Finn O’Hara has certainly shown he has a knack for cross country. There’s no doubt about that. But with sub two-minute 800-meter speed and a best of 4:21 for the mile, the Manchester Essek senior is primarily a track runner. O’Hara knows that, and at the most opportune time at Saturday’s MIAA Division 2 State Championships, his father made sure he didn’t forget.
With about half mile remaining and trailing co-leaders and Groton Dunstable teammates Neil Aradyha and Greyson Duane in the Div. 2C race at Wrentham, O’Hara heard a voice from a very familiar spectator.
“(Aradyha and Duana) were a little ahead of me, five or team seconds with 800-meters left,” he recalled. “My dad yelled out, ‘You’re a middle-distance runner! (You) got to get this.’ From there, I just started to kick, went all out and the final finish was amazing.”
O’Hara made up the ground he needed the last 800m of the race. He first passed Duane and then Aradhya with about 100m left. The Groton Dunstable senior wasn’t given in just yet. The two determined harriers engaged in a classic duel to the finish with O’Hara edging his rival at the finish, crossing the line with a huge PR of 15:54.9, just two-tenths of a second in front of Aradhya. Duane secured third at 16:02.6.
“My legs were tired, everything was out of it. My brain was out of the race at this point,” he said. “I just kept telling myself, just keep powering forward. Use any energy you have left and it will be all worth it at the finish. I stuck to that. It was an awesome race.”
O’Hara’s effort was a best at Wrentham by nearly 30 seconds. His previous best was 16:21.80, which he did just a few weeks ago to capture the Cape Ann League Championships.
With his performance this past weekend, O’Hara garnered increased confidence when he toes the line at Fort Devens for Saturday’s Meet of Champions (MOC). The Manchester Essex standout is ready g
“I want to go out there and give it my all,” he said. “I am looking to place (high) at that race.”
Fueled by the 2-3 finish of Aradhya and Duane, Groton Dunstable easily walked away with its second straight team title with a very-convincing 50-122 decision over second-place Dover Sherborn. Norton was third with 128 points.
“We won this race last year and it was almost, in a way, a surprise,” said GS coach Chris Volante. “The different expectations is incredible. They’re focused. They’ve been training hard. We see the effort, week-to-week. It’s great to see it happen at the right time.”
The Crusaders, who had all five of their scoring runners in the top 20, are looking for big things at Fort Devens.
“(The season goals) was to win our league, win state qualifiers and win a state title,” Aradhya said.
Nashoba Regional’s Adam Balewicz ran a consistent pace in cruising to the Div. 2B crown with a time of 15:34.9, nearly 20 seconds ahead of runner-up Joseph Keroack of Ludlow.
Belewicz hung with the leaders in the early stages, passing the opening mile at just about five minutes. He took charge from there.
“The plan was to stick with the leaders the first mile and then start to pull away,” he said. “That’s pretty much exactly what I did. I was pretty even throughout. I am happy with it.”
Balewicz, who nearly broke 15 minutes at the Twilight Invitational last month, is looking to prosper at the MOC.
“The goal is to win,” he said. “The Foot Locker regionals is right after that (on Nov. 25). I’d like to conserve a little energy, if I can. But my main goal is to focus on next week. I just want to win.”
Team-wise, it was Danvers that captured it all. With three of their runners among the top 10, the Falcons were able to secure a 71-95 victory over Ludlow. Wakefield was third with 95 points.
Will Conklin, who was Danvers’ top finisher (fifth,16:05.2), indicated that winning the meet was the goal from the beginning.
“Absolutely, this was the plan,” Conklin said “We haven’t had a ton of races this season – Ocean State (Invitational) at the beginning, and the divisionals. I feel like no one really knows us. We knew this was possible with our workouts, and our team chemistry. We came out here and planned on winning here, and it happened.”
Marblehead’s Isaac Gross kicked of the meet by taking the Div. 2A race. Gross took charge from the beginning and broke the tape in 15:35.7. Melrose’s Caleb Barnes was second at 15:56.4.
The Magicians’ senior already had a sizable gap on the field by the time he reached the first mile. At 3K, he was 12 seconds ahead Barnes, his closest pursuer.
“You know you’e race is going well by how you feel after the first mile,” he said. “I hit 4:47 and I had so much left in me. I’m like, this is a PR day. I got a PR by almost 30 seconds. I felt great.”
Gross’ previous best was 16:01.6, which he did to win his race at the Ocean State Invitational back in late September. He has high hopes at the MOC.
“We’re always going to try and go for that number one spot,” he said. “But for some reason that doesn’t happen, just go for a nice placement, a nice PR.”
Walpole won the team title, scoring 71 points. Plymouth South was second with 100 points. The Timberwolves’ Luke Zahurak (fifth, 16:27.0) and Sean Kern (seventh, 16:33.2) both finished among the top 10.