The first six across the line in last year's 800m race at the State Meet were all seniors. That means, except for two runners, Acton-Boxborugh's Colin Grip (seventh) and Andover's Devin Connell (eighth), a relatively fresh new batch will occupy the podium at the June 3 meet.
Grip and Connell are certainly worthy contenders to earn the coveted 800m crown. This past winter, Grip was a runner-up in the 1,000m at the All State Meet and finished with a best of 2:29.76 for the five-lapper, the state's second fastest time. Connell was third in the 1K at states and second in the event at the New England Championships. Also coming back are Bishop Fenwick's Shawn Carlson and Westfield's Ryan Prenosil. All four runners have clocked a time faster than 1:56 for 800m. Among other runners capable of contending up front of Lexington's Thomas Lingard, who was the state's 1,000m champion and competed in the 800m at the New Balance Nationals where he was timed in a PR of 1:56.34. The question on Lingard is will he compete in the mile or the 800m or perhaps both at the All State Meet? He's a sub 4:20 miler and will have a little more than an hour between events. If he decides to focus primarily on the 800m, he's capable of clocking a time in the low 1:50 range, certainly a time that could earn him prosperity at the end.
The mile should be a heavily-contested event with the potential to have Lingard, Lowell's Chris Polanco, Newton North's Alex Montague, St. John Prep's Tristan Shelgren, St. John' Shrewsbury's Ben Kovacs and Newburyport's Jack Carleo all on the starting line. All six runners have dipped under 4:20 for the mile this season. Carleo clocked a state best of 4:13. Shelgren won the All-State Meet back in February where he ran a PB of 4:15.93 and Kovacs placed third overall with a PB of 4:16.79.
The two mile could prove equally exciting. A leg injury sidelined Peabody's Marcelo Rocha, the state's Division 1 cross-country champion, this past indoor season. If Rocha's injury is healed and he can return to peak form, he'll be the runner to beat in this event. But it won't be easy. And it all depends on who answers the gun at the championship meet. At last year's Eastern Division 1 Championships, Rocha edged Shelgren with his all-time best of 9:10.23 to his rival's 9:10.43. There's also Arlington's Ryan Oosting, Newton North's Andrew Mah, Polanco and Wellesley's Benjamin Matejka that could figure in the mix. Oosting is coming off a great race at the New Balance Nationals where he was tenth overall with a best of 9:12.59. Mah captured the indoor states and was third at the New England's where he had PB of 9:13.61. Polanco ran 9:16.15 and Matejka clocked 9:18.46 at the NE meet.