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HIGH SCHOOL CROSS-COUNTRY NOTEBOOK

At BC High, Chris Larnard and Hugh Licklider have set a dominant pace for the soaring Eagles

Senior Hugh Licklider (left) and junior Chris Larnard (right) get in a warm-up stretch with the rest of the BC High cross-country team before a recent practice.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Boston College High junior Chris Larnard and senior teammate Hugh Licklider rocketed out to the lead during Tuesday’s victory in a dual meet against Catholic Memorial at Franklin Park. The two went so fast they logged a sub-five-minute first mile — prompting coach Seth Kirby to dial back their pace.

“He was like, ‘Tone it back a little.’ We were going way too fast,” Larnard said. “We had to slow down a lot after that. We didn’t really know what to do.”

Larnard was in an unfamiliar position. Senior Will Locke had been sidelined because of COVID-19, and Larnard ascended to No. 1 runner status during Locke’s absence. Taking the lead and setting the pace is an entirely different responsibility, and places new psychological challenges on the top runner.

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“Before the race, I was super nervous because I’d never been feeling that sort of pressure before,” Larnard said.

The Eagles have faced an early depth test with Locke’s short-term shelving. Sophomore Shamus Larnard, Chris’s brother, has yet to compete this season after breaking his ankle playing basketball over the summer.

‘Whoever is the fastest kid in the race, he wants to run with. He just loves competing’

BC High cross-country coach Seth Kirby on No. 1 runner Chris Larnard

But the next up on BC High’s 95-man roster have kept the team rolling to a 2-0 start. Kirby, in his 26th year as head coach, manages the massive group with three varsity A, B, and C levels instead of JV and freshman teams. He says it allows runners the flexibility to move between groups as they progress.

“You just migrate over the season based on mileage, so I think we’re pretty careful,” he said. “I think a big component of a program is progression, but in multiple ways of progressing mileage, progressing intensity and whatnot.”

BC High junior Chris Larnard (left) and senior Hugh Licklider (second from left) have set the pace this season for the Eagles cross-country team.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Larnard is one example of that progression. The junior has risen up the program since seventh grade with an insatiable competitive thirst as one of seven Larnard siblings. It’s a talented group that includes older sister, Annabelle Larnard, a former Globe All-Scholastic basketball player who starred at Fontbonne Academy and is going into her senior season at Boston University.

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As the temporary top runner, Larnard is learning patience can a benefit to him and his teammates.

“Whoever is the fastest kid in the race, he wants to run with. He just loves competing,” Kirby said. “So I love that about him. But sometimes it’s smarter to be patient.”

BC High cross-country coach Seth Kirby has tried to preach patience to his runners eager to make a move to the front. "Sometimes it's smarter to be patient," Kirby said.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Behind Larnard, Licklider has emerged as the Eagles’ breakout performer. The senior had barely been scratching the top five in 2021, but after a stellar summer, he’s holding the second spot for the time being.

“I would say I am pretty nervous about it, but when the gun goes off, I’m kind of locked in,” Licklider said.

As the Eagles continue to soar, Locke has been working his way back from COVID-19 symptoms. The senior plans to return this Saturday in the Ocean State Invitational. He’s been the No. 1 runner the past two seasons, and watched his team from a distance against Catholic Memorial.

“It was just really exciting seeing all the teammates work together and seeing people step up,” Locke said.

BC High hopes to be at full strength by the end of the fall. But even when runners are back in their projected slots, the experience Larnard, Licklider and others have gained early in the season should pay dividends when the state meets arrive.

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“What we did on Tuesday, where we went super fast in the first mile — I think that’s definitely a situation that has to be replicated at the All-State meet,” Licklider said. “You have to really learn: How fast are you willing to go out? Because otherwise, you might get boxed in with a ton of other runners. So I think you have to learn to race, rather than run even paces.”

Keeping up the pace

▪ The Acton-Boxborough girls made an early statement with their performance at the Amherst Invitational 5K last Saturday. The Revolution won with 41 points and placed four runners in the top eight: Catherine Callahan (2nd, 19:22), Paige McInerney (3rd, 19:38), Elizabeth Latham (5th, 19:54), and Clementine Garro (8th, 20:19).

“I think we just went there to run a 5k course and see how healthy everybody was, and I knew that the girls would do well,” said coach Lisa Owen. “A couple of them were not not 100 percent, and so we just went out to see what was happening with them and how they were doing at the early part of the season.”

Callahan and Latham, juniors who are returning Globe All-Scholastics, laid down strong times despite not feeling fully healthy. McInerney, also a junior, could be a breakout performer for the team.

“She’s just become steady-strong,” Owen said. “She’s been really smart with her training. She knows when to push when we’ve talked about it; she knows when to pull back. She knows when her body can’t handle more, and she’s done it right all the way along. So she is improving bit by bit and I’m just thrilled to have her in this position right now.”

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The Frank Kelley Invitational takes place Saturday and will bring a haul of the state’s best teams for one of the biggest races on the MSTCA calendar. Director of cross-country Dennis Sheppard estimated approximately 2,650 runners will compete in groups ranging from middle school to an open adult 5K.

The meet starts at 9:00 a.m., with the high school championship races scheduled for noon and 12:30 p.m. No. 2 Newton North, No. 4 Brookline and No. 5 Burlington should be among the boys’ favorites, while No. 2 Marshfield, No. 3 Brookline and No. 4 Wellesley are expected to pace the girls.

▪ If a top team isn’t at the Frank Kelley, it’s probably headed to the Ocean State Invitational, also on Saturday in Warwick, RI. The top-ranked St. John’s Prep boys and No. 1 Holliston girls will be in attendance.

Meets to watch

Tuesday, No. 8 Wakefield at Melrose boys, 3:45 — The defending Division 2 champion Warriors face a Middlesex League foe and sophomore Caleb Barnes, who set a course record for the Red Raiders this week.

Wednesday, No. 15 Pentucket at Newburyport girls, 3:30 — The Panthers and Clippers are both undefeated in Cape Ann League action so far.

Wednesday, No. 9 Natick vs. No. 4 Brookline at Milton boys, 4:00 — The Red Hawks are coming off a narrow loss to third-ranked Newton North, but have another tough test against the Warriors in this tri-meet.

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Wednesday, No. 9 Needham vs. No. 11 Weymouth at Braintree girls, 4:00 — The Rockets and Wildcats, a pair of Globe Top 20 teams, meet in a Bay State Conference tri-meet.

Wednesday, No. 3 Oliver Ames at Sharon boys, 4:00 — The Eagles have stormed out to a 2-0 start, but will face a tall task in the Tigers, who are also 2-0.

Wednesday, No. 4 Wellesley at No. 20 Newton North girls, 4:00 — The Tigers can get out of the bubble with a strong performance against the Raiders.