MOVING ON. The Melrose High boys’ cross country team punched their ticket to the Div. 2 State Finals. Pictured, from left, Mike Cotugno, Ben Donovan, Ellis lurilli-Hough, Stone Liu, Ryan Cotugno, Matt Fox, Will Dugan, Caleb Barnes, Nick Sasso, Peter Story and coach Kevin Allison. (courtesy photo)


Heading to Div. 2 Finals on Saturday

GARDNER—The Melrose boys cross-country team, which started their divisional season at 0-2, has come all the way back and have raced their way into the Massachusetts Division 2 Finals, which will be held on Saturday at the Wrentham Development Center. There are only 7 places available out of a field of 32 and Melrose grabbed one of them, finishing 4th.

Melrose’s top 2 runners all year have been Ellis Iurilli-Hough and Will Dugan and once again they led the way. Dugan finished an outstanding 11th in 17:15 in this highly competitive race on an extremely wet and slow course. Iurilli-Hough was 3 seconds behind for 15th, earning the last medal. The Big 2 became the Big 3 for Melrose though as Ryan Cotugno who has had a late season surge was just 4 seconds behind Ellis for 17th. Caleb Barnes was the top freshman in the entire race as he finished 36th in 17:54. Matt Fox and Stone Liu closed out the scoring with identical 18:10 times. Nick Sasso was next in 18:46. Each team gets to run 7 and Melrose displayed their unique depth as Sasso was the fastest 7th man in the entire field.

Coach Kevin Allison was thrilled with the performance and impressed with his team. “We’ve really been pointing towards this race for 2 years and everyone delivered. These athletes have a remarkable work ethic and passion for the sport and competition. Today’s gutsy performance was great to watch and to make it to the finals is an achievement you can cherish forever. I am happy for them. So many things have to come together to make it and it did.”

The Middlesex League Freedom division which is only 6 teams, took 3 of the top 4 places in this race as Burlington finished 1st and Wakefield 2, showing the dominance of the league.

Next week the competition gets even tougher as the field goes to the 23 teams from Div. 2A, 2B, and 2C who have qualified. Coach Allison is hoping to be in the top half or better. “If we can recover from today’s total effort and match that performance I think we will finish in the top 10. We have been getting better every week and I think we have more great race in us. I’m sure once they step up to that line on Saturday they will be ready to compete.”