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Guertin’s Fischer rolls to Division I state cross country title

MANCHESTER – A slew of local high school cross-country runners stood tall at the state cross-country championships in Manchester’s Derryfield Park on Saturday. But nobody hit higher heights than the Souhegan High girl harriers and Bishop Guertin senior star Caroline Fischer.

In the Division I girls’ meet, Guertin’s Caroline Fischer repeated as individual state champion by outpacing the large field by a big margin. She finished in a time of 18 minutes and 16.5 seconds, more than 35 seconds ahead of her senior teammate Caroline Towle in the runner-up slot (18:52.9). Nashua South junior Cali Coffin placed an excellent third.

But despite the monumental efforts of its star seniors, the BG bunch had to settle for the runner-up team trophy because Concord came up with what cross-country coaches call “great grouping” in winning its first state crown since way back in 2003.

The Crimson Tide, which finished with 70 points to Guertin’s 82, took five of the top 25 places and six of the top 30. The Concord boys also won the D-I guys’ crown.

For two-time individual state champion Fischer, her Saturday performance was a pleasing and welcome return to form following a tough effort at the recent Brown Invitational in Rhode Island.

“I just didn’t feel right or comfortable at Brown, so coming into today it was a mental thing where I just wanted to put that out of my head. And I felt much better today.”

Caroline Towle kept her teammate in sight throughout the race, but Fischer’s lead was comfortable and she never really felt the need to look back and see what was going on behind her.

“I didn’t look back until I got there,” said Fischer, pointing back to the segment of the course where the starting area is. The runners loop back around to that part of the course in making their turn back up the hill and toward the finish line. “I just decided to put it all out there and see what would happen.”

South’s Coffin finished nearly 20 seconds behind runner-up Towle in third as the BG girls paced their crew to the push toward the state title which didn’t quite work out.

Also creating quite a bit of excitement in the Division I boys’ race were Nashua North senior Rory Curran and his rival Jake Velasquez of Keene.

The Titan stalwart did his all to keep pace with the determined senior Velasquez. But in the end the Blackbird crossed the finish line some 14 seconds before Curran, who had to settle for runner-up honors.

“I’ve been thinking about this race for weeks, and seeing me and Jake and Colin Donnelly (of Winnacunnet) fighting it out for first,” said Curran. “They’ve both run tough against me all season.”

Donnelly finished seventh behind Velasquez and Curran and several others, but the Nashua North harrier still found plenty of reasons to be pleased with his performance.

“I feel great about it. There were very few things I could have done better. I hit a personal record by 45 seconds and ran well. (Velasquez) just ran a bit better than I did,” said Curran.

The talented Titan also helped lead his team to a berth at next weekend’s state Meet of Champions at Mine Falls Park in Nashua. The top seven teams and 30 individuals from the D-I races, the top six teams and 25 finishers from the D-II events, and the top five teams and 20 line-crossers from the D-III races advanced to the MOC’s.

Other local squads which qualified for that upcoming state event included the Nashua South girls, Campbell girls and boys, and the Merrimack boys.