High school cross country previews: Alumni Fisher, Laskowsky take over the Bears

By DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 09-04-2023 9:02 PM

When Tim Cox arrived to coach at Coe-Brown Northwood Academy in 2000, he was happy just to have a coaching job alongside his good friend Brent Tkaczyk, who started at CBNA in 1998. The hope was to have a competitive program, a top-five finish, perhaps.

What they created was a dynasty.

In 24 and 23 seasons for Tkaczyk and Cox, respectively, the duo coached the Bears to 20 Division II cross country team titles (11 boys’, nine girls’), a girls’ New England title in 2013, and a combined 16 track titles between the boys’ and girls’ outdoor and indoor teams. They’ve coached dozens of individual state champions, numerous Division I athletes and inspired hundreds of student-athletes.

So much so that two of them – Lucas Fisher (class of 2014) and Brooke Laskowsky (class of 2016) – are taking over the program.

“I honestly think it’s come full circle,” Fisher said. “It’s too good to be true at some points. Growing up in that system, having Tim and Brent as my coaches and closest mentors throughout my high school and college career.”

Cox and Tkaczyk have been role models and mentors for Fisher in more ways than one. Fisher is also a special education teacher at Coe-Brown, the same position his coaches had. Tkaczyk is still in that role, while Cox has transitioned into a job as the school reading specialist.

Fisher’s leadership and contributions as a student-athlete helped develop the current championship streak the Bear boys are on. Coe-Brown won the title in 2014, the season after Fisher graduated, and have won the D-II title every year since that, with the exception of 2017.

Laskowsky, who also ran for Cornell University, was a big part of one the longest and most dominant championship streaks in state history. She and her Coe-Brown teammates swept every running team title from spring 2012 through fall 2016, 11 consecutive seasons of track and cross country championships.

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But this fall won’t be the same as others in recent years. The boys’ team graduated four seniors from last year’s top seven, three of them headed to NCAA Division I schools. For the girls, star runners Addison Cox and Fisher’s younger sister Sheldyn, the leaders of the Bears’ last girls’ title in 2020, are gone too.

“To those kids, that era, those athletes were something special,” Fisher said. “It’s so cool that Coe-Brown was able to do that. That was a really special team. Now, after their graduation, the teams have big shoes to fill, but the kids know they have their time to make their own history with the program.”

Senior Jamie Lano is the top returning runner on the boys’ side of D-II. He finished fifth overall (third for the team) with a time of 16:40. He looks to be in good form early, winning Coe-Brown’s season-opening dual meet against Bow last week with a time of 16:30, without any runners within a minute of him.

Seniors Sunny Nomula and Liam McLean, and junior Luc Kerouac were all in the top seven at points last year.

Juniors Quinn Froburg, Dylan Plowman, Joe Gallentine and Landon Graveline are among the likely runners to round out the varsity roster and are looking strong early.

Junior Paige Murdough, sophomores Madison Taylor and Meredith Kerivan, and senior Honorah McGlone all were in the girls’ top seven at the D-II championship, with senior Anna Bergeron, sophomore Mary Bergeron and freshman Annabelle Lovett also in that top group.

“The entire program is hungry to make some noise in a positive way and compete with the state’s best,” said Fisher. “Hopefully by states (they’re ready) to put their own stamp in the history books. It’s a cool transition.”

The Bears will be competitive and are in the hunt for more titles, even if they aren’t the dominant favorites like they were in the past. But that’s not what Fisher and Laskowsky are concerned about. That isn’t what their coaches emphasized.

“Having students focus on being the best version of themselves,” Fisher recalled, is what he remembers the most about Cox and Tkaczyk’s philosophy. “In the classroom, on the course, at practice, away at a meet. Be the best version of yourself. Brooke and I took a lot away from that.”

That message didn’t just resonate with them.

Patrick Hill (class of 2021) and Davio DeLuca (class of 2017) are also back to assist with the program. Between cross country, indoor track and outdoor track combined, Coe-Brown has about 15 coaches, some paid, some volunteer. About half of that number are Bear alumni.

“(Cox and Tkaczyk) have such charismatic personalities,” Fisher said. “So many alumni come back, they make you feel like you’re still part of the family.”

After raising their kids through the program, the time felt right for Cox and Tkaczyk to step away. Both of them plan on watching their kids run in college. Cox’s daughter Addison and son Aidan both run for the University of Virginia, while Tkaczyk’s sons Luke and Tyler both run for Siena College.

