Saturday, September 29, 2012

Needham Girls Win! Brookline Boys Too Strong for Rockets. Amaya Breaks Course Record as Silver Lining.

And the girls are off!
Thursday September 27th the NHS Girls' XC team defeated a battered and bruised Brookline squad 16-43.  Heading into the race, the Warriors hoped to be bolstered by the return of their number two runner Charlotte Cole (back from an IT band injury) but seemed out of their comfort zone right from the start as Caroline Turner took the race out hard going through the first mile in 6:09 and towing the field along behind her.  By halfway, Turner, Margie Cullen and Katie Horton had established control of the race and looked to be running toward an inevitable win.  On the second lap, Sarah Armstrong and Julianna Donovan pushed hard and worked together to close the gap to their teammates making it a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Blue and Gold sweep.  Rachel Blaustein finished well too to pick up 8th place and run a season best time.

Margie Cullen pulls away from Jessica Lu.
Claire Connors running strong.

The boys suffered a disappointing loss to a perennially strong Brookline team that has not lost a dual meet in seven years.  Falling victims to the same tactics employed by their distaff teammates, the Rockets never seemed to settle in and compete against the Warriors.  After a slow first mile, Adrian Amaya and Tyler Hagen worked together to string out the Brookline pack but the damage had already been done as Tommy Kelley was the only other Needham runner in a sea of white and red.  Just past the two mile mark, Amaya surged to the front and would not be challenged again as he cruised in to win in 16:34 and establish a new course record in the process.  Meanwhile, Hagen continued the torrid pace and eventually kicked away from Brookline's number one Jesse Fajnzylber to make it a Needham 1-2.  But the depth of the Warriors was just too much for the Rockets as Brookline took the next five spots ultimately winning 25-34.

Derek Howes
Nathan Maynard
Jack Strollo

Full results can be found at:

Next week, Needham faces Newton North and Walpole which forecasts to be a battle on both sides.  The meet is at Cutler Park and is scheduled to begin with the junior varsity race at 4:00 p.m.

John Benner and race winner Adrian Amaya
Photos courtesy of Kim Benner

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rockets Prepare to take on Warriors in Thursday's Dual Meet

Needham's first home meet of the year is scheduled for Thursday 9/27 at Cutler Park against a tough Brookline squad.  On the girls' side, #8 Needham looks to retain their ranking over #20 Brookline, while on the boys', #16 Needham hopes to upset #8 Brookline.

The meet will begin at 4:00 p.m. with the varsity boys race followed by varsity girls at 4:30.  Please come support your Rockets! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lady Rockets Finish 2nd at Amherst Invite: Freshman and JV Boys Show Depth and Strength of Program

NHSXC traveled out west to Hampshire College to participate in the 17th Annual Amherst Invitational and came home with hardware.  First up on the race course for the Rockets were the Freshman Boys who set the tone for the day finishing second to Wachusett out of a total of 14 teams competing in the race.  The group of underclassmen, showing much promise for the future of the program, were led by John Benner shattering the 18:00 barrier and finishing second overall in a stellar time of 17:33 on the five kilometer course.  Backing up Benner were Alex Turner in 7th (18:08), Drew Khalaj in 10th (18:18) and Alex Cohen in 12th (18:27), all fantastic times for first year competitors.  Rounding out the team were Shelton Daal, Ben Mesnik, Stephen Park and Matt Heier.

Freshmen boys after their 2nd place team finish.
The perennial trip out to Amherst has been kind to the varsity girls' program in the last couple years as they've finished third and second.  2012 continued the trend as the girls snagged another second place finish running with a conservative race strategy of going out at a controlled pace and reeling in their competition during the second half.  The girls' team was led by senior co-captain Caroline Turner who finished in 15th place overall with a personal best time of 19:28.  Behind the senior, the youth of the team continued to compete at a level well beyond their experience with freshman Margie Cullen finishing 25th, sophomore Katie Horton 26th and freshmen Julianna Donovan and Sarah Armstrong 35th and 38th respectively.  There was a mere 51 second spread across the top five athletes with an average time of 20:01 for the 5k course!

