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Championship reflections: Hanover boys XC made history in long run

  • Hanover cross-country runners, from left, Luke Holmes, Ryan Faris, Caleb Zuckerman, Mack Levy, Lucian Gleiser, Will Parker and Spencer May took fifth place in the NHIAA Meet of Champions in Nashua, N.H., on Nov. 6, 2021. (Jenny Levy photograph) Courtesy photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/18/2021 9:36:32 PM
Modified: 11/18/2021 9:36:28 PM

The Hanover High boys cross country team found out how narrow the margins were only after the NHIAA Meet of Champions was over.

But if just two runners had passed any of Hanover’s five competitors, HHS would still be looking for its first trip to the New England Interscholastic Championships since 2009.

As it was, Hanover pulled through. The team of senior Spencer May, sophomore Will Parker, junior Mack Levy, senior Luke Holmes and sophomore Caleb Zuckerman took fifth place at Mine Falls Park in Nashua on Nov. 6, just barely qualifying for New Englands at Thetford Academy’s Woods Trail the following Saturday.

“It was really just the luck of the day, but that’s not to downplay our achievement,” Holmes said. “We worked really hard this season to get past those people, keep our position, not let them come up from behind to take our spot. When we heard we were in fifth place and were going to New Englands, it was a little bit surreal.”

Hanover reached the Meet of Champions by taking third at the NHIAA Division II championships on Oct. 30 at Manchester’s Derryfield Park. May finished eighth in that race with a time of 16:50.9, with Parker, Levy and Holmes also in the top 25.

The top six teams from each division advanced to the Meet of Champions, and on a much flatter, faster course, May finished 22nd in 16:15. Parker and Levy also broke 17 minutes.

Those times weren’t realistic at Thetford, though. Not only does the Woods Trail have plenty of hills, including the infamous “Morty’s Monster,” but the course was muddy on meet day. Holmes said he felt at times like he was running through quicksand.

Hanover had the Thursday before New Englands off of school due to Veterans Day, so coach Eric Picconi took the team up to Thetford to walk the course and think through the more challenging sections.

“It’s an absolute beast,” Picconi said. “It is constantly changing in its profile. It gets you off tempo, it keeps you off tempo and there’s a lot of hills. On top of that, the soft footing at the start and some other areas of the course made for a challenging day.”

Racing against schools from all six New England states, Hanover finished 27th out of the 29 full teams present. May took 85th place in a field of more than 260 runners, finishing the 5K in 18 minutes flat. Levy and Parker were under 19 minutes, with Holmes coming in at 19:11 and Zuckerman at 19:32.

May said he didn’t feel any pressure at New Englands — his team had already accomplished its goals by getting there. He qualified for the New Hampshire all-star team, selected by the coaches as one of the 10 best runners in Division II.

“I was in a very positive mindset about the race,” May said. “It was so close to home. I hadn’t realized how big the race was until we went off.”

May usually identifies other New Hampshire runners by their jerseys to make sure he’s at a good pace, but with so many unfamiliar teams last weekend, he said he found it difficult to find a group to stick with and had to run his own race.

Although Hanover’s team performance from New Englands may not jump off the page, May and Holmes will always be able to say they were the seniors who led the team back there for the first time in more than a decade.

“The runners we looked up to when we were (underclassmen), we thought they were the pinnacle of running; they weren’t able to accomplish what we accomplished,” Holmes said. “It’s crazy to think we’re now at that level.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at or 603-727-3302.

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