By Christopher Hunt
WAPPINGERS FALLS – The stories were so alike it was eerie. Uncertainty. Doubt. Underestimation.
They both listened to the scores read backwards during the awards ceremony and for an instance, when the announcer called the second place team, they thought that maybe they had blown it. Then they won. Relief. Excitement.
And that’s how Rhode Island’s Bishop Hendricken and Bishop Feehan of Massachusetts won the boys and girls titles at the NXN Northeast Regional Championship at Bowdoin Park Saturday. Bishop Hendricken, which many didn’t even expect to make the top three, scored 137 points to win the boys team title and earn a trip to Portland, Ore., for the NXN Championships next Saturday.
“We just ran like a team,” said senior Jake Sienko, who finished 10th overall to lead the team in 16:17.2. “We knew if we could do that we had a chance. We knew we had a chance to finish top-two.”
Sienko named Brian Doyle as the difference-maker in the race. Doyle finished 18th in 16:27.7. “Brian exceeded,” said Bishop Hendricken coach, Jim Doyle, Brian’s uncle. “That was big for us.”
Brian said he knew his team came in the underdogs but never doubted they had a chance to win and no race strategy would give them the extra edge they needed.
“In a race like this, you don’t run with your legs, you run with your heart and for the people behind you,” Brian Doyle said.
Michael MacKenzie finished 37th in 16:51.1 followed by Ryan Meehan in 38th in 16:55.5 and Andrew Andraka 78th in 17:27.0. Bishop Hendricken came into the race ranked sixth in the Northeast while most expected to see Don Bosco (N.J.) and CBA (N.J.) led the pack in the race. Germanton Friends finished second 156 points with Don Bosco third with 168.
In the girls race, Bishop Feehan was also overlooked in the discussion about who could win at Bowdoin Park. Lincoln-Sudbury was aiming for a third straight win. New Jersey’s Hillsborough and Randolph and LaSalle of Rhode Island were top teams going in. Feehan wasn’t even ranked in the region. But they edged LaSalle, 114-121, to earn the upset.
“I was very surprised,” said Anisa Arsenault, who finished 26th in 19:54.1. “I felt pretty confident that we’d be in the top four. But the fact that we won is unbelievable.”
Viviana Hanley led the team in sixth, finishing in 19:14.8. Erin svensen and Erin Murphy placed 43rd and 44th, respectively, and Jen Thomas 49th. Arsenault and Thomas talked about the team’s sacrifice after the race. Thomas said despite the team’s undefeated season that they never toed the starting line 100 percent healthy this season.
Even Thomas had been struggling with a knee injury.
“This girl missed her prom to make sure her leg was okay for states,” Arsenault said of Thomas.
While they sat on the a hill just aside the course they had finished running, they knew they were close when the race was over. But when places started being called they started to think that maybe they’d fall out of contention. Until they heard they had won and erupted.
“The fact that we had won states, we did want we needed to do (this season),” Arsenault said. “This is what we wanted to do.”
Surprise became the theme of the day at the Northeast Regional. Even sophomore Reid Watson of Glastonbury (Conn.) was shocked when she dropped Hillsborough’s Ashley Smolinka in the last quarter mile of the race to win in 18:52.1. Watson had been as far back as sixth with a mile to go when she reached her teammate Lindsay Crevoiserat and they began closing on the leader in the last 1,000 meters. Smolinka looked like she might be getting away when Waston and Crevoiserat regained contact and knew they had a shot.
“I just turned to her and said, ‘We got this Lindsay. Let’s go.’”
Once they closed in, Watson gave one last push and that even her teammate couldn’t cover.
“She made a move. I saw it,” Crevoiserat said. “I was cheering for her from behind.”
Waston said: I’m very surprised. When I was even running second with Lindsay, I looked up and thought, ‘Wow there’s only 1 girl in front of us, why is this happening?’”
That wasn’t much the case for the Joe and Jim Rosa of West Windsor Plainsboro North. The Rosa twins took over the field after the mile and ran in unison until just steps before the finish when Jim eased up and Joe calmly won in 16:01.3. Jim Rosa finished in 16:01.6.
“Jim always lets me win,” Joe said.
“He would have beaten me in an all-out race so I figure it’s only right to give him the glory he deserves,” Jim responded.
They both said it was more important to secure three points for the team than to break any course records. That hard effort could be saved for next week in Portland where Joe Rosa will go in as the favorite for a national title.
“I’m feeling great,” Joe said. “Our plan for the season was to have a big race at nationals. I’m excited to cut down even more. We’re definitely gearing up to have our best race at nationals.”
Joe Rosa seemed like he broke records on every course he touched this season and has gotten his biggest challenges from his brother. But he said he doesn’t feel any pressure to perform, even while stage gets bigger.
“I really don’t feel that much pressure,” he said. “It’s just running. It’s just a race.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.
Bishop Feehan, MA shocked everyone witht the win