By: Kate Queeney, USATF-NE XC Committee Member

As visions of turkey, a possible winter storm and Mass Pike traffic dance in the heads of runners across the region, New England’s harriers are gearing up for the final race in the 2014 Cross Country Grand Prix series, the Warrior Run on Sunday, Nov. 30 at Larz Anderson Park in Brookline, MA.

At the fourth race in the series, the USATF-NE Championships at Franklin Park on Nov. 9, the men and women of the BAA showed that unicorns aren’t afraid to get their hooves dirty. Team and individual results from this race are nicely summarized on the USATF-NE website.

A look at both team and individual standings in the Grand Prix shows that some races will indeed come down to this final contest—or, as Patty Smyth once put it, “And heart to heart you’ll win, if you survive the warrior.” On the men’s side, GBTC has a healthy lead, but should the unicorns or the team from New Balance Boston choose to race outside Franklin Park, things could get interesting. Right now 2nd through 6th places (BAA, SISU, NBB, WMDP and HFC) are each separated by 1 point. In the open women’s team competition, GBTC holds a healthy lead over 2nd place WMDP and 3rd place BAA. The women of GBTC have won every head-to-head contest with WMDP during the series, these two teams being the only ones to have scored in all 4 events so far.

At the masters level, both the men’s and women’s races are too close to call. The men of HFC hold a 2-point lead over the masters squad from GLRR, with BAA again making an appearance in the top 3 by virtue of only two (dominant) team performances at Mayor’s Cup and the New England Championships. On the women’s side, WMDP took the series lead after winning a squeaker over Liberty at the New England Championships, but both the Hot Flashes of GDTC and the masters women of GLRR are still in contention for the series. Both the 50+ (GLRR) and 60+ (GBTC) men’s team competitions appear to be settled already, and while GDTC leads the 50+ women’s competition, GLRR is still a serious contender in 2nd place. Individual leaders Mark Reeder (50-59) and Trish Bourne (50-59), both of GLRR, have sewn up their respective divisions and could choose to stay home Sunday, though we suspect they won’t. In all other divisions the title could come down to who chooses to stay safe and warm this Sunday, and who chooses to get up early and make the drive to Brookline, knowing that a trip home with a few thousand other Commonwealthers awaits.

If the prospect of forgoing other Turkey Trots and couch-dwelling doesn’t entice you, perhaps this description of the Larz Anderson course—courtesy of HFC’s Jason Cakouros, former XC Committee Chair—will:

“. . .brutally hilly. The grass always seems really high too. . . The first loop is rolling to fast. The other loop has a big grass uphill, grass downhill, an egregious hill around a row of trees and monument thingy seemingly run just to torture us and then a gradual grass climb back to the fun loop.”

If that doesn’t sound like fun to you, you’re reading the wrong blog. Happy Thanksgiving from the USATF-NE Cross Country committee, and we look forward to seeing you in Brookline, where unicorns, wolves, chickens and mascots of unknown identity will seek to answer Patty Smyth’s plaintive query: “Who’s the hunter, who’s the game?”