NASHUA — A week ago, Keene High senior Jake Velazquez displayed his dominance of Division 1 cross country by winning the state meet by a 14-second margin on the hilly and tough Derryfield course in Manchester.
In Saturday’s Meet of Champions, held on Nashua South’s Mine Falls course, the best 18 teams and individuals from Divisions II and III were added to mix; however, results at the top were still the same: Velazquez came through with a resounding victory.
Velazquez ran with the lead pack of seven runners going through the first mile in 4:40 and continually forced runners in the lead group to drop off the pace. With slightly more than a half mile left, the pack had dwindled to three runners with Velazquez pushing the pace to the finish for the win in a remarkable time of 15:12.
His win by five seconds over Aidan Cox of Coe Brown Academy was a mere nine seconds off the state meet course record set by Patrick O’Brien in 2016.
Velazquez’s winning effort led Keene to a fourth-place team finish, qualifying the team for the New England Championship meet next Saturday on the Wickham Park course in Manchester, Conn.
A remarkable 20 runners broke the 16-minute mark in the 5K race with Keene super sophomore Torin Kindopp placing seventh in a personal record time of 15:36. Senior Nico Ramirez placed 22nd and narrowly missed breaking the 16-minute barrier with a personal best 16:02. Senior Sergio Sartini, 33rd, was Keene’s fourth runner finishing in a personal best time of 16:16. Sophomore Silas Johnson finished in 72nd place in 16:50 while freshman Fitsum Visser finished in 81st in a time of 16:56. Jonathan Hills rounded out Keene’s top seven runners by finishing in 88th with a time of 17:06.
Coe-Brown won the team title with a remarkable 57 points, an outstanding achievement in a field of 18 teams. The Blackbirds were a mere 10 points behind third-place Concord’s 107 total and Pinkerton Academy of Derry’s second-place place finish with 105 points.
In the New England Meet, the top six teams and 25 individuals from each state qualify to run.
Thus, the Keene High girls also earned a spot in the New Englands with their sixth-place finish Saturday. Winning the meet was Caroline Fischer of Bishop Guertin of Nashua (17:55), while Souhegan Regional of Amherst took first place with 80 points.
Leading the way for Keene was Mikayla Randall who placed 11th overall in 18:32, the fourth-fastest time ever by a Keene runner. Randall knocked 27 seconds off her previous best 5K time.
Second for Keene was sophomore Hannah Shepard (19:25, 30th place), third was freshman Regan Hoy (19:31, 35th) and fourth for Keene was Sofia Guardiano (52nd in 19:57). Fifth and sixth were Abby Martin (93rd in 20:53) and Mia Brown (117th, 23:13). Guardiano posted her best 5K time by 43 seconds, and Abby Martin took 40 seconds off her previous best. Keene scored 188 points, narrowly beating Merrimack Valley, which had 199.
The New England Championships is held November 9th is at Wickham Park, in Manchester, Connecticut. The top 6 teams and top 25 individuals from each state earn the right to compete against one another.
Local runners in the girls’ race who qualified as individuals even though their teams did not included Margaret St. John of Hinsdale, who finished 19th overall (19:00). Also, Delaney Swanson of Monadnock Regional High was 36th (19:39).
For the boys, Tyler Hebert of Monadnock was 24th (16:04), Harrison Kim of ConVal Regional High was 38th (16:20), August Kotula of Conval was 63rd (16:45), Chris Taylor of Conant High was 66th (16:46), Ethan Vitello of Conant was 67th (16:48), Tyler Beard of ConVal was 71st (16:50), Danny Ververka of ConVal was 74th (16:51), Ethan Weinhold of Conant was 105th (17:33), Haven Deschenes of ConVal was 108th (17:38), Abe Dreher of ConVal was 117th (17:50), Trevor Pierce of Conant was 125th (18:05), Jamini Viles of ConVal was 128th (18:10), John Mormando of Conant was 131st (18:39) and Daniel McIntyre of Conant was 138th (19:24).