While that will involve some travel, they won’t be far away. Both still teach at Coe-Brown, and Cox has one more son, Broden, a seventh grader at Northwood School, coming up through the program. Cox is also still the head editor of New Hampshire Cross Country and New Hampshire Track and Field, a website that he co-founded with another Coe-Brown alum, Greg Hall (class of 2008). The site features live stream coverage and commentary of major invitationals, athlete interviews, rankings, photos and more.

It’s surely bittersweet to be leaving, but Cox couldn’t be happier to leave the program in the good hands of his former athletes.

“It feels phenomenal,” Cox said. “(Fisher and Laskowsky) have great energy, a great knowledge base. Our philosophies are pretty much the same, but they’re going to put their own stamp on it.”

CONCORD

Division: I

Coaches: Zach Procek (boys, 5th year) and Ally Davis (girls, 9th year)

Last year: Boys 6th; Girls 6th

Top returners: Boys: Tyler Watt, sr.; Josiah Conley, so.; Elliot Clendenning, so.; Joshua Gurtner, so. Girls: Ava Philbrook, sr.; Chloe Gudas, sr.; Morgan Doherty, sr.; Shelly Smith, jr.; Phoebe Dater-Roberts, jr.; Bella Komorek, so.; Maddie Short, so.

Top newcomers: Boys: Ian Mamos, fr.; Oliver Conley, fr. Girls: Mahalie Burdette, fr.; Quinn Doherty, fr.; Gianna Gualtieri, fr.

Outlook: “We are a very young team with a lot of potential,” Procek said. “The team will certainly grow this season as the younger guys embrace the challenge and learn race mindset and strategies.”

While the boys’ team is much younger than they’ve been in recent years, the Crimson Tide girls are a much more experienced group.

“These kids worked really hard all summer and we are looking forward to working together to have the best season possible,” Davis said.

Teams to beat: Boys: Pinkerton, Nashua South, Bedford, Londonderry. Girls: Pinkerton, Bedford, Winnacunnet.

BOW

Division: II

Coaches: Kate Kretschmer (boys, 3rd year) and Dave Niemaszyk (girls, 2nd year)

Last year: Boys 7th; Girls 3rd

Top returners: Boys: Owen Miller, sr.; Alden Betterley, sr.; Aiden Ciminesi, sr.; Thomas Sargent, jr.; Wyatt Worcester, so. Girls: Hannah Pawlowski, jr.; Lena Thompson, jr.; Julia Hou, so.; Adee Cooper, sr.

Top newcomers: Girls: Madelynn Winch, jr.; Madelyn Fish, fr.; Claire Wilke, fr.

Outlook: The Falcon boys return their top six runners from last season and are eager to advance to the Meet of Champions after missing the cut by one place last year. The girls graduated four of last year’s top seven, including last year’s individual champion – Susanna Zahn – and All-State runner Maya Brochu, who are both competing for NCAA Division I schools. 

“Although we lost our top two runners to graduation, we are still retaining three of our varsity runners from last year. If we can get a few runners to fill in those varsity spots we could still finish strong this year with Meet of Champions as a team goal,” Niemaszyk said.

“We embraced the challenged of rebuilding last season, and now, we’re thrilled to witness Owen and Alden lead our team to new heights in their final year,” Kretschmer said. “It’s also exciting to watch our rising stars step up and compete for those top positions. We are looking forward to watching how the season unfolds.”

Teams to beat: Boys: Coe-Brown, Souhegan. Girls: Hanover, Oyster River

JOHN STARK

Division: II

Coaches: Joel Kress (boys, 2nd year) and Christine Anderson (girls, 17th year)

Last year: Boys 9th; Girls 9th

Top returners: Boys: Eli Lemire, sr.; Alex Keirstead, sr.; Austin Patenaude, so. Girls: Kayla Barriere, so.; Rylee Barnard, so.; Izabel Korbet, sr.; Rachel Berube, sr.; Katie Patterson, sr.

Outlook: The Generals return several strong runners from last year’s team, especially the girls, who return five of their top seven. Lemire finished eighth in D-II last year, clocking a 16:53 on a challenging Derryfield Park course, and is the second-highest returning runner in the division behind Coe-Brown’s Jamie Lano.

