By Evan Mugford CORRESPONDENT
Newburyport Daily News
---- — TOPSFIELD — As this year’s perfect storm makes its presence felt along the North Shore, so does another amongst the various Cape Ann League running teams.
The Newburyport cross country program is in the midst of a wonderful season, and it was no less impressive on Saturday at the Bradley Palmer State Park for this year’s CAL Cross Country Championships. The unbeaten boys team (10-0) cruised to a first place finish with 37 points (average time of 16:31; total time of 1:22:35), and the ever-improving girls squad (9-1) finished fourth with 116 (average time of 20:44; total time of 1:43:39).
Over the past few seasons, Newburyport coach Don Hennigar has seen his two teams make consistent strides; notably his girls team which, despite a hard-luck fourth place finish on Saturday, continues to surpass expectations.
“As far as the girls go, they’ve kind of been overshadowed by the boys team – the girls have had an excellent year, only losing to Hamilton-Wenham, who are one of the best teams in the state,” Hennigar said. “They didn’t have the best race yesterday, and that was on me. They ran the race exactly the way I told them to run it. We just went out a little too slowly and simply had too much ground to make up. It wasn’t that they didn’t run well, I should have given them better advice in running the course.
“This group, over the past three years, has gotten progressively better. Their goal was to finish 8-2, and they finished 9-1,” Hennigar said. “They’ve improved every year, and with just about everyone coming back next year, hopefully we’ll be able to take a whole other step. The only runner who won’t be returning is our lone senior captain, Liz Fiascone, who has just done a great job for the team — she’s been a true leader.”
Trailing behind eventual winner Hamilton-Wenham (48 points; 19:38 avg.; 1:38:10 total), Lynnfield (91 points; 20:21 avg.; 1:41:45 total) and Masconomet (103 points; 20:42 avg.; 1:43:30 total), the Clippers were led by Kelly Conway (19th; 20:23), Erin Carroll (20th; 20:25), Kristen Mackie (23rd; 20:44), Elizabeth Fiascone (26th; 21:02), Rachel Haley (28th; 21:05), Lillian Eagan (37th; 21:40), and Rose Hart (43rd; 22:08).
Other finishes by local teams included a sixth place finish for the Triton Vikings (4-6) who notched 152 points for an average time of 21:19, and a total time of 1:46:32). The Vikings were led by Elizabeth Willmonton (15th; 20:16), Elise Mitchell (16th; 20:16), Ceili Riccio (34th; 21:34), Maureen Moore (40th; 21:46), Madison Estes (47th; 22:40), Nicole Sullivan (52nd; 23:15), and Bridget Moran (61st; 24:31).
The Pentucket Sachems (4-6) finished seventh with 169 points, an average time of 21:46, and a total time of 1:48:50. Pentucket was led by Marissa Porter (9th; 19:47), Kasey Mann (11th; 20:04), Brianna Repke (35th; 21:35), Jordan Balletto (56th; 23:25), Kristen Olsen (58th; 23:59), and Audrey Tipson (63rd; 24:57).
Also racing were the Amesbury Indians (2-8) who finished 10th with 229 points. The Indians recorded an average time of 22:57, a total time of 1:54:42, and were led by Renee Vigneault (21st; 20:37), Samantha Stone (36th; 21:38), Abby Tamburell (49th; 23:02), Emily Pugh (59th; 24:01), and Morgan Fahey (64th; 25:24).
On the boys side of the race, the Newburyport Clippers continued their winning ways by sealing up their second straight CAL Championship, and their third in the past four seasons.
The current group of Clipper seniors have tasted defeat just once in the Cape Ann League over the past four years — against Hamilton-Wenham two years back. Remarkably, they’ve gone 44-1 in the CAL since they were freshmen.
This year’s pack has been led by the inspiring running of sophomore Nick Carleo, who took the race’s overall spot with a time of 15:44.
“He’s already been voted by the area coaches as the CAL runner of the year,” Hennigar said. “That’s the third invitational meet he’s won this year. He won an invitational down in Wrentham, the Bay State Invitational in Northfield, and then the league meet (on Saturday). The only people to have beaten this year are his teammates.”
Carleo was fast, but his teammates were right behind him — three other Clippers placed in the top 10.
Joseph Santo took third overall with a time of 16:11, Christopher Orlando placed sixth (16:37), and Joseph Molvar took eighth (16:41). Also pushing the pace for Newburyport were Maxwell Vye (19th; 17:22), Gabriel Ficht (25th; 17:47), and Timothy Englehart (37th; 18:19).
“Our goal is to win that Division V meet in two weeks. That’s been our goal all along,” Hennigar said.” I think if we run our race, we absolutely have a good shot at it. We have a very good opportunity. This team has shown that they can compete, and they’ve been led some great captains in Joe Santo and John Landergan. This is a real tight group and a lot of that is due to the leadership from our senior captains.”
Also having a solid day at Bradley Palmer were the Pentucket Sachems (8-2) who managed 103 points with an average time of 17:34, and a total time of 1:27:50. The Sachems were led by Alex Demeule (12th; 17:01), Ian Mitchell (14th; 17:14), Joe Labrecque (24th; 17:45), Drew Capener (26th; 17:51), Jeremy Binding (27th; 17:59), Devin McKee (32nd; 18:04), and Cooper Carfio (38th; 18:22).
The Royals of Georgetown (1-9) placed eighth with 243 points, finishing with a team average of 18:53 and a total time of 1:34:23). The Royals were paced by Tom Mulligan (15th; 17:14), Casey Reale (45th; 18:44), Alex Brannon (55th; 19:15), Cam Durkee (63rd; 19:28), Nick Mammolette (65th; 19:42), Ted Kosciuszk (70th; 20:03), and Owen Ricker (74th; 21:06).
Placing tenth with 278 points were the Amesbury Indians (1-9), who recorded an average time of 19:24, and a total time of 1:36:58). Liam Gallagher (28th; 18:01), Cole Legg (44th; 18:43), Riley O’Connor (61st; 19:25), Jonathan Ellen (72nd; 20:20), Brian Chabot (73rd; 20:29), and Jackson Kulick (75th; 21:17) led the Indians.
The Triton Vikings (1-9) ended up placing eleventh with 297 points while taking home an average time of 19:24, and a total team time of 1:37:00. The Vikings were led by the running of Sam Auwerda (50th; 18:57), Dmitri Hunt (57th; 19:19), Drew Collins (60th; 19:25), Will McCaffrey (64th; 19:32), Dan Horgan (66th; 19:47), Ryan Kent (68th; 19:57), and Brandon Duford (69th; 20:01).