It may seem like the fall season just started, but the Manchester Essex cross country teams are already gearing up for the stretch run.
“Our last dual meet is at Lynnfield on October 20,” explains ME cross country coach Steve Whittey. “Lynnfield is a crossover meet with the Kenney Division, so we are really focusing on our post season now.”
To this point, both the girls’ and boys’ cross-country teams are 2-2, with strong showings even in a couple of close losses. The Lynnfield meet is the only other regular season meet left on the schedule, and it won’t count against the Hornets’ final divisional record. Other than that, Manchester Essex only has two invitational meets left on the schedule before the postseason begins.
“So far, we have gone to Ocean State Invitational, where we won six individual medals and the girls won a second place in their race,” says Whittey. “We will compete in two more invitationals, the Twilight Invitational at the Cape Cod Fairgrounds on October 15 and Dick Atkinson Invitational in Westfield on October 23. These races will be key in preparing for our league meet on October 30 and the State Divisional 3B meet on November 13.”
Participating in the invitational meets is a welcome addition back to the schedule after COVID-19 restrictions ruled them out in 2020.
“We do not have any restrictions this year due to COVID except wearing masks on our bus rides to meets,” explains Whittey. “The biggest change this has meant is being allowed to go to invitationals. Invitationals allow us to see what competing in a large meet is like.”
Both teams have performed well this season despite both the boys’ and girls’ teams boasting relatively young rosters. The girls picked up victories against Ipswich on October 6 (a 24-31 score) and in the season opener against Georgetown (15-50). The boys also beat Georgetown in the season opener (19-44) and picked up a win over Amesbury in a close one on September 29 (27-28).
“We have young teams with only three senior boys and one senior girl,” says Whittey. “Four of the top five girls are freshmen, but they have run well and are becoming more confident in their abilities. On the boys' side, three of the top five are sophomores. Finn O'Hara is a sophomore and has won all four of our dual meets, beating all of the Baker Division runners.”
The Hornets have remained competitive even in their losses this season -- the boys lost 21-38 to Hamilton-Wenham on September 22 and a 27-32 loss to Ipswich on October 6.; the girls fell to Hamilton-Wenham and Amesbury by the same 26-29 score.
“The losses have been close meets,” says Whittey. “We are hopeful that we will match up well against all the Baker Division schools at the CAL meet.”
Helping the team get to this point have been the Hornet captains, including senior Jane Whitten and freshman Whitney Turner for the girls’ team and senior Max Kirk and Finn O’Hara for the boys’ team.
“Paired together, they bring experience and enthusiasm to the team,” says Whittey. “Both teams have bonded well together.”
The Hornets have also gotten a boost from neighboring Rockport High School in 2021.
“We resumed a co-op program with Rockport this year after not having any Rockport runners for three years,” explains Whittey. “We have one girl and two boys from Rockport, and all three are running well.”