We asked, and you responded.
Just who are the top returning runners that will hit the trails this season? After requesting your help on this site and through our Instagram account, with have compiled a top-10 list with your assistance of the runners we feel will be among our best this fall.
We already listed our six through 10 best. Now, here’s our picks for the remaining five, including who we feel should make the most noise this fall. To the coaches out there, there’s no need to thank us. We realize by creating lists like these, we create billboard material for some of your athletes, who either didn’t make the list or felt they should be a little higher in the rankings. Trust us, that was never our intention. But based on past history, we’re sure we did.
Here’s our picks for the final five of our list.
No. 5 – Ryan Leslie, Billerica
Leslie was fourth at the Division 1C Championships with a PR of 15:29.9 and ninth at the Meet of Champions. He continued to run strong during the track seasons where he was a frequent podium finisher in the mile and two mile at the Division 3 meets and MOC. Last year he had all-time bests of 9:09.52 for the deuce and 4:18.88 for the mile.
No. 4 – Jack Graffeo, Westford Academy
Graffeo is part of a strong Westford Academy squad that last year captured the Ocean State Invitational and took runner-up honors in Div. 1 at the MOC. The now junior provided the perfect 1-2 punch, along with teammate and Div. 1 state titlist Paul Bergeron. During the fall season, Graffeo was fifth in the Championship race at Ocean State, placed second to Bergeron at both the Bay State Invitational and Dual County League Championship, secured fourth in Div. 1A and was eighth at the MOC. He ran a best of 15:16.2 at the divisionals.
No. 3- Brendan Thomas, Oliver Ames
Thomas was second in the Div. IC meet behind teammate and graduating senior Ryan Sarney. He was fifth in Div. I at the MOC and had a 5K best of 15:10 during a league meet at Wrentham. Thomas is coming off an outdoor season where he was among a plethora of MA distance runners that broke 9:10 last year, clocking 9:06.87 to take runner-up honors at the Div. 3 meet.
No. 2 – Marcus Reilly, Northbridge
Track is Reilly’s forte where he excels in the 800-meter run and the mile, where he owns bests of 1:50 and 4:06, respectively. But don’t ignore the Northbridge runner on the up-and-terrain. He’s done fairly well there, too. As a junior in 2022, Reilly defended his 3A crown in dominating fashion, winning by more than a minute.. He followed up that race by taking second to Uxbridge’s Aidan Ross at the MOC. Less than two weeks ago, Reilly went sub 26 minutes at the annual Bobby Doyle 5M Summer Classic in Rhode Island. That proves his summer training has been going well for a prosperous senior season on the trails. He’s aiming for his first state crown as well as success during the postseason.
No. 1 – Paul Bergeron, Westford Academy’
We’re sure you already knew who we’d pick for No. 1 spot on this list. We’re predicting a monumental season for Bergeron this fall, not only in-state but on a national level, too. The Stanford-bound senior engaged in classic dogfight with Framingham’s Sam Burgess at last year’s Div. 1 meet at Wrentham where both broke 15 minutes. Burgess, who graduated this past June, got the best of his rival with a course record of 14:38.87 to Bergeron’s 14:43.74 effort, which as also under the CR. The following week, he returned the favor by winning the individual title at the MOC where he was timed in 15:02.58, the fastest time of the day and nearly seven seconds ahead of the second-place Burgess. Bergeron, along with Burgess and St. John’s Prep’s Nathan Lopez, also earned a spot at the CHAMPS Sports National Championships in San Diego by placing third in the regionals at New York’s Van Cortlandt Park. He was 20th at the nationals. Bergeron was one of three MA runners that broke nine minutes in the two mile last year, achieving the milestone with a near state mark of 8:51.88 at the Div. 1 outdoor championships. At the beginning of the spring campaign, he was fourth for 3,200m at the Arcadia Invitational in California where he posted a fast 8:52.78. Bergeron also ran an indoor best of 9:04 for the 2M during a classic race at the MOC against Burgess and Lopez, who went 1-2.He was also ninth in the 5K at the New Balance Nationals in mid March where he was timed in a PR of 14:36.05. We talked to him after his 8:51 at the division championships and he told us after the MOC he’s shutting down to focus solely on cross country where he’s hoping to be one of the nation’s best. He certainly has the credentials to make it happen.