If you’re a fan of Pinkerton cross country, it’s a good goal.
It’s not an easy one but it happened two years ago when, for the second straight year, both the Astros’ boys and girls captured Division 1 titles within an hour. Last year, the boys slipped to second as the girls captured their fourth straight D1 crown.
Can the boys and girls celebrate together again this year, Saturday at Derryfield Park? It’ll be an uphill climb but, if they do, it will likely be because of the Preble brother-sister duo from Hampstead, Nolan and Mariesa Preble. They’re both key members of their respective teams.
Nolan, a junior captain, may have the biggest challenge of the two. A consistent top five runner striving to close the gap with frontrunner Joe Gagnon, he knows that he and his teammates need a lot of work to do to challenge for top D1 honors. Last month, they were 13th at the Manchester Invitational and they got smoked in a dual meet with archrival Londonderry.
“It’s definitely been difficult not being where we want to be,” said Nolan. “But we know the big meet is coming up and coach (Mike) Clark always has us prepared for it.”
And Clark, who feels that Nolan is having a fabulous season, believes his squad will be ready when it counts.
“They said we didn’t have a chance two years ago and then we beat Concord and won it,” said Clark. “This is a young team and you just have to have patience. We’ll be ready (for D1).”
Pinkerton girls coach Amy Bernard, whose squad won the New England meet last year in addition to D1, also believes that her runners will be ready for the state meet, partly because of the rapid progress of Mariesa, a freshman who goes by the nickname Mimi.
At the Manchester Invitational, the Astros’ girls were a distant 18th but that was partly because Mariesa ran in and won the freshman race, clocking a 13:30 for 3K on Derryfield Park’s demanding course. Since then, she’s generally been in Pinkerton’s top four and she has a top 5K time of 20:04.
Bernard is more than pleased with Mariesa’s progress.
“I’ve had an eye on her for years watching her progress in middle school and I knew she would make an impact but she has certainly exceeded my expectations,” said Bernard, who also is from Hampstead and has a seventh-grade daughter, Hanah, who runs. “She is talented but, as talented as she is, she is hard working.
“We have certainly had our share of strong freshmen — Morgan (Sansing), Ariel (Vaillancourt), Jordan (Vaillancourt), Ciara (April), Meghan (Cross) — and I see her falling right into their path and continuing to help the team meet our high goals for the season.
“We lost Britney (Johnson) and Maison (D’Amelio) and those are big shoes to fill, but Mimi is definitely helping fill the needed gaps this season. I think we’ll be ready (for the Division 1 meet).”
Mariesa, who placed fifth in the Division 3 middle school state meet a year ago, is a bit surprised by her rapid development, but cites the welcoming atmosphere of the team and the competition with her teammates as positive factors.
“I’ve been running a lot with Ciara (April) and that’s helped,” said Mariesa. “We’re close time-wise and we push each other. I push her, she pushes me. She normally beats me, but I push to be there with her.”
For his part, Nolan doesn’t think Mariesa’s development is so unexpected.
“I’m not really surprised,” said Nolan, who has a best 5K time of 16:26 and is aiming to get to 16 by the end of the year. “She’s always been a talented runner and she always does her best.”
That’s a trait that must run in the family because it also describes Nolan.