CHESHIRE -- Jared Haley's taunting words played on a loop in Travis Ciempa's head.
"Gonna beat your record? Gonna beat your record?"
Haley is going to have to find something new to rib his Hoosac Valley teammate about. Ciempa crushed the Hurricanes' home course and smashed his record by 28 seconds to finish in 16 minutes, 40 seconds.
"It was kinda getting annoying," Ciempa said about Haley's teasing. Afterward, Haley mustered the obvious.
"Congrats, dude," he said.
If anything, Ciempa's performance was a teaser for what's ahead at the Western Massachusetts meet, where he'll get one last crack at Lenox's Tucker McNinch, who didn't race Wednesday to the disappointment of nearly everyone who showed up to see the runners' battle.
The team battle wasn't really one. Like they did at Berkshire Community College, the Hurricanes' runners finished 1-2-3. Haley didn't do too shabby, eclipsing Ciempa's previous course record of 17:08 by two ticks. Twin brother Trevor Ciempa finished in 17:19, helping Hoosac cement wins over Monument Mountain, BART and Lenox. The scores were 25-32, 16-45 and 17-42, respectively.
"The guys up front, they've earned everything that anybody wants to say about them," Hoosac coach Ron Namislo said. "I'm been pushing the crap out of them."
Wahconah cross country meet (with video)
The only lingering question is whether Travis can catch McNinch at Western Mass.
McNinch didn't race for fear of spending himself before the upcoming invitational at Brown University. Ciempa said McNinch told him he strained a knee earlier in the week.
The idea was also floated that McNinch ducked Ciempa. If that's the case, it will, undoubtedly, make the runners' final encounter more enticing, if it wasn't already a headline-grabber.
For now, Namislo is content waiting to see his best runner and McNinch square off. McNinch beat Ciempa at Lenox earlier, in part, because Namislo handcuffed Ciempa.
"I refused to let him go after him," Namislo said. "He wasn't ready."
Even Wednesday, Namislo cautioned Ciempa until the decision was made for him.
"I didnt really want him to go crazy," Namislo said. "We're gonna go after Tucker at Western Mass. Didn't really want him to do it here, but I wasn't gonna let Travis give up the record. So we had talked about, ‘Yeah, go after him and see what you can do.' "
The ghost of McNinch worked just as well for Ciempa, who raced as if the his rival from Lenox was there.
"I was talking to one of my friends before the race and I said, ‘I'm just going to pretend Tucker's running in front of me the whole way.' "
In other boys scores, Lenox topped BART (16-47); BART slid past Lee (28-29); Lee clipped Everett (27-28); and Monument Mountain eased past Everett (15-50).
No one was really ever in front of Monument Mountain's Heather Hassett, who clinched her third win of the year in 20:14. Hassett said, for the first time this season, she had to dig deep.
"I hadn't really hit any breaking points," she said. "Uphill, uphill, uphill for what seems like forever."
Monument picked up wins against Lenox (19-44), BART (15-50) and Mount Everett (15-48) in clinching their second straight South Division title.
"They deserve everything they've been getting so far," Monument Mountain coach Chris Unsworth said. "We haven't run many races with these kind of hills. Tough to simulate in practice. You have to take it on as a challenge. It's about trusting your conditioning."
Unsworth was quick to credit Hassett's grit, especially since Wednesday was the first time his runners faced hilly terrain.
"She just battles no matter what the obstacle is," he said. "She wants to be out in front of races like this. She's as tough as they come. It's fun to watch her go up against a group of hills like this. Had a feeling she'd get the better of the hills, and she did."
Lenox's Alice Najimy and Haylee Bowas of Lee rounded out the top three. Hoosac's Sydnee Gallup finished fourth, in 21:05, learning something about herself in the process.
"Everyone has a lot more at the end if they're willing to use it," she said.
In girls' dual action, Hoosac edged BART (15-48) and lost to Lenox (23-37). Lenox beat BART; Lee dropped BART (23-32) and Everett (21-37).
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