By Bob York
Upon catching their breath — which, as a testament to their prowess, didn’t take much time at all — the Big Green cross country teams had plenty to cheer about this fall. The boys finished second at the New England Prep School Championships, while the girls wound up third.
For Deerfield Academy, which hosted this year’s 3.11-mile title trek, that silver medal marked the best finish by a boys team in well over 20 years. As for the girls, they made their first trip to the medals podium in more than a decade to pick up their bronze medal.
“Today was a great day for Deerfield cross country,” said a beaming Steve Anderson, the boys coach, as he headed for the school’s gymnasium to help in the presentation of trophies and plaques. “I knew we could accomplish this if everyone ran the kind of races they were capable of … and everybody did.”
And that included Deerfield’s dynamic duo of Sam Belcher (’11) and Ariel Beauregard-Breton (’11), who won their respective races. Belcher finished first in the boys event in a record-setting time of 15:52, 33 seconds under his previous course mark of 16:25. Beauregard-Breton, meanwhile, rewrote the school record book during the girls’ race as she was first to hit the tape in 17:55, shaving 27 seconds off her former course best of 18.22.
“I was a little nervous today … I’ve been preparing for this race for the past four years,” admitted Belcher, who earned All-New England status for the fourth consecutive year for being among the first 15 runners to finish the race. “But to be able to win a New England championship … to help my team finish second … in my last race … on my home course. It’s just a fantastic way to finish my career.
“My game plan was to just hang in there with the leaders and whenever someone made a move, I would act accordingly … I didn’t want to start out too fast and burn myself out halfway through the race. And, as it turned out, no one really made a move, so I finally did with about 150 meters to go and fortunately, nobody was able to catch me.
And then it was Beauregard-Breton’s turn, and she, too, turned her final journey over the school’s campus into a victory lap. And she did so in convincing fashion as she crossed the finish line 44 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.
“To be honest, I really thought the race was much closer than that,” admitted Beauregard-Breton, who beat out a field of 286 other runners. “I kept hearing the fans cheering on the (second-place finisher) Nobles girl. They kept telling her that she could win it, so I figured she was right behind me.
“Everything worked out just the way I’d hoped it would,” added Beauregard-Breton, as she received hugs and kisses from her parents, who had made the nearly five-hour trip from Montreal the day before. “I wanted our team to finish in the top three and I knew we had a chance of doing that if I was able to finish first.”
“I’m just ecstatic … everybody … both girls and boys … ran the best races they possibly could today,” said Dennis Cullinane, the Deerfield girls mentor, “and it really paid off. And as far as the girls team is concerned, this effort keeps us moving in the right direction. Four years ago, we finished tenth at the New Englands. Three years ago, we were eighth. Last year, we were sixth and now we’ve moved up to third. Maybe next year, we can shoot for second place.
“Ariel really pushed it out there today and the fact is, nobody could keep up with her,” added Cullinane. “She was just incredible … start to finish.”
As for the team standings, Andover captured the gold medal in both the boys and girls races. Its boys finished with 33, points, followed by Deerfield with 53 points and Exeter with 67. Choate (112) and Taft (174) rounded out the top five in the 11-team field.
Andover’s girls finished the day with 46 points, while Nobles (90) was second and Deerfield posted third with 112 points.
In the boys competition, which featured 260 runners, four Deerfield runners earned All-New England status by finishing in the top 15. In addition to Belcher, who hopes to be doing his running at Cornell next year, Ben Wood (’13) was fourth at 16:36, Fred Quesada (’12) was 10th at 16:46, and Hayden Moreau (’11) was 15th in 17:03. Aaron Cyr-Mutty (’11), meanwhile finished up 19th, at 17:11, despite the fact he had been battling a virus all week.
On the girls ledger, Rose Fisher (’13) was 16th, Jinane Gedeon Achi (’13) was 28th, Tatum McInerney (’13) was 29th and Alyssa Moreau (’14) was 38th.
It was easy to tell, early on, that Deerfield and its Killer Bs — Belcher and Beauregard-Breton — would be a tough act to follow — much less, lead. The girls won both the Canterbury Invitational (16 teams) and the Westminster Invitational (seven teams). The boys, meanwhile, placed second at Canterbury and first at Westminster.
Individually, Beauregard-Breton, who will be running at Penn next year, won the Canterbury race in a course record time, while Devinne Cullinane (’14) paved the way at Westminster with a third-place finish. Belcher was third at Westminster, while Moreau was clocked in record time to win at Westminster, while Cyr-Mutty was second.
In addition to earning All-New England honors, Belcher was named recipient of the Moreau C. Hunt Trophy, while Cyr-Mutty was presented the Peter Brush Award. Fisher, meanwhile, was the winner of the girls Moreau Hunt Trophy.
Captains of next year’s squads will be Brad Marshall (’12) and Quesada for the boys, while Shelbi Kilcollins (’12), Victoria Serra (’12) and Fisher will lead the girls.