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Canton’s Max Sparks finishes 9th to earn All-New England honors in cross country

Canton’s Max Sparks (26) runs with the leaders at Saturday’s New England championships in Belfast, Maine. (Photo courtesy New Hampshire Cross

Canton’s Max Sparks earned All-New England honors with a ninth place finish at the 83rd New England cross country championships on Saturday in Belfast, Maine at Troy Howard Middle School.

It’s the best finish ever for a Canton cross country runner at the New England championships, topping the 11th place finish by Mike LeDuc in 2009. Sparks ran the 3.1 mile course in 16:00.81 – the best-ever time by a Canton runner at the New Englands.

State Open champion Drew Thompson of Fairfield Prep pulled away early to easily win the New England championship by 32 seconds over Riley Fenoff of Danville, Vermont. Sparks was ninth, finishing with a crowd of about five runners.

“He ran a good race,” Canton coach Tim O’Donnell said. “Second place was only 12 seconds away but it was a hard, gritty effort in some very difficult weather conditions. He definitely put his all into it.”

Canton’s Max Sparks (26) tries to keep his balance in Saturday’s New England championship race in Belfast, Maine. Sparks finished ninth. (Photo courtesy New Hampshire Cross

It was cold in Maine on Saturday and the course was a bit muddy. Sparks started out with the leaders in the first mile. Thompson and Fenoff began to pull away early but Sparks stayed with the first pack. But the pace was quick and Sparks faded a bit in the middle of the race.

But Sparks rallied in the final quarter mile, passing several runners who were ahead of him earlier in the race.

Sparks is the third All-New England runner in school history. LeDuc (2011) and Brian Magna (17th in 2008) also earned All-New England honors. For Sparks, it was his second appearance in the New England championships, having finished 26th a year ago. A week ago, Sparks was seventh in the State Open with a time of 16:21 at Wickham Park in Manchester.

Only 13 schools have produced three All-New England runners in the past decade including Rhode Island’s LaSalle Academy (8), Bishop Hendricken, Mass., (7), Staples (7), Pinkerton Academy, NH (7), Ridgefield (6), Glastonbury (6), Amity (6), Hall (6), Xavier (5), Chariho, RI (5), Joel Barlow (5), Tolland (5) and Fairfield Warde (4). Conard, Bishop Guertin, Falmouth ME and Mount Blue, ME have had three All-New England runners in the last 10 years.

2017 New England Championships
At Belfast Maine
Team results – 1. Xavier 74, 2. Staples 103, 3. Bishop Hendricken RI 126, 4. LaSalle Academy RI 159, 5. Concord NH 202, 6. Fairfield Warde 212, 7. Fairfield Prep 224, 8. Haddam-Killingworth 266, 9. Hall 328, 10. U-32, VT 343
Individual results – 1. Drew Thompson, Fairfield Prep 15:16, 2. Riley Fenoff, Danville School VT 15:48, 3. Brendan Murray, Cheshire 15:51, 4. Max Dimuccio, LaSalle RI 15:52, 5. Benjamine Seiple, Staples, 15:53, 6. Robert Dillon, Shelton 15:54, 7. Christian Mayers, Staples 15:56, 8. Luke Laverdiere, Yarmouth ME 15:59, 9. Max Sparks, Canton, 16:00.81, 10. Yahya Nure, Deering ME 16:01.23, 11. William Landowe, Staples, 16:01.73, 12. Dillon Selfors, Xavier 16:02.03, 13. Owen Curran, Xavier, 16:02.32, 14. Forest MacKenzie, Concord NH, 16:02.75, 15. Joe Pearl, Manchester CT 16:03
Runners completing the race: 253

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years.

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