Same in the End

In November, Lowell and Newton North were the respective on paper favorites to win indoor track All State titles, on the boys and girls sides, respectively. Lowell was coming off a dominant victory in cross country, with a great shot putter, high jumper, and 300 runner added into the mix. Newton North had a Renaissance in the fall, adding Maeve Greeley, Cookie Koch, Christina Galvano, and Michaela Smith to a dominant group that already included Carla Forbes, Madi Nadeau, Evie Heffernan, and Meghan Bellerose, who had a breakout fall to add to an already stellar track resume. For both teams, it was going to require some names that were once borderline anonymous to pull these ones off.

As November turned to December, the tables appeared, as they often do, to be turning. Lowell watched as teams like Acton-Boxboro, Lincoln Sudbury, and Newton North appeared to be improving and passing them. With the loss of Carla Forbes for the season to patellar tendinitis, injuries and illnesses to breakout stars like Shannon Fitzgerald and Isabella Reilly, it just didn't seem to be North's year. Who would blame them for placing 7th at DI's, after all, they didn't have Forbes. But on Saturday at the Reggie Lewis Center, Coaches Tranchita, Martin, and Mogayzel watched the same thing they had watched the previous three years, this time with a different cast of characters called upon. And Coaches Maia, Ouellet, and Casey watched the plan come together yet again. With each team just about maximizing its potential point total, Newton North's girls and Lowell's boys can declare themselves All State Champions. The path for the two teams to the championship on Saturday, however, was very different.

Ouellet called the Raiders the gutsiest team he'd ever coached last week, and we got to see more of that with big performance after big performance all day on Saturday. Right off the bat, when Jung Park of Newton South stole the headline in the hurdles with his win in 7.57, against a hard charging duo of L-S's Ben Colello and Walpole's Connor McCarthy, it was Jack Galvin of Lowell, sneaking into the finals in 8th, and bettering his seed to 6th for 3 key points. PJ Hayes of Walpole took the 55 meter dash, a bit of retribution from a week earlier, when Amherst's Taj-Amir Torres dominated the DII race, only to finish 3rd here. Walpole's 16 points on the infield would be all they would score, but Lowell