NORTHFIELD — For the past three years, the Lowell boys’ cross-country team had come agonizingly close to winning the Division 1 state title.
After a fourth-place finish in 2009, the Red Raiders were runners-up to Brookline the next two seasons.
“We’ve been knocking on the door,” said coach Phil Maia. “It was nice that someone opened the door for us.”
With five runners in the top 35, Lowell claimed its first state title Saturday at the MIAA all-state meet at Northfield Mountain. The Red Raiders’ score of 96 topped Westfield (149) and Shrewsbury (175).
Without a runner in the top 10, Lowell relied on depth. Patrick Coppinger led the way, placing 13th in 16:30.70, followed by Michael Kalenoski (16:42.67) and Nicholas McArdle (16:43.61) in 22d and 23d respectively. John Abraham finished 28th and Randy Nong was 35th.
“We basically treat everyone the same way,” said Maia, in his 25th year as coach. “We believe natural ability will separate those individuals, but we’re coaching a team, and the strength of the program is based on the team. If you just focus on one individual, your program could be a seesaw, up and down.”
Jonathan Green of St. John’s (Shrewsbury) defended his state title in record-breaking fashion. The senior set an all-state mark with a time of 15:29.67, defeating Mike O’Donnell of Methuen (15:41.92) and Colin Bennie of Wachusett (15:42.16).
“My training led up to this, and led up to doing well for sure,” Green said. “I didn’t know the time I was going to throw down was going to be that fast.”
Pembroke earned its third state title in four years in Division 2, boosted by juniors Christian Stafford (16:20.18) and John Valeri (16:20.50), who finished fourth and fifth respectively. The Titans’ team score of 46 topped Bishop Feehan (67) and Newburyport (161).
“Cross-country is really the ultimate team sport, and these guys ran to a T the perfect race today,” said Pembroke coach Greg Zopatti. “They ran as a team.”
All seven Titans finished in the top 54. Patrick Cunningham (16:42.57) was 11th, and Billy Stafford (16:56.11) came in 16th, followed by Lucas Tocher in 35th, Phillip Martin in 51st, and Mike McMahon in 54th.
Pembroke finished second to Bishop Feehan last year by 2 points, which Zopatti said was motivation for his team.
“Last year I think we got a little complacent, a little comfortable,” Zopatti said. “It was, ‘Hey, we can throw the jersey on and we’re going to get the W.’
“Last year gave us a real wake-up call. This year we got our edge back.”
Lenox Memorial senior Scott Carpenter won the Division 2 race in 15:55.75, ahead of Paul Hogan of Burlington (16:03.34) and Matt Herzig of Weston (16:11.78).
“This has been my goal since, honestly, eighth grade,” said Carpenter, who finished third last year. “For it to come true is just amazing.”