MERRIMACK VALLEY

Division: II

Coaches: Brian Reynolds (boys, 2nd year) and Dave Irving (girls, 21st year)

Last year: Boys 11th; Girls 8th

Top returners: Boys: Mychal Reynolds, jr.; Nathan Bain, so.; Ben Newton, so.; Samuel Jensen, sr.; Silas Webb, jr. Girls: Lily Moser, so.; Maddy Geddes, jr. Sydney Spack, so.; Kendra Davidson, jr.

Top newcomers: Boys: Chris Bode, fr.; Tony Wang, fr.; Ben Geoffroy, fr. Girls: Emily Baca, fr.; Reagan Jefferson, fr.; Elizabeth Henderson, sr.

Outlook: “We are young, with five returners and seven rookies,” Reynolds said. “We are working hard to see what we can do this year and build for the future.”

The girls return four of its top five from last year’s team, but will be looking for the elusive fifth scorer.

“Moser and Geddes in particular have been running very well in the preseason,” Irving said. “How well we compete at the end of the season will depend entirely on how well we can develop a fifth runner.”

Teams to beat: Boys: Souhegan, Hanover, Coe-Brown. Girls: Oyster River, Souhegan.

PEMBROKE

Division: II

Coach: Alaina LaRochelle (1st year)

Last year: Boys 13th; Girls DNS

Top returners: Boys: Jackson Walker, sr.; Sam Nereson, sr.; Caleb Saturley, so.; Hayden Petersons, so.; Zachary Heichlinger, so.; Matthew Palleschi, so. Girls: Jasmine Blake, so.

Outlook: “We are excited to create a fun culture with a younger team that will build into the foundation for successful years ahead,” LaRochelle said.

Teams to beat: Coe-Brown

BISHOP BRADY

Division: III

Coach: Bill Heath (22nd year)

Last year: Boys 20th; Girls DNS

Top returners: Boys: Paul Badau, sr.; Lee Putnam, so.; Alan Yap, sr.; Calen Chaudhari, jr.; Jessie Putnam (junior). Girls: Alyssa LaValley, sr.; Elizabeth McKinney, jr.; Avery Sahr, jr.

Top newcomers: Boys: Earl Mitchell, fr. Girls: Elise Barnard, fr.

Outlook: The Giants have several returners back and look to improve on the boys’ side, while the girls finally have enough runners this year to get a team score in meets.

Teams to beat: Hopkinton, Mascenic

HOPKINTON

Division: III

Coach: Rob Rothe (8th year)

Last year: Boys 7th; Girls D-III champions

Top returners: Boys: Ben Daniels, sr.; Matt Clarner, sr.; Liam O’Rourke, sr.; Anthony Cauley; Adrian Whiteknact, so. Girls: Shaylee Murdough, jr.; Reese Bove, jr.; Elizabeth Trafton, sr.; Amelia Walsh, jr.

Top newcomers: Boys: James Lavers, fr.; Girls: Maddy Lane, fr.

Outlook: While the girls are going through some attrition, the boys’ team returns its entire team and has added enough runners to more than double its size from last year. “With Daniels (fifih in D-II last year) and Clarner (sixth) leading the way, this young group has some great potential for the future,” Rothe said. “I’m excited to see what they can do this year with so many new members.”

“The girls’ team will look a little different than the previous few years,” Rothe said. “Having lost half the team to graduation last year, the roster is a little thinner. Though they might not have the depth they have had, they remain a focused, committed and driven group that works hard and still has a lot of fun. Along with a strong team culture that has brought them much success, they are excited to welcome freshman Maddy Lane to add to their special dynamic.”

The Hawks appear to be in good form on both sides, sweeping the team titles at the Gilford Early Bird Invitational to open the 2023 season.

Teams to beat: Boys: Trinity. Girls: Mascenic.

KEARSARGE

Division: III

Coach: Justin Garzia (3rd year)

Last year: Boys 8th; Girls 5th

Top returners: Boys: Daniel Dalbec, jr.; Quinton Cloutier, sr. Girls: Molly Ellison, sr.; Amelia Lefebvre, sr.; Ellie Wimer jr.

Outlook: With smaller roster numbers it will be hard for the Cougars to compete   on a team level, but the Cougars have some strong individual runners. Ellison finished third in D-III last year and won the Gilford Early Bird Invitational to open this season. Dalbec was the boys’  runner-up at the Gilford Early Bird.

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