The New England Championship might have a little different feel to it this year, as some athletes from around the region might feel compelled to skip, due to later than normal state meets, or simply the proximity of US Juniors and New Balance Nationals. Nevertheless, the talent is incredible, and in the country's last true region, a championship might be more meaningful, and tougher to attain, than ever before.
100m Hurdles: With nine guys under 15.00, this is a deep field. Tony Ortiz's 1995 meet record (13.90) appears safe, but with so many kids pushing each other in the final, it will be fun to watch. Jaun Maysonette of Westfield (MA) has the top seed of 14.65, just ahead of Norwalk (CT's) Adam Robertino and Northwestrn (CT's) Dan Santalla. Can't wait.
100m Dash: Another safe meet record, Mike Morris of Ayer (MA) in 1981 took this thing down in an "are you kidding me?" 10.36. Windsor (CT's) Dan Jamieson comes in with easily the best time of 10.62, but watch out for Falmouth (MA) freshman Craig Green from 3rd. Have we seen a freshman this fast in NE in the last few years? I don't remember one.
200m Dash: Watching the 200 meters at the Mass. All State Meet on Tuesday, Donovan Henry looked like a specimen, winning the 200 and anchoring the CM team to 1st in the 4x100. At 21.87, he looks tough to beat, but Windsor's Dan Jamieson is right on his heels. Expect Northwest (CT's) Jared Delane to join the party, and expect this to perhaps be the closest event of the day.
300m Hurdles: Always an interesting race, since the Mass. kids run 400 hurdles now and the conversion can be dicey, but this year will be a great battle in the seeded section between Santalla (looking for the double hurdle win) and Masconomet's Cameron Hebert, the Mass. state champion. The two are over a second faster than 3rd, so a two-man battle should ensue.
400m: Another deep race, nine boys are seeded under 50.00, with Souhegan (NH's) Tanner Kent the top seed at 48.66. The dark horse here might be Nathan Pierre Louis, who was beaten to 3rd at Mass. All States, but does possess the fastest time in the field on the season, dipping below 48.00. Brian Sommers of Acton-Boxboro (MA) could be in the hunt as well.
800m: No Josh Lampron (Mansfield, MA)? No problem. Plenty of guys will chase Bow (NH's) Jonathon Vinnenberg, he of the 1:53.74 time at the NH state meet. After that, the entire seeded section is under 1:56, creating depth that could either push them all to fast times, or create a logjam that slows down the field. The crowd will root for the former.
1600m: No luck for those searching for Lampron will once again be disappointed, as he and Joel Hubbard (Marshfield, MA) will skip a shot for an NE title for what they hope are greener pastures. A couple of CT guys will more than make up the slack, hoping for a repeat from their battle at the Open Meet, where Henry Wynne (4:12.73) of Staples and Clark Shurtleff (4:14.59) of Amity appear to be the top draws here.
3200m: Wachusett's (MA) Colin Bennie stole the show at All States on Tuesday and with a seed time of 9:04.27, he has a real shot at Chris Bendtsen's 2010 meet record. Problem might be, without Wesley Gallagher or Chris Allen to push him, where will the race come from? It might have to be Farifield (CT's) Harry Warnick, or a field of 10 seeded under 9:20.
Discus: When have we ever seen two athletes from the same team dominate an event the way
Westerly (RI's) Jeremy Octeau (182'11") and Kevin Conway (176'9") have this season. They are the 1-2 punch we all dream to have, and barring a slip-up, will take gold and silver once again.
Shot Put- North Attleboro's Eric Beckwith (57'10.25") and Swardick Mayanja of Newton North (56'8.25") had quite a battle in Mass. on Tuesday, but they will have some serious company this weekend. Westerly's back with three of the top seven, Conway (2nd) and Octeau (5th) are joined by Joe Calao in 7th. If he doesn't already have one, give this throws coach an award... please!
Javelin: Zachary Hurd (Exeter, RI) leads the field with 190' mark, but with three others over 180, and the javelin such a tough event to predict, this is anyone's game. VT state champion Elijah Doerfler and Mass. champion Jordan Entwhistle will lead the charge on the infield at Thornton Academy, perhaps the best place to watch javelins fly in NE.
High Jump: Weymouth (MA's) Khary Bailey-Smith will skip due to graduation, and as the only 7 footer in this field, he leaves a void. Central Falls (RI's) Steven Vasquez went 6'8" and is the favorite, but a slew of Mass. guys are in the hunt, with Greenfield's Kory Breiwick and Alex Niemec of Chicopee Comp right in the mix. No 7 footers today, but a tight field nonetheless.
Pole Vault- Since David Slovesnki's 2008 16'9" vault, nobody has come close to that mark at this meet. It could be Westford (MA's) Brendan Sullivan, who set the Mass. mark at 15'3" last week, and is the top seed by over a foot. If the crowd can help Sully out, he might get to that 16' barrier, but he'll be doing a little bit of lonesome jumping if not.
Long Jump: A two-man battle appears to be ensuing between Eddie Uthman of W. Warwick (RI) and Cheshire (CT's) Jake Scinto. Uthman went 23'0.25" last time out, with Scinto at 22'11". A total of eight guys are over 22 feet, though, so expect a tight battle.
Triple Jump: Dana Pagliuca of Xaverian (MA) is the class of this field at 46'3.25", with Scinto not too far behind. Pags will have an upper-hand, since he's not double jumping and can more likely concentrate on his single event.
4x800- Can anybody touch Simsbury (CT), they of the 7:51 seed time, thanks in part to Kevin Stanko's 1:56 open 800 speed? It might just have to be another CT team, Fairfield Prep, or Chariho (RI), running without top athlete Mike Marsella, who fell to an injury this season. However, two Mass. teams can't be overlooked, as Wachusett ran 7:36.37 at NBN a year ago, and have two fresh Bennies at their disposal, and Marshfield will race fresh (the 4x800 is first) with Kevin Thomas and Joel Hubbard. Look for Wachusett and Marshfield to be in the battle.
4x100- It was hard to believe anyone could fit in between Catholic Memorial (MA) and Lawrence (MA), whose photo finish at Mass. All States was one of the closest on the day, but Windsor (CT) at 42.71 takes the #2 seed in the race. Expect crisp passes and fast times, and the meet record of 42.06 (Wethersfield, CT 2005) could be in doubt.
4x400- The final event on the track will be a great battle between three CT teams (Windsor, Staples, and Danbury) and Acton-Boxboro, Mass. All State Champions. All four ran under 3:22 at their last meets, and with a few more fresh legs possible, sub-3:20 is the goal. Is Prince Tech's 1994 meet record of 3:18.26 in jeopardy? Could be!