In boys cross-country: Three Falcons head to New England Interscholastic Championships

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From left:  Andrew Franklin, Sam Brunnette, and Alex Cotnoir train for their big race in Manchester, Connecticut.  They competed in the New England Interscholastic Championship Saturday.  Photos by David Dudley
From left: Andrew Franklin, Sam Brunnette, and Alex Cotnoir train for their big race in Manchester, Connecticut. They competed in the New England Interscholastic Championship Saturday. Photos by David Dudley

copyright the Chronicle November 12, 2014

by David Dudley

Three young men from North Country Union High School’s cross-country team earned the chance to represent the Northeast Kingdom in Manchester, Connecticut, Saturday.

The three runners who competed in the New England Interscholastic Championship were: state champion Sam Brunnette, who took fortieth place at 16:34; Alex Cotnoir, who came in one hundred second, finishing in 17:14; and Andrew Franklin, who claimed one hundred eighty-eighth place, finishing in a respectable 17:53.

In all, the Falcons ran hard and finished strong. But they were on the big stage, where it’s honorable to crack the top 100.

“Our mantra all year has been no excuses,” Falcons Coach Chris Shaffer said before the race. “Give what you’ve got that day.”

And that’s exactly what they did.

State Champ Sam Brunnette stretches before taking to the trails.
State Champ Sam Brunnette stretches before taking to the trails.

There were 264 other competitors seeking that top spot. Among them, Alex Ostberg of Darien, Connecticut, holds the Wickham Park trail’s record of 14:58. Not surprisingly, he took top honors, finishing Saturday’s race in 15:07.

Despite finishing behind Ostberg in the Woods Trail race at Thetford, Sam Brunnette had high hopes for his performance.

“I want to break 16 minutes on the 5k-3.1 mile trail,” Brunette said before the race. “I’ve got to sprint from the gun, get out with that group of front-runners, and then I have to stay with that group.”

He began the race as he had hoped. He was in the top 20 through the first third of the race, where he faced down The Green Monster — the most difficult hill on the trail, placed about a mile and a half from the starting line. Brunnette conquered the Green Monster, but the rest of the course is no laughing matter.

Cotnoir — who got caught up in the teeming masses running in the middle pack — said that the course was fast, winding, and in some places extremely narrow. He struggled to gain ground throughout the race, but the tightly packed crowd made it difficult to advance.

Brunnette began slipping as the race progressed. Before the final ascent to the finish line — the path to the finish is uphill — he had slid back to thirtieth place, and then finally finished in fortieth place overall.

Cotnoir, who had worked hard on his finishing kicks leading up to the race, pushed hard to tie with two other runners, making a three-way tie for one-hundredth place. His official finish was listed as 102. According to Falcons Coach Shaffer, Cotnoir crossed the finish line covered in mud.

Then there was Franklin. During a practice run the day before the race, a leg injury prevented him from finishing the trail. He bounced back to finish the race on Saturday, though, in 17:53.

Coach Shaffer said that Franklin surpassed at least two runners on his charge to the line.

Alex Cotnoir smiles through the burn as the Falcons season winds down.
Alex Cotnoir smiles through the burn as the Falcons season winds down.

Coach Shaffer said he will be sad to see his five seniors go at the end of the year, but so it goes with coaching high school sports. Brunnette, Cotnoir and Franklin are all seniors, so, at season’s end, they will each go their separate ways.

Brunnette said that he would continue to run, though he hadn’t settled on which college he would attend.

Cotnoir is hoping to get into Dartmouth College, where he intends to keep running.

Franklin hopes to go to the University of Vermont, where he, too, will continue running.

Though their season has been long, it’s not over. They will return to the trail on November 29 to compete in the Northeast Regional Foot Locker Cross-Country Championships, in the Bronx, New York.

contact David Dudley at [email protected]

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