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Thorne is on fast track to Louisville

The race to sign Portsmouth (N.H.) High runner Cory Thorne is over, and the winner is the University of Louisville.

Thorne, who captured his first New England cross-country title Nov. 13 by navigating the 5-kilometer Wickham Park course in East Hartford, Conn., in 16 minutes, 6 seconds, put an end to the recruiting chase three days later by signing a letter-of-intent to attend Louisville, where he will compete on the cross-country and outdoor track teams.

The 17-year-old, who has won New England titles in both the indoor and outdoor 2-mile and was a national finalist in the Footlocker Cross-Country championships last season, said his decision came down to Louisville, Maryland, and the University of New Hampshire. Thorne passed on UNH because it was too close to home and because he felt a connection with the Louisville coaches -- Ron Mann, head coach of the Cardinals cross-country and outdoor track programs, and his assistant, Brice Allen, who coaches Louisville's distance runners.

''The coaches are what I'm looking for," said Thorne, who ended the scholastic season with the fifth-fastest 5K cross-country time in the nation (15:01). ''I was looking for coaches that are cool off the track -- someone I can get along with -- but on the track I want a serious coach who knows what it takes to get stuff done. They're the perfect coaches."

Prior to this season, Mann coached at Northern Arizona, where he produced 107 All-Americans and five Olympians in 24 years. Thorne said Mann has already told him that his build translates to Olympic potential outdoors in the steeplechase. The opportunity to run right away was important to Thorne, who also was swayed by Louisville's impending switch to the Big East in 2005.

''I didn't want to go somewhere like Arkansas, where they have 30 kids on the cross-country team and I might be 15th," said Thorne. ''At Louisville I can come in and I might be fourth or fifth."

Arsenault a top defender at Tufts
Adam Arsenault
of Everett, a freshman linebacker on the Tufts University football team, was recently named the New England Small College Athletic Conference Defensive Rookie of the Year. The former Everett High standout ended the season as the third-leading tackler for Tufts, racking up 52 stops (25 solo) in eight games for the Jumbos, who went 2-6. Arsenault also was named to the NESCAC's second-team All-Conference defensive squad.

Haverhill athletesfinish among top 10
Haverhill High runners posted the two fastest times among local participants at the All-State Cross-Country meet last Saturday in Gardner. On the boys' side, senior Jefferson Welch placed seventh in the Division 1 race, completing the 2.9-mile course in 14:40. Hillies sophomore Colleen McNaughton finished 10th in the girls' Division 1 race with a time of 17:37. The top local finisher was Marblehead girls' cross-country runner Brooke Maguire, who came in fifth in the Division 2 girls' race with a time of 17:42, two spots ahead of teammate Kylynn McKinley.

Hourihan named All-New England
Lynnfield girls' soccer standout Sara Hourihan was one of nine players from Eastern Mass. to be named an All-New England selection.

Hourihan, the Cape Ann League's Player of the Year, led the CAL in scoring with 24 goals and 14 assists during the regular season. The senior striker also helped Lynnfield fashion a 44-game unbeaten streak, dating back to September 2003, and win its second consecutive Division 3 state title.

The Pioneers shared the state championship with Sutton after the teams played to a 1-1 double-overtime tie last Saturday at Worcester State College.

Exeter runnerssweep Prep titles
The Phillips Exeter Academy cross-country teams swept the New England Prep School Division 1 titles. The boys, led by Croatia's Arno Ferguson, who captured the individual title, completed an undefeated season when they topped rival Phillips Andover on Nov. 13 at the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., to take home the New England crown.

The girls matched the boys' feat, capping an undefeated season with a convincing victory in the New England championship. Lauren Brady of Tyngsboro and Laura Tabor of Portsmouth, N.H., finished 1-2 to lead the way for Exeter.

Here and there
Haverhill's Eric Schena, who broke his own Bentley College diving record earlier this season against Le Moyne College with a two-event combined score of 430.60 points, qualified to compete in the 1-meter diving competition at the NCAA Division 2 Swimming and Diving Championships, finishing second at the Bentley Invitational last Sunday with a score of 282.55.

Newburyport boys' basketball coach Mike Kasprzak has been named the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches' Association Division 3 North Coach of the Year.

Former Melrose High standout Shannon Kirwan scored a career-high 17 points to lead the Bentley College women's basketball team to a 66-62 victory in the third-place game of the Wolf's Bus Lines Tournament last Saturday in Shippensburg, Pa.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com.

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