Juniors Jonathan Hills, left, and Torin Kindopp led the Blackbirds this season, and will be back to run again next year.

Keene High had New Hampshire’s fastest cross-country runner last year in Jake Velasquez. Velasquez won the NHIAA Division I title, as well as the 2019 Meet of Champions.

Second to him on the team was Torin Kindopp, now a junior for the Blackbirds. This season, Kindopp was in line to potentially follow up Velasquez’s performance and earn a state title of his own.

“I believe — and of course you have to run the race to know — but I believe he would’ve won Division I,” said Keene boys head coach David Goldsmith.

“I think I had a very good shot of, if not winning, getting second,” Kindopp said.

The state’s top runner this year was Coe-Brown Northwood Academy sophomore Aiden Cox, who set state records at the DII championship race at Derryfield Park in Manchester and at the Meet of Champions at Mines Falls Park in Nashua.

Goldsmith felt that Kindopp had a chance to challenge Cox in the Meet of Champions.

“It was my perception that he was going to be running for a championship,” Goldsmith said. “Torin is a gifted athlete. He’s got both talent and work ethic.”

Kindopp ran a 15:36 in last year’s Meet of Champions, good for seventh overall in the race. He finished fifth in the DI championship race.

This year, he wanted more. But unfortunately, he and his team didn’t get the chance to run in the championships.

“It was just a lot of things that I’ve worked for throughout the past few years that I feel especially were taken away,” Kindopp said. “That was just a way of solidifying in myself that I was doing a good job in high school.”

Goldsmith said Kindopp ran an undefeated season this year. It was a limited schedule with no invitationals, but it’s an impressive feat, nonetheless.

“He’s very tactical, he’s intelligent. He goes in with a plan,” Goldsmith said. “Seldom does the plan he has constructed not get played out in the race.

“Losing that opportunity to watch him perform, as a coach, was pretty empty,” Goldsmith added.

Kindopp, as well as Keene’s other top runners, juniors Jonathan Hills and Silas Johnson, will be back next season to compete again. Kindopp said the team started thinking about next year as soon as this year’s season came to an end.

“It was a quick flip, and it kind of made me feel better,” Kindopp said.

Kindopp had two years to train with Velazquez, which Goldsmith thinks is a big reason for Kindopp’s successes. He sees the same relationship between Kindopp and Hills, Keene’s No. 2 runner.

“Obviously, the better the marble, generally the more successful you become because your aspirations rise to meet the demand of your competition,” Goldsmith said. “In this case, it’s one of the very best.”

Disappointment overwhelmed the team after missing out on the opportunity to run in the championship — it was the first time in Goldsmith’s 38 years of coaching that his team did not compete — but with Kindopp in the lead, the Blackbirds will be in good shape for next season.

“I have to say … Torin, perhaps, in my long career, he may be the best runner that I have ever had the opportunity to coach,” Goldsmith said.

Chris Detwiler can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1411, or cdetwiler@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Detwiler.