By Mike Miller
The knock on the All State Meet in Massachusetts has always been the same- having two stud athletes puts you in a position to win, even if you don't have much of a team to back them up. Heck, there was even one instance where, during indoor track, Medford's girls team led the meet going into the 4x400, with Arantxa King being the only athlete from the squad at the meet. Medford didn't need the bus that year, their team could have ridden in on a Segway Scooter or a Vespa.
However, this time around, the team concept was backed up by Newton North's girls and Mansfield's boys teams, proof that it takes a whole lot more than one athlete to win an All State title. Yes, Josh Lampron and Carla Forbes helped their teams' respective causes, but it took a whole lot more than that to pull the victories out. On a day when the feeling was "finally, this meet is going to happen," some wondered what the three day delay to the meet at Fitchburg State would hold in store.
The Hornets got things going with a clutch 5th place performance from senior Kevin Giffels in the 400 meter hurdles (55.60), 4 key points that would kick start them toward the title. Cameron Hebert (53.73) of Masconomet would take the win, just nosing out Tyler Mulcahy of Weymouth (54.24), thanks to a strong last two hurdles.
Another team title contender, eventual runner-up Pembroke, got eight points it needed in the 2 mile, in a spirited race that saw Wachusett's Colin Bennie (9:07.44) outlast Titan Wesley Gallagher (9:08.93) and King Philip's Chris Allen. Bennie pulled ahead from Gallagher with 600 meters to go, and although Gallagher made a strong move in the final 200 meters, Bennie had too much speed and held him off. After two events, Mansfield was edged by its would-be closest competitor 8-5, but more fireworks were in store.
After 1400 meters of the mile, a shadow of doubt might have crept in as to whether Josh Lampron was going to be his normal self, as he trailed Marshfield senior, and Syracuse bound, Joel Hubbard by a step. But Lamp was able to make space and cruise to the win in 4:07.88, just ahead of Hubbard's 4:09.27 runner-up finish in what was a rematch of last week's DII East matchup. What stunned the crowd the most was the ease with which Lampron was able to close out such a blazing time, just two seconds off of Victor Gras's 2004 meet record.
Field event results began trickling in at this point, and Pembroke's Kris Horn (22'9") just edged Hingham sophomore Andrew Bolze (22'7") in the long jump to put Pembroke back on top, albeit briefly. A closer-than-expected high jump battle also ensues, with defending champ Khary-Bailey-Smith of Weymouth (6'8") taking the title away from Chicopee Comp's Alex Nieimec, Dedham's Sean Birchall, and Kory Breiwick, all of whom cleared 6'6". Another title contender, Newton North, got on the board with Swardiq Mayanja (56'8.25") taking runner-up to North Attleboro's Eric Beckwith (57'10.25") in the shot put, but North would not make a serious charge for the title the rest of the day.
What transpired next essentially would seal the meet for Mansfield for good. With heavy favorite Nathan Pierre-Louis (49.83) beginning to tie up down the stretch of the 400, Matt Baldasare (49.30) took full advantage, simply outleaning A-B's Brian Sommers (49.42) at the tape. It was a huge swing event for the Hornets, who now commanded their fate, and with Josh Lampron waiting in the wings in the open 800, it would have taken an upset to knock them off of their high horse. Lamp did not disappoint, breaking Bill Martin's meet record (1:52.2) by annihilating the field in 1:51.99. Somerville's Andre Rollim (1:53.38) and Oliver Ames's Sean Gorham (1:53.69) ran strong races, and Pembroke's Joe Vercollone (1:54.13) kept the Titans in the game, but Mansfield now held a 34-23 lead, and would not hand it over again.
The sprint finals had plenty of excitement as well, with Donovan Henry of Catholic Memorial (21.87) outrunning a field that was led by Hingham sophomore Andrew Bolze, a name that will register loudly for the next two years. King Philip's Charles Ruffin (10.75) edged Falmouth freshman Craig Green (10.89) in the 100 meters, an event most freshman are happy just to run JV races in, let alone hang a silver medal at the All State Meet around their neck. Juan Maysonete of Westfield took the 110 meter hurdles (14.65), but Mansfield got another key performance from 4th place Brian Ferreira, who upped their point total to 39.
Dana Pagliuca (46'3.25") dominated the triple jump, and when Pembroke's Kris Horn could only muster 5th place, Mansfield had essentially clinched the meet. The Titans only had the winning 4x800 team left, and thanks to the Stafford brothers, Christian and Billy, Vercollone, and Gallagher (7:54.46) they would run away from Andover, Marshfield, and Wachusett. Donovan Henry came back and helped CM win the 4x100 (42.69), just outleaning Lawrence (42.85) in a very fast relay. Hingham's Brian Sullivan (164'11") lapped the field in the discus, twelve feet better than runner-up Mayanja of Newton North. Trinity Catholic's TJ Noonan (182'6") was just two inches better than Algonquin's Jordan Entwhistle in the javelin.