Caroline Turner
Sarah Armstrong and Julianna Donovan
Claire Connors

The varsity boys team prepares to race.

Next up were the varsity boys and given a similar race strategy they were able to put some solid performances on the board.  Junior Adrian Amaya continues to show much promise as he placed fifth overall running 16:10, the fastest 5k time by an NHS athlete this century.  Senior Tyler Hagen continued his strong start to the season placing 26th and running 16:47.  Backing up the duo were juniors Tommy Kelley and Alex Elman and senior Ben Baron.  The varsity boys finished 8th in team scoring, their highest placing of the last five years.

Adrian Amaya on his way to a 5th place finish.

Closing out the meet for the Rockets were the girls' and boys' JV races.  The girls finished a respectable 12th place in team scoring being led by Norwegian exchange student Marie Leirvaag who finished in 68th place in a time of 24:18.  Meanwhile, the boys continued to show the depth of their squad finishing four in the top 25 and second overall in team scoring.  The JV squad was led by sophomore Derek Howes in a time of 18:25 and 12 of 17 athletes in the race set personal best times.

JV boys sprint off the line.

Next on the schedule for Needham is a dual meet at Cutler Park against Brookline Thursday September 27th with the varsity boys scheduled to run first at 4:00 p.m.

Full results can be found at:

 Photos courtesy of Kim Benner

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rockets Score Big Wins in Defeat of Wildcats

Wednesday September 19th on a beautiful fall afternoon the NHS cross country teams beat perennial powerhouse Weymouth in what was expected to be a battle on the boys side and what turned out to be a bit of an upset on the girls'.

The boys' varsity race started conservatively with a large hill looming in the first mile of the Houghton's Pond course.  For the first 2 miles, Needham's Adrian Amaya, Tyler Hagen (running his first race of the season) and Tommy Kelley shadowed Weymouth's top runners Nolan Parsley and Matt Murphy and Milton's Nick Orlando.  Following closely behind, ran Jake Jensen and Zach Prescott of Weymouth and John Benner, Mike Newfield, Alex Elman, Liam Walsh, Ben Baron and Alex Turner continually jockeying for position.

During the final loop of the course, Parsley and Amaya pulled away from the field before Parsley ultimately kicked to the win.  Hagen held on to third and Kelley had a huge finish to hold off Murphy in a key swing in points.  Benner and Newfield ran very gutsy races and finished in the top ten to round out the Rockets scoring.  Overall, Needham got nine athletes across the line before Weymouth's fifth illustrating for the second week in a row the benefit of depth in their 25-32 win over the Wildcats.  Milton was never a factor in the team scoring with the Rockets winning 18-45.
Adrian kicking hard!
Liam continues a solid season.
Tyler finishes strong.

Meanwhile, the girls were getting ready for their own showdown.  After numerous motivational speeches from captains, coaches and teammates, the race finally got underway.  Needham co-captain Caroline Turner and Weymouth super-soph Ashley Betts rocketed to the front and ran clear from the field almost immediately.  The race was anticipated to be a hard fought battle from gun to tape but as the field approached the halfway point, something looked amiss with the Wildcats.  Behind the leaders, ran freshmen Margie Cullen of Needham and Kacie Higgins of Weymouth and then excitingly and almost inexplicably the Rockets took over with sophomore Katie Horton and freshmen Sarah Armstrong and Julianna Donovan filling in the gap.  On this occasion, Needham benefited greatly from the youthful exuberance of its underclassmen while Weymouth seniors Morgan Fitzgibbon and Molly Barker (admittedly making her return from injury) never seemed to settle into their roles as leading contenders.  When all was said and done, Needham finished 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th to down the Wildcats 23-33.  Similarly to the boys' race Milton was outclassed and the Rockets swept the top seven places winning 15-50.
Margie Cullen and Katie Horton lead the way.
Sarah Armstrong and Rachel Blaustein

The JV race went equally well for the boys' team with Needham taking the top eight places and 13 of the top 16!  Right from the gun the Rockets began to break away from their competition and by the finish line, Needham had executed perfect pack running to finish seven athletes within a ten second spread with senior Brendan Gillis leading the way and finishing the 2.4 mile course in 14:45.

