11/10/18 – Deerfield Boys XC at the 2018 NEPSTA Championships
Given the rainy fall endured by residents of the Pioneer Valley, it was fitting that a night of heavy rain preceded the 2018 NEPSTA Cross Country championships. Despite the rain, however, the course at Avon Old Farms School was in good shape when the Deerfield boys arrived early Saturday morning. A wintry mix greeted the boys as they walked the relatively flat 5K course, presaging the intermittent snow squalls that would ultimately give way to bright sunshine throughout a day of fast championship racing. Avon’s course is well-suited to championships as it is spectator-friendly: the course loops around their playing fields twice and features a number of spots where the athletes pass in plain view during the race. Deerfield’s varsity seven finished in 7th place out of the 15 schools competing, and the junior varsity captured 6th.
The first race of the day, the varsity boys, started predictably fast. From the opening gun the pack of runners surged ahead, each athlete vying for position before the first woods section and trying to establish his race rhythm. When the race emerged from the woods and approached the one-mile mark, one runner from St. Mark’s School led the way trailed by a pack of a dozen or so twenty meters behind. Deerfield’s senior tri-captain Ricardo Gonzalez was in that chase pack, hoping to repeat his top-ten finish from 2017. After another short gap, the bulk of the galloping harriers streaked past the first mile with the rest of Deerfield’s seven embedded within. From there, the race wound around Avon’s track and along the edge of the baseball field before turning back toward the start and the climb up to the second woods section. Deerfield’s runners surged during this stretch, hoping to establish position heading into the woods; so did the rest of the field, apparently, as the entire race began to stretch out. At the front, Ricardo dropped a bit off the lead pack, which had reeled in the lone St. Mark’s runner. As the chase pack headed up the hill and into the woods, another of Deerfield’s tri-captains, JJ Siritantikorn, broke away from his teammates to make a charge. Two tenth-graders, Charlie Lewis and Thomas Lyons, followed his lead.
Ricardo popped out of the woods in 11th place and began a wild downhill race to the finish, dueling with two competitors over the final half-mile. Those three traded leads and passed one another a number of times before Ricardo solidified his grasp on 10th place, where he would ultimately finish, reprising his top-ten finish from last year and running a season’s best time in his final race for Deerfield. JJ was next to finish for Deerfield in 39th, after a gutsy race that authored a great finish to his Deerfield XC career. Charlie & Thomas crossed the line next in 45th and 46th place, respectively, followed a few seconds later by a ninth-grader in his first NEPSTA meet, Trey Souder. Trey ran a smart race for such a young runner, wisely holding back when necessary and gauging the pace of the field with maturity. Deerfield’s third tri-captain, Tom Dillon, finished in the sixth spot for DA this week, running a gritty race in tough conditions to capture 59th place overall and complete his Deerfield XC career. Mat Panikar, another tenth-grader, wrapped up the Big Green’s varsity seven with his 75th place finish.
The JV race unfolded in similar fashion, with a fast first mile loaded with Phillips Exeter athletes at the front. Deerfield’s top JV runners, Jake Meier and Quinn Hampson, took the race out together with a smart first mile, and their teammate Chris Thagard was hot on their heels. The boys mostly held position until the uphill woods section in the second mile, when Meier made a move to surge into the top 20. Hampson fell off the pace a bit at that point, and Thagard gutted his way through the course’s toughest section to hold onto his spot. Ninth-grader Chase Cherewatti made a strong move through the second woods section, too, to move into position for a great finish. Back on the fields for the finish, Meier was picking off runners as he surged through the final half mile, but Hampson wasn’t going to be satisfied by finishing in his older teammate’s shadow. Quinn opened up his stride over the last quarter-mile and put together a furious charge to finish mere seconds—and only one place—behind Jake. Thagard made a similarly gutsy move in the final half mile and paid a steep price for it, staggering across the finish line in 35th place with a big personal best time. Cherewatti finished his definitive move on that final mile, too, earning a lifetime best time and 59th place. His classmates Gabe Zaccheo and Giles Gordon were the next Big Green runners to finish, taking 94th and 107th place, respectively, and previewing Deerfield’s future with that strong string of 9th grade harriers. Season best times also came from Nick Fluty (130th place) and Phillips He (135th place), finishing their 2018 campaigns in fine fashion.
All told, Saturday was a good day for Big Green runners and a fun, competitive way to finish a season of hard work and camaraderie. Eight of Deerfield’s 16 runners turned in season best times and a number of new members of the team got a chance to see the championship setting up close. Hopefully the memories from Saturday will inspire them to work hard for the remainder of the year and over the summer to get back to this spot in 2019 ready to improve!