleges and things like that. This just made it a different level of focus. ... In a way, it brought us together as a team.”

Burnett was impressed with the team’s maturity in the aftermath.

“They’ve done a great job looking ahead,” he said. “Everyone kept coming to practice, kept up the pace. They came to this meet ready to go.”

Boys team scores: 1. Oyster River 74; 2. Souhegan 89; 3. Coe-Brown 109; 4. Portsmouth 133; 5. Goffstown 151; 6. Lebanon 190; 7. Hanover 209; 8. Merrimack Valley 209; 9. Hollis-Brookline 233; 10. Windham 279; 11. Kennett 295; 12. Milford 308; 13. Trinity 378; 14. Sanborn 380; 15. St. Thomas 422.

Girls team scores: 1. Coe-Brown 26; 2. Hollis-Brookline 101; 3. Hanover 124; 4. Souhegan 131; 5. Oyster River 149; 6. St. Thomas 162; 7. Con-Val 257; 8. Windham 261; 9. Milford 277; 10. Portsmouth 278; 11. Goffstown 281; 12. John Stark 297; 13. Lebanon 344; 14. Trinity 348; 15. Kennett 353.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.