Next up for the Rockets is the Amherst Invitational on Saturday September 22nd at Hampshire College.  The first race of the day is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m.

Full results can be found at:

Photos courtesy of Rich Benner

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

XC Teams Win Season Openers against Braintree, Dedham

Wednesday September 12th, the boys and girls cross country teams cruised to victory against Braintree and Dedham exhibiting a controlled and calculated effort.

The first race of the afternoon was a junior varsity 2.5 kilometer course where the boys team displayed both strength and depth with 19 of the top 20 finishers.  Sophomore Derek Howes and freshman Alex Cohen took the pace out hard from the gun and separated themselves from the field early on.  The duo worked together through out the race to pull away from their competition before Howes ultimately kicked past his teammate for the win in a time of 9:08.  Cohen finished a close second in 9:10.  
Derek Howes and Alex Cohen leading the way.
The girls' race featured a quartet of Needham athletes running together with junior Alex Clifford edging out her teammate Emily Wills 12:59 to 13:02 for the win.  Finishing 5th and 14th for the Lady Rockets in the JV race was Camille Manoukian and Allie Stern.
Alex Clifford on her way to victory.
Next up for the Rockets was the varsity boys race which saw team tactics in effect as a group of twelve athletes ran together in a pack.  Just past halfway, there was a lead change as the group of Needham runners swallowed up two of Braintree's who were beginning to tire from their early pace setting.  The blue and gold train continued to maintain speed and finished with nine runners in ahead of Braintree or Dedham's number one.  Adrian Amaya, Tommy Kelley, Alex Elman, John Benner, Liam Walsh and Ben Baron all finished with the identical time of 18:33 for the 5 kilometer course.  The boys' team swept both Braintree and Dedham 15-50.
The Pack

In the varsity girls' race, a different team tactic was employed with equal success.  With several members of the varsity squad sitting out due to injury or illness, the Lady Rockets chose to put their opposition away early.  Sophomore Katie Horton and freshman Margie Cullen pulled away from their teammates and competition in the first several hundred meters of the race.  The two worked well together maintaining a comfortable lead throughout.  As they neared the finish line, both athletes sprinted for victory with Horton getting the better of her teammate 20:45 to 20:46.  Meanwhile, Sarah Armstrong, Rachel Blaustein and Claire Connors were getting the job done in the third, fourth and fifth positions and helping the team to a 16-47 victory over Braintree and a 16-45 victory over Dedham.
Katie Horton (r) and Margie Cullen running to a 1, 2 finish.
Sarah Armstrong, Rachel Blaustein and Claire Connors nearing the one mile mark.
Next up for the Rockets is another double-dual against Milton and perennial powerhouse Weymouth.  The meet will be held Wednesday September 19th at Houghton's Pond in Milton and is scheduled to begin at 4:00 p.m.

Full results are posted at

Photos courtesy of Kim Benner

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cross Country 2012

Photos courtesy of Kim Benner 

The summer sun is dwindling, there's a crispness in the air, soon the foliage will turn a brilliant and vibrant hue and just like that cross country is here!  Both boys' and girls' teams return solid rosters and have big goals for the 2012 season.

The Rocket harriers began preseason just over 2 weeks ago and this past Friday September 7th had their first competition, a scrimmage against Sharon High.  Both teams came away with victories as the boys defeated the Eagles 19-38 while the girls dispatched of their competition by an equally impressive margin 22-35.

The boys were led by junior Adrian Amaya winning the 2.8 mile race in a time of 15:52.  Finishing close behind were Tommy Kelley, Ben Baron, John Benner, Jeff Ewing, Alex Elman and Liam Walsh rounding out the varsity squad.

On the girls' side, co-captain Caroline Turner led the way completing the course in 18:19, good enough for second place overall.  Backing up the senior stalwart were Margie Cullen, Julianna Donovan, Sarah Armstrong, Claire Connors and Rachel Blaustein.

The Rockets begin their regular season against Bay State Conference teams with a double-dual vs. Braintree and Dedham at Coakley Middle School in Norwood this coming Wednesday September 12th at 4:00 p.m.

Full Results can be found at: