Boys cross country preview: Amherst eyeing another big season

  • Amherst’s David Pinero-Jacome competes in last year’s Western Mass. Championships. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Every so often, a high school team has all the pieces fall into place at the right time. They have enough veteran leadership on the team to keep them grounded, promising young athletes to step up and boost the rest of the squad, and solid coaching that can help get them where they need to be.

Amherst boys cross country coach Chris Gould feels that way about his squad this year. Despite graduating some of their seniors last year, he thinks this could be the season where they really make some noise.

“I’ve already told them that we feel like a special team this year,” Gould said. “And if we, if we really don’t have some significant accomplishments, which may or may not involve winning things, you never know what other teams are going to have. But I told them that if we don’t really look like an effective team, in terms of times and performances, that it’s probably the coach’s fault.”

It’s not that Amherst didn’t lose depth last year – top seven runners Diego Lopez and Aidan Bergeron graduated, leaving some open slots in the varsity lineup. But for the most part, Amherst returns the rest of its firepower, led by star David Pinero-Jacome, last year’s Daily Hampshire Gazette Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year.

“(He’s) been a mainstay and he’s a really hard worker. He’s put in a lot of very thoughtful and serious mileage this summer,” Gould said on Pinero-Jacome. “He’s completely prepared and I love him. I don’t even want to think about next year when he’s not here. He’s such a such a bright light on our team and so mature, it’s really just a pleasure to have him around.”

Along with Pinero-Jacome, the team returns senior Kyle Yanko, one of the key parts of Amherst’s distance team, Will Larson, a senior who joined the team last year and who’s already improved his time by over a minute, and fellow senior Spencer Waite, who was on last year’s state team.

It’s not just the older runners that should give Amherst an edge this year. Sophomore Sam Woodruff returns in good shape after finishing his freshman year as one of the ‘Canes top three runners, freshman Calvin Miller has run a 4:46 mile as an eighth grader, and freshman Ian Burns is back as well to provide some solid depth for the team. Also returning after a stellar track season are sophomores Owen Platt and Nico Lisle, who Gould expects to take the next step in their development this season.

“Those two are better prepared for cross country this fall than they were last fall, for sure. They’re just better trained. They turned into serious runners over the course of last year,” Gould said.

“They looked around and they said OK, I understand what sort of effort and commitment it takes to go to the next level and I don’t want to be where I am now. I want to get better.”

Depth is still the name of the game with Amherst — Gould said that this year’s team looks deeper than last year, and there’s a healthy amount of competition during practices. It’s hard to tell yet who exactly could cross the finish line first, but that’s part of what makes the coming season so exciting.

Gould knows that a lot can change from preseason to the state championship meet. But for now, he’s happy with where his runners are at.

“I try not to count my chickens too early,” Gould said. “But we’ll see how the year rolls out.”


COACH: Chris Gould, 29th year



LAST SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Finished second as a team at Division 1 Western Mass championships; David Pinero-Jacome finished second overall at Division 1 WMass meet; team placed 12th at Division 2 State meet

ROSTER: Seniors — Alex Franz, Soren Heim, William Larson, Drew Leutz, David Pinero-Jacome, Niko Ringkauf, Spencer Waite, Kyle Yanko; Juniors — Henry Doyle, Yoh Morita, Alden Pope, Myles Redington, Quinn Strehorn, Jonas Theis, Sam Woods; Sophomores – Holden Castenson, Ezrah Ginsberg, Finn Hannigan, Zack Heim, Elias Katsaros, Nico Lisle, Owen Platt, Gabriel Samalot, Sam Woodruff; Freshmen – Gideon Antonowicz, Ian Burns, Calvin Cusick, Maddox Jones, Calvin Miller, Linden Paessel, Ben Patterson, Oscar Peterson, Sage Sproehnle, Max Steinberg, Ozzy Wolaver.


COACH: Bill Wheeler, 13th year



LAST SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Placed fifth in Division 1 Western Mass championship meet; qualified for Division 2 State Meet as a team.

ROSTER: Seniors — Conner Andrews, Nathan Fernandes, Derek Gould, Parker Krol, GAvin Messier, Caleb Perron, Caiden St. Laurent; Juniors – Liam Chien, Patrick Fuller, Trent Harper, Liam Howard, Benjamin Les, Noah Les, Colin Mullen, Zachary Mullen, Ty O’Donnell, George Wheeler; Sophomores – Tyler Benedetti, Ryan Gould, Miles McNamara; Freshmen – Austin Hammon, Emmett Howard, Cian Lindsay, Broderick McMahon, Brodie St. Laurent

OUTLOOK: Junior depth will help ease the pain of losing Belchertown’s top two runners, Brandon and Trevor Adamson, to graduation. Last year, Belchertown relied on its superior depth to pull off some upsets, including an impressive dual meet victory over Northampton. The Nos. 1 and 2 spots are both up for grabs for the Orioles, but it’s not clear who could seize the top spot. The core group of Derek Gould, Noah Fernandes, Liam Howard and Ben and Noah Les are the top contenders for the Orioles, and they’ll likely pack run the same way they did last year.

Some of the biggest news for Belchertown isn’t who is on their roster, it’s who they’ll be lining up against. Belchertown has been moved down from Division 2 to Division 3 in the state meet, which leads head coach Bill Wheeler to think they’ll also bump down to Division 2 for the Western Mass championship meet. Competing against smaller schools in the postseason gives the Orioles a little bit of breathing room on the course, and they could contend seriously for a Western Mass title.


COACH: Lisa Ritchie, fourth year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Pioneer North/Division 3


LAST SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Competed in the Division 3B state qualifying meet, top performer Braden Lynn (21:59.62).

ROSTER: Seniors — Josh Desimone, Landen Ellsworth, Julian Froebel, Alex Major; Juniors – Roman Powers-Moran; Sophomore – Liam Dopp, Jose Orfila; Freshmen – Will Skowron, Jack Skowron, William Wyman; Eighth graders – Alex Clark, Will Jourdain; Seventh graders – Parker Jourdain

OUTLOOK: Losing top runners Gianni Soucy and Braden Lynn is tough for the Eagles, but they don’t have to look far to find runners who can fill his shoes. Both Landen Ellsworth and Alex Major are returning for their second season and head coach Lisa Ritchie is thrilled to have them back. William Jourdain, though just an eighth grader, has a lot of potential for the Eagles. Much of the team is new, but Ritchie is excited about the team’s enthusiasm.


COACH: Bob Smith, 45th year; Walt Flynn, 30th year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Pioneer North/3


LAST SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Placed 6th in the Class C Western Mass championship meet; Luke Howard placed 14th individually in 17:40.09 (second fastest freshman)

ROSTER: Seniors — Ben Desmond, Amory Maxey; Juniors – Oliver Brown, AJ Desmond, Charlie Dennis; Sophomores – Luke Howard; Freshmen – Evan Hedlund; Eighth graders – Mark Brennan, Brendan Carey, Leland Murphy, Adam Paul, Dominic Sarno; Seventh graders – Caleb Libby, Harrison Manning, Forest Savoie, Benjamin Sweet, Hengxi Yue, Casey Cooper

OUTLOOK: Frontier fell just short of qualifying for the state meet as a team last year, finishing ninth overall at the Division 3 qualifying sectional meet. They’ll hope to remedy that this season, and they return two of their best runners in Luke Howard and Evan Hedlund, both youngsters with significant racing experience. Bob Smith is enthusiastic about the work ethic of his team this year, and is hoping some of his newcomers can make a statement this season as well.


COACH: Fran LaFond, fifth year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Pioneer South/Division 3


LAST SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Competed in the Class B Western Mass Race, Jake Maynard placed 42nd overall (18:50.25)

ROSTER: Sophomores – Jeff Antonellis, Jesse Balboni, Liam Hourihan; Freshmen – Lucas Gilbert, Jake Maynard, James von Deck; Eighth grader – Adam Forgue

OUTLOOK: Gateway may be the youngest team in the Gazette’s coverage area – the team has no upperclassmen, relying entirely on its younger runners this season. Jake Maynard is expected to be the team’s top runner after performing well last season as an eighth grader.


COACH: Suzanne Williams, third year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Pioneer South/Division 3


LAST SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Placed 14th at Division 2 Western Mass meet, Nathan Hutchinson placed 30th (18:30.39)

ROSTER: Seniors – N/A; Juniors – Oliver Barcome-Laflamme, Nathan Benson, Nathan Hutchinson; Sophomores – Colby Carleton; Freshmen – Pax Stark; Eighth graders – N/A; Seventh graders – Trevor Sullivan

OUTLOOK: The Rams return just two athletes, Nathan Benson and Nathan Hutchinson. Hutchinson is the team’s top returner, and he’ll look to build on his times from last season.


COACH: Sue Tracy

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Pioneer South/Division 3


LAST SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Division 3 States championship meet, 10th as a team (288 points)

ROSTER: Seniors — Owen Bourbeau, Nick Brisson, Tim Cahill, Brandon Couture, Gavin DaFonte, Nicky Elias-Gillette, Daniel Farrar, Zach Jones, Jaiden Kudelka, Benjamin Plumer; Juniors — Ryan Brooks, Miguel Delgado, Jack Laliberte; Sophomores – Eammon Hilnbrand, Nick Jones, Adam Muller, Oscar Schiff; Freshmen – Emmett Bastek, Glenn Cameron, Aidan Conklin, Owen Cubi, Frankie Dunn, Aydan Neylon, Sam Plumer, Freddy Rizos, Owen Woz, Ben Zajac; Eighth graders – Noah Cruz, Wes Kellogg, Owen Moylan, Luke Pickard; Seventh graders – Austin Barcomb, Miles Cameron, Gabriel Carrasquillo, Daniel Guiel, Teagan Noel, Emmett Stith, Jack White

OUTLOOK: The Hampshire boys have been on a high over the last few years, stepping up majorly at the 2021 Divisional state championship. They placed 10th last season after losing a significant group of seniors, and this year they’ll also need some young runners to fill some big shoes. The Raiders graduated two of their top runners last year in Spencer Reese and Dillon Neveu.

