Amherst reclaims boys Division 1 cross country title

Last modified: Friday, December 06, 2013
NORTHFIELD — For the first time in a while, the winner of the Western Massachusetts Division 1 boys cross country championship wasn’t immediately known after Saturday’s race.

It could be Amherst Regional. It could be Minnechaug. There were simply too many different runners at the front and it made it difficult to figure out where individuals placed.

When Amherst was declared the winner, the only shocking thing about it was that the Hurricanes won by 20 points at Northfield Mountain.

Amherst placed first with 86 points. Minnechaug was second with 106 and Northampton third with 111.

“There were so many different teams with runners in front, it crowded the field up there,” Amherst coach Chris Gould said. “We had runners in (our) top five that didn’t hit the positions that I had in my head before the race. It looked dire to me in the end. I’m very happily surprised that we were 20 in front of second place.”

Sam Conway gave Minnechaug a first-place finish in 16 minutes, 28 seconds on the 3.1-mile course. Liam Garvey, of West Springfield, was second in 16:36. Amherst Regional senior Ryan Stender was third in 16:44.

It was Amherst’s 10th championship since 1999 and 14th overall.

“It feels great to get it back,” Stender said. “Last year I finished eighth and today third, and the team went from second to first. It’s an amazing feeling to go out with that senior year.”

Connor Evans and Nevin Murray each crossed in 17:37 but were 12th and 13th, respectively, for Amherst. Allen Vance was 21st in 17:57, while Owen Wright was 37th in 18:21. Minnechaug, meanwhile, had runners finish sixth, 29th, 31st and 39th.

“I feel we are that close together and really, the weather could change it,” Stender said. “We’re all so close together and we all compete with each other like that. Anything can happen. It’s really a great thing that we won today.”

Twelve teams had at least one runner in the top 30. Amherst, Northampton, fourth-place Wahconah and fifth-place Longmeadow each had four. Minnechaug had three, while sixth-place Westfield, Holyoke (seventh), Pittsfield (ninth) and West Springfield (13th) each had two. East Longmeadow (10th), Taconic (12) and Chicopee Comp (14th) each had one.

“A lot of those teams in the top four or five are similarly matched with compositions that almost mirror each other,” Gould said. “I think we’re lucky enough to have a 3-4-5 that are just a little higher up than theirs and we sort of banked on that all year. It came through for us today.”

Northampton might not have had a top 10 runner, but the Blue Devils showed remarkable depth and balance to qualify for the state meet. Hamp’s top four finished 15th through 23rd, while its fifth was 33rd.

“We wanted to go out pretty easy up the hill and then have a strong pack and work together the whole race,” said Northampton’s Ben Hill, who was 15th in 17:47. “It worked. We had three guys within five places. That’s pretty good.”

Aidan Gilson was 18th in 17:51 and was followed by Tim Foldy-Porto (22nd, 17:59), Isaac Lello-Smith (23rd, 18:04) and Abe Herzog-Arbeitman (33rd, 18:16). Gilson helped Hill push through to the end.

“There were a lot of places where I was falling back — I was hurting a little bit — and my buddy Aidan would passed me and I would sort of go with him,” Hill said. “He picked me up a lot.”

Drew Lindholm was 40th (18:26) for Belchertown, which finished 11th with 278 points.

Chad McKenna was 58th (19:03) for 16th-place South Hadley (443).

Division 2

Mount Greylock placed four runners in the top 10 to win the championship with 41 points. Lenox was second with 69, followed by Monument Mountain with 121.

Tucker McNinch, of Lenox, took top individual honors in 16:56.

Hampshire Regional had a pair of harriers qualify for the state meet. Mike Sears was 12th in 18:03 and Kyle Bean was 21st in 18:38 for the sixth-place Raiders (250).

Tyler Cox, of Holyoke Catholic, also qualified for states. The senior was 16th in 18:07 for the Gaels (10th, 297).

Davis Britland was 22nd (18:41) and was thee seconds shy of qualifying for Gateway (ninth, 297).

Orlando Wildman-Hanlon was 35th (19:04) for Frontier (seventh, 260).

Collin Mick placed 80th (20:54) for Granby (19th, 517).

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com.