On Cross Country
---- — A year ago, Pinkerton senior Phil Parent was — to put it mildly — not a happy camper.
After failing to make the cross country team as a freshman and sophomore, he finally made the cut as a junior. In fact, he had the seventh fastest time at tryouts.
Ordinarily, that would be good enough to run with the varsity but, because of a driver’s education commitment, he twice was forced to come to preseason practice late.
That led to a two-meet suspension. Those meets were also a qualifier to run in the Manchester Invitational, so Parent missed that as well. He didn’t run with the varsity until the Mack Plaque race against Londonderry.
“I was really kind of ticked off about it, to tell the truth,” said Parent, who started running in the fifth grade but was only average in middle school. “I was pretty upset.
“I left driver’s ed early and just missed as little of practice as I could, maybe 20 to 30 minutes. I didn’t think that should have kept me out.”
By the time he ran in the Mack Plaque race, Parent was chomping on the bit to race.
“It (two-meet suspension) got me going,” he said. “I really wanted to show what I could do.”
“He was our fifth guy and ran a heck of a race,” said veteran coach Mike Clark. “When I saw what he did, my jaw dropped. Based on him not even making the team the two years before, I wasn’t expecting it.”
Clark was also not expecting Parent to make the steady progress he’s made ever since. He quickly became one of the Astros’ top runners and was their No. 3 runner at the Division 1 meet, running a 16:59 at Derryfield Park.
That carried over to track, where Parent ran the 3,200 meters in 9:47.17 and finished third in Division 1. Impressive for sure, but nothing prepared Clark for Parent’s jump this year.
He opened by placing first at the Mount Washington Invitational and he hasn’t slowed up yet. In the weekend before last, when he finally got his chance at the Manchester Invitational, he placed an impressive eighth in the elite division in 16:11, a 48-second personal best on the rugged 5K Derryfield Park course.
“Phil ran a phenomenal race and it’s just unbelievable how far he’s come from not even making our team his first two years,” said Clark. “To think, he’s now a contender for the Division 1 (individual) championship.”
It hasn’t been by accident. Since failing to make the team as a freshman and sophomore, he stepped up his offseason running. And, after last year, he really elevated his training.
“I did a lot of running, like I did the summer before, but I trained better, smarter with a better mentality,” said Parent. “I worked out with my buddy (and teammate) Connor Kwiecien.
“We did a lot of different things — tempo runs, a little speed work, some hills, technical stuff — instead of just putting in the miles.
“I just wanted to get better. My goals are to break 16 (minutes) for the 5K and go for No. 1 in Division 1. It’s a lofty goal, but I’m going for it. I’ve come a long way since my freshman year.”
In fact, few runners have come as far as Parent in the last few years, and he’s not done yet.
“I’m definitely hoping to run in college,” he said. “Right now, I’m thinking about UNH, UVM and Keene State.”
‘Small school’ runners
The weekend before last was the best example of why there are too many divisions in cross country and why smaller schools should compete more in large school divisions.
At the Manchester Invitational, the top two times of the day came from the small school division. Dan Curts of Ellsworth (Maine) had the best time, a sensational 15:23 on Derryfield’s challenging 5K course, nipping Jose Holt-Andrews of Telstar (Maine).
Both times were more than 10 seconds faster than the “Elite’ race winner and 40 seconds faster than the large school winner.
Meanwhile, at the MSTCA Frank Kelley Invitational in Wrentham, Division 2 winner Nick Carleo of Newburyport came in with a 15:34 clocking on the 5K course, 18 seconds faster than the Division 1 winner, Johnny Abraham of Lowell. Two other D2 runners were also faster than Abraham.
Similarly, in the girls races, Division 2 winner Olivia Lantz of Manchester Essex finished in 18:38, which was 23 seconds faster than Division 1 winner Kaley Richards of Lowell.