Head coach Sue Tracy will look to seniors Nick Brisson, Gavin DaFonte, Tim Cahill, Nicky Elias-Gillette and Zach Jones to step up, along with younger runners Oscar Schiff, Aidan Conklin, Jack Laliberte and Owen Cubi. If all goes to plan, they’re in contention for another conference title and a strong showing at Western Mass. and states.


COACH: Joseph Ramirez, first year



LAST SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Elijah Quinn placed 21st at Division 1 Western Mass meet (17:41.9)

Hopkins Academy

COACH: Jeff Mish, 10th year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Pioneer North/3


LAST SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Competed in Division 3C sectional state meet, top finisher Chris Rex (21:20.17)

ROSTER: Seniors – Chris Rex, Jackson Graham, Grant Donta-Venman; Eighth graders – Jack Cycz

OUTLOOK: Though they’re too small to field a full scoring team, Hopkins is still going to work on improving its times. Captain Chris Rex is back and healthy, and is aiming to qualify for the state meet. Fellow senior Jackson Graham is also entering the season healthy and should contribute to the Golden Hawks.


COACH: Eric Pfalzgraf, three years



LAST SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Qualified for Division 2 state championship, placed 16th.

ROSTER: Seniors – Juan Jose Adams Causton, James Bertone-Johnson, Desmond Carnevale, Matthew Henry Colgan-Racine, Ari Daube-Valois, Liam Ewers, Theodore King-Pollet, Elias Krasny, Jonathan Parker-Yourga, Alex Sirois, Davis Wheat; Juniors – Gavin Darling, Ben Killip-Leonard, Joshua Kohl-Merrell, Mesfin McManamy; Sophomores – Jonah Abel-Waisman, Pranav Belur, Robinson Buhl, Isaiah Comeford Hennessey, Camdynne Dixon, William Epstein, Kaleb Hayhurst, Dashiell Kruckemeyer, Oliver Levine, Adi Maiore, Elias Meyers, Xavier Nteta, Quinn Reesman, Julian Remick, Acer Verson; Freshmen – Damien Austin, Isaiah Carnevale, Henry Daggett, Owen Daggett, Gus Frey, Sasha Geha, August Hindle, Samuel Jackson, Naia Klose, Xander Lane, Jasper Polin, Calvin Sanborn, Dov Sirulnik, Michael Tauer, Stanley Thurston, Austin Winnie, Eli Wool

OUTLOOK: Of the seven runners that competed at the Division 2 State meet, four of them – Jude Mourad, Isaac Roth, Calvin Cote-LHeureux and Marek Malone-Raivel – were seniors.

The good news for the Blue Devils is they return their top runner in Teddy King-Pollet, and that another top runner, Davis Wheat, is coming into his senior season healthier than he’s ever been, according to head coach Eric Pfalzgraf. They’ll look to some of their younger runners to step up and fill in some of the depth spots now up for grabs in the varsity lineup.


COACH: Kevin Brown, five years

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Pioneer North, Division 3


LAST SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Senior Kyan Frantz qualified for the Division 3 state meet, placed 73rd (18:17.77)

ROSTER: Juniors – Owen Bauman, Max Harkins, Andrew Koch, Aaron Lo, Thomas Nuesslein, Frank Sup, Gaius Turner; Sophomores — RJ Allen, Henry Klein, Isaiah Letasz, Asa Taggert; Freshmen – Ciprian Capitaine, Ayden Klatte, Kristof Kynt, Kai Petit-Darling, Alex Rachele, Oscar Schwellenbach, Grafton Tolopko; Eighth graders – Owen Sup

OUTLOOK: The Dragons are still a very young team with a high ceiling. The roster has no seniors this year, but a good number of juniors to serve as the group’s leadership group. Losing Kyan Frantz will hurt PVCICS, but they’ve got a good number of runners this year that should keep the program in good shape.

Smith Voc

COACH: Joshua Sheaver

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Pioneer North/Division 3


ROSTER: Seniors – Aaron Fein, Walden Groundwater, Keegan O’Malloy, Eithan Ortiz; Junior – Patrick Millin; Sophomores – Riley Millay; Freshmen – Alex Bajracharya, Joseph Gregoire, Logan Hawley, Cole Mattison-Gulotta, Andrew Persaud, Mason Senecal

OUTLOOK: Expect senior Walden Groundwater to be the fastest competitor for the Vikings, who have a good number of young runners on this year’s team. Groundwater placed third (22:57) in the team’s first meet of the year, where Smith Voc swept McCann, St. Mary’s and Hampden.