As fate would have it after a series of warm, sunny Saturdays on race days this fall, the day of the New England Cross Country Championships dawned frigid and raw. Daylight was scarce and the mercury never cracked 40, but the days racing was nevertheless fast, thanks to stiff competition across the league and a course kept in tip-top shape by host Choate Rosemary Hall. Deerfield’s varsity seven ended up seventh overall on the day, and the junior varsity finished fifth.
A seventh place finish belies how competitive Deerfield’s varsity was on Saturday. Four of Deerfield’s varsity seven ran lifetime best times on a challenging course, and six boys finished inside the top 45 overall finishers in the race. Put another way, while 32 points separated Deerfield from the 8th place team, only 34 points separated Deerfield from the 3rd place team. Moreover, the varsity race on Saturday was nothing if not fast: of the top 50 times in the history of Choate’s course, 18 were run on Saturday, including two athletes who broke the previous course record.
Leading the way for Deerfield’s varsity was Ricardo Gonzalez ’19, who bravely ran to the front of the pack near the one-mile mark and fought his way through the hills to hold onto 9th place in a lifetime best time good enough for #21 on the all-time list at Choate. Ricardo’s finish earned him All-New England honors for the second year in a row. A little less than a minute after Ricardo broke the tape, a trio of Deerfield harriers finished, led by co-captains Marco Marsans and Will McNamara in 29th and 30th places. JJ Siritantikorn ’19 was only an instant behind them, finishing with a big personal best borne out of guts and toughness after battling a persistent groin injury for much of the season. Declan Cullinane ’21 and Tom Dillon ‘18 were the next DA runners to finish and the next to earn PRs; both athletes surged through the hills to finish with great championship efforts on this cold, competitive day. Jake Meier rounded out Deerfield’s varsity and his time of 17:56 meant that Deerfield joined only Andover, who won the meet handily, as the two teams with all seven runners under 18 minutes on the day.
The junior varsity race began with the quickly sinking sun stealing what was left of warmth from the course, and the race started much more conservatively than its varsity counterpart. Deerfield’s runners ran toward the front at the start of the race, gradually stringing out over the tough hills. Three ninth-graders led the way for Deerfield’s JV, an auspicious portent of things to come for the Big Green. Thomas Lyons ran a smart race, passing many runners in the hills, to take Deerfield’s top overall spot and 11th overall. Mat Panikar was next across the line for Deerfield in 15th place, followed closely by Charlie Lewis to round out the ninth-grade trifecta. Two tenth graders, Hayden McGuinness and Chris Thagard, were next to finish, continuing the youth movement atop Deerfield’s JV ranks. On the whole, four of Deerfield’s JV runners turned in lifetime best times at the Championships: Chris Thagard, Ian Gordon, Matt Popkin, and Nick Fluty, and the JV completed its best season in many years.
Though the season draws to a close with the passing of the New England Championships, the future looks very bright for Deerfield Cross Country. Eight of Deerfield’s top 14 finishers on Saturday were ninth or tenth graders. The trendline in average times both for varsity and JV is very encouraging. In short, next cross country season can’t come fast enough. Go Big Green!