You Simply Had to Be There














You Simply Had to Be There

Had you told the top 10 coaches on Saturday morning that the DI girls met would be won with 40 points, a gleam would have fallen across their eyes, knowing that they had a chance. How close this meet ended up being, even with 7 teams scoring within 5 points of one another at the top, was surreal. It was sublime. It was ridiculous.

How ridiculous? There were 5 teams in the seeded heat of the 4x400 relay, the meet's final event, who could have WON the meet at the end of that race. Five. And that doesn't include Lincoln-Sudbury, who was leading going in, but didn't have a squad in that section. As the next four minutes passed, Newton North's lead in the relay gave them a chance, when Andover started out fast, they had a chance, then Acton-Boxboro got involved, giving them an edge. In the end, Lexington took over, winning in 3:58.51, 2 seconds ahead of NN, and Cambridge slid into 4th on the back of Maya Halprin-Adams anchor leg, creating a 40-40 tie between the two squads, putting a stop to Newton North's impressive three straight titles.

But, this meet was even stranger than that. Including Peabody and Weymouth, who each held leads several events into the meet, any number of teams had hope that they would raise the trophies Lexington and Cambridge eventually did. The meet kicked off on the straightaway, as Melissa Isidor (8.48) of New Bedford easily outlasted the field in the hurdles, but as a possible harbinger of what was to come, both Courtney Comeau (8.68) of Andover and Jen Kimball (8.86) of Weymouth improved on their seeds, giving those teams something to pay attention to. Brianna Robitaille (7.21) was a shade better than Barnstable's Amanda Henson (7.28) in the dash, with Cambridge getting on the board, thanks to Sydney Fisher in 3rd.

The oval got underway with an expected result, Catarina Rocha's torching of the field in the mile in 4:52.34, just shy of Peabody's own Lisa Welch's meet record of 4:49. The bigger story was possibly Sydney Clary of Lincoln-Sudbury, kicking her team's day off with 2nd, battling with league-mate and Newton South freshman phenom Rebecca Grusby. Peabody was far from done, though, as senior Heather MacLean flirted with another meet record in the 600, making a huge move after lap one, and taking down the favorite in Newton North's Meghan Bellerose, 1:34.27 to 1:34.32. Not to be denied, Lexington's Camila Isern ran 1:35.77 for 3rd, and Lex took 5th and 7th as well, in a huge 16 point event. The 1000 pitted Lowell's Bryanna Allison against Cambridge's Maya Halprin-Adams, with a pedestrian pace turning into Allison's playground on the final lap, going 2:57.90 for an easy win. Morgan Fitzgibbon of Weymouth was 3rd, freshman Kate Gobi of Wacusett 4th, and Lexington got more key points from Kristen Fiore in 5th. Since every event featured a battle for team supremacy as well, it was strange seeing Shrewbury's Dominique Hall walk away with a meet record in the 300, running 40.07, the junior sneaking past the ghost of Natasha Stevenson from 2003. A-B got 8 huge points from Maya Jarostchuk here, with Lexington's Robin Gross coming through in 3rd. With several 2 mile scratches, the field narrowed, but Wachusett's Colleen Sands rode a blazing final lap to finish with the win in 11:18.07. A-B stayed in the hunt with 11 more points, led by freshman upstart Lee Al-Atraqchi, who stayed close in 11:20.

The field events all cleared up the picture roughly at the same time. L-S's Lucy Alexander win the high jump, with Wachusett's Amy Collins taking 2nd, each over 5'6". A-B got 6 more key points from Savannah Craib, and Weymouth got the 4-5 punch from Meagan Deane and Jen Kimball, each clearing 5'0" cleanly. As expected, Newton North's Michaela Smith topped the field in the shot put, popping one over 40 feet, but Andover's Cassie Kobelski, tossing 37'6.5", gave them 8 key points there. Thanks to Pamela Zabala (36'9.75") of Peabody and Cambridge's Anchella Bernard (36'9.5'), the team scores were starting to come together. When Bernard emerged in 3rd in the long jump, behind the 1-2 punch of Isidor and Brockton's Patricia Montiero, she did so by just 2 inches over Lexington's Unsol Doh. Heading into the relays, it was a total mess. The scores were Acton-Boxboro 31, Wachusett 28, Lexington 27, Peabody 26, Weymouth and Cambridge 25, Newton North 24, Andover and L-S 22. Nine teams each with a real shot of winning.

The 4x200 featured a DQ of Brockton, significant in that it opened up Cambridge for the win in 1:47.60, just .01 ahead of Wachusett. L-S had a similar result for 4th, just .01 ahead of Andover. A-B was seeing the field close in on them, as Wachusett took the lead with 36, Cambridge got to 35 points, L-S rose to 27, and Andover to 26. When L-S (9:39) and Andover (9:40) dueled for the top two places in the 4x800, they now took control, L-S leading at 37, Andover alive with 34. But Lexington scored 3 key points in the 4x200 and 4x800, keeping them alive, if they could somehow find a way to win the 4x400. The fateful seeded section of the 4x400 would bring the house down, and a Camila Isern crossed the line, and as Halprin-Adams did a few seconds later, the tie was secured, and the meet would go down in history as the closest ever.