The final boys events, both very different to watch, brought much excitement. When Westford Academy's Brendan Sullivan cleared 15'3" in the pole vault, he now had a meet record all to himself, after he tied Newton South's Ross McDonald's 15'0" mark a year ago. Then, a 4x400 that featured an impressive 14 teams under 3:30, went to Acton-Boxboro (3:21.46), whose anchor Brian Sommers gained a tiny bit of retribution from Mansfield's Matt Baldasare(3:22.33) but edging him at the tape. No matter to Mansfield, they had secured 49 points and the team title over runner-up Pembroke.
The girls meet featured a bit less team drama, Newton North was never closely challenged, although they did most of their scoring later in the meet. The two mile featured an easy first half from champion Cat Rocha of Peabody (10:45.50), but the next pack of Olivia Brackett of Weston (10:57.23), Abby McNulty of Bishop Feehan (10:59.95), Longmeadow's Camille Blackman, and D-Y's Jordan O'Dea showed a great deal of fight throughout. The mile had a bit more drama, as Foxboro freshman Liz Holmes (5:00.23) used a 68 second first lap to create space form the field, only to watch it slip away in the final meters, as Belchertown's Madison Granger (4:59.90) used every inch of the track to take the win.
Mansfield's Jen Esposito (1:02.17) dominated the 400 hurdles, beating Wellesley's Karla Ganley (1:03.49) to the tape, and the leaving rest of the field in her wake. Esposito made up the stagger on the field by the first hurdle, taking an "I want this more than you" approach to what has become her race in this state. Newton North would begin its scoring with the field events, as Carla Forbes easily took the triple jump (40'0") ahead of Brockton's Vanessa Clerveaux (36'10"). Although top-seeded Steph Brown did not secure the pole vault, she was able to earn eight more key points behind winner Casey Teska of Nashoba (11'6"). North was going after field events and relays, and getting it done in so doing.
Winchester's Jackie Vahey (123'8") gave them a huge win in the discus, narrowly edging Westborough's Naloti Palma (122'3"), both of whom crushed the remainder of the field. East Longmeadow's Lauren Kennedy took the javelin by a similar margin, nearly five feet, heaving the spear 130'2". Wakefield's Elizabeth Bray (41'7") outlasted O'Bryant's Adrienne Thornton (40'9.25") in the shot put battle of the 40 footers, with North Attleboro's Sydney Bennett taking third in 39'8".
One of the most exciting races on the track was the girls 400, coming down to a late push across the line from Acton-Boxboro's Maya Jarostchuk (57.36), outdueling Jess Bridle of Tewksbury (57.77). The 800 did not feature quite as much drama, as Laura Williamson (2:12.66) of Wachusett led from start to finish, and took a 3 second win from Ursuline's Meghan Grela. Williamson, in one of the rarer doubles on the day, was also 7th in the triple jump. Teammate Amy Collins (5'8") beat a deep field in the high jump, (Emily Cahill of Uxbridge and Lucy Alexander of L-S each cleared 5'6"), and took 5th in the 400 (58.28) to create a nice two-girl act that would combine for 26 individual points. They would get together with teammates Meghan Dowd and Jasmine Cook to flirt with the meet record in the 4x400, but fall less than a tenth of a second short in 3:53.08. Mansfield, Tewksbury, Marshfield, and Lexington joined the parade of teams under 4:00.
Wachusett's 36 points might have been enough some years, but Newton North put any hopes of that to rest. Carla Forbes wasn't done, long jumping 19'1", over a foot ahead of Winchester's Carrie Abraham and Melrose's Bionca St. Fleur, each at 17'10". North averted a disaster in the 100 hurdle trials, as Kayla Wong fell right at the line. She recovered for the final, running 14.51 for 2nd behind Brockton's Vanessa Clerveaux (14.36), another one-person wrecking crew with 18 points. Rebecca Robinson of Arlington (24.74) won a great battle in the 200 over Oxford's Emily Dawidczyk (25.01). Robinson was expected to win, but the closeness of the race was not expected from the crowd at Fitchburg State. Another closer-than-expected battle came in the 100, as Brianna Robitaille (12.31) edged Wellesley's Carly Daniel (12.40), a personal best from the Raider senior.
At this point, Newton North went into the relays with 36 points, 10 ahead of Wachusett, who was expected to take the 4x400. However, North left no doubt with what appeared to be a tape-to-tape 4x800 win, thanks to a 2:14 opening leg from junior Meghan Bellerose. When Miller McCarthy-Touhy and Sonya Jampel did their mid-race work, Evie Heffernan had too big a lead for L-S's Marika Crowe to hunt down. North (9:24.33) was the winner, but only to the untrained eye. Those paying attention to the "slow" heat saw Hamilton-Wenham (9:18.23) nearly run after the meet record, winning their heat by nearly 30 seconds. Runner-up was a theme for Newton at this meet, as they would get their 4th of those in the 4x100 (49.78), with Carla Forbes running a brilliant 3rd leg to get the stick to senior Kayla Prior, who wrapped it up beautifully. Brockton won the event they have dominated all year (48.94), giving Clerveaux another gold medal around her neck.
The All State Championship was feared by some to have a deflated feel to it. The MIAA was forced to move the meet from Saturday to Monday, and then eventually to Tuesday, due to weather concerns. While the general feel to the meet was somewhat odd at times, the performances speak for themselves.
Just tell Mansfield and Newton North that the performances were supposed to be down this year. See how they feel about that statement.