Maybe the boys meet was quite that close top to bottom, but it was not without its share of drama in its own right. Like the girls meet, it came down to the seeded section of the 4x400, with Lowell running a team that couldn't contend, and the Raiders clinging to a 50-42 lead over Newton North, a team that very much could. After a 49.9 split from Ryan Lucken, the Tigers were in control, but they could not open up enough real estate on DCL stalwarts Acton-Boxboro and Lincoln-Sudbury, who were being anchored by Brian Sommers and Josh Kerber. Dan Swain, a formidable anchor in his own right, had the unenviable task of holding off at least one, if not both of these teams, but the Sommers-Kerber battle was just a bit too much. A-B took the win in 3:25.11, better than L-S's 3:25.48, and agonizingly better than Newton North's 3:25.84. Lowell celebrated its first track championship of any kind. How we got to this point is a story unto itself.

The straightaway was not without drama, as Newton South's Jung Park (7.66) outleaned BC High's Jordan Samuels (7.72) for the win in the hurdles, each not far ahead of L-S's Ben Colello. The dash was Peabody's to win, with Chris Cennami (6.59) just a shade better than Haverhill's Alex Mayhew (6.62). The top three teams were shut out of these events, so the team scores would have to wait.

The first event on the oval, the mile, was a spirited four-man battle, with Methuen's Mike O'Donnell, the favorite, winning in 4:18.01, thanks to a nice surge late in the race. Brookline's Sam Burrington (4:20.08), Lowell's Pat Coppinger (4:21.89), and Weymouth's Nolan Parsley (4:22.06) each settled in with a PR of their won, and Lowell had its first points on the quest to victory. Andre Rollim of Somerville toyed with the field in the 600, running 1:21.97 in a fashion that made it look easy, with Connor Murphy of St. John's leading the chase pack. A five-man battle royale ensued in the 1000, with Newton's Gabe Montague taking the lead from jump street, only to be walked down by what appeared to be the entire field. When Josh Kerber (2:29.83) took over, Montague (2:30.06) looked dead, but he arose from his slumber and battled every inch the rest of the way, in what was perhaps the most fun race to watch all night. With A-B's Tim Cox taking 3rd and Lowell's Mike Killa Kalenoski in 5th, North had stolen 8 key points, and appeared on its way. Ryan Lucken cemented that status in the 300, setting a meet record in the 300 in 34.89, better than Hafiz Greigre, the 2nd 2003 300 meter record to drop. Brian Sommers was 2nd, Lowell's Ryan Fitzgerald 3rd, in another deep DI style race. A theme was developing, A-B and Lowell runners were running very well, but somehow Newton North runners were getting by. Westfield's Blake Croteau shocked the crowd with a 9:21.81 2 mile victory over Gatorade XC Runner of the Year Jon Green of St. John's, but there again was Lowell, in 4th, this time in the hands of Johnny Abraham.

The field events gave big points to the top teams as well. When Newton North's Carl Whitham won the shot put in 53'4" over David Roy and Evan Dombrowski, each of St. John's Prep, he also took huge points away from Lowell's Coli Hoey in the process, something that could have cost the Riders in the end, if not for the great soaring of Mike Holder in the high jump. Although Holder eventually lost a jump-off with Shewsbury's Rino Tonelli at 6'4", he stayed ahead of Newton North's Nick Fofana (4th; 6'2"), a key 6-point swing. When Kyle Darrow of Xaverian won the long jump, just ahead of Wachusett's Chang Bae-Song, it meant that Brian Sommers and A-B would have to settle for 6 points. North got 2 more from David Oluwadara here, setting up the late drama. Scores heading ingot the relays were Newton North and Lowell tied at 36, with A-B a bit too far back with 23 of their own.

The 4x200 was simply all Cambridge, running 1:31.49 and making it look easy. They outlasted Xaverian and Lexington, with A-B staying alive, thanks to a 4th place finish. Lowell's 1:32.99 out of a slower heat was good enough for 5th, keeping them 3 points ahead of NN. A great 4x800 battle pitted the Raiders against Brookline just about stride for stride. Brookline got a monster opening leg from Will Taylor, and tough as nails racing from Aaron Klein and Jesse Fajnzylber (FINE-silver), but Lowell led by a step, and Pat Coppinger knew too much was at stake to let Sam Burrington to run him down. Lowell (8:01.13) was done scoring, and watched as Newton North's tough group gutted out an 8:11.59 time for 4th. The stage was set for the 4x400 drama.

In each meet, the favorites, A-B's boys and NN's girls, can not hang their heads in defeat. Each had good days and each will have teams capable of winning All State titles a week from today. Today was simply a matter of the mantra "why not us" by three teams, Lowell's boys, Lexington and Cambridge's girls, who aren't dumb enough to read previews or seed sheets, and just go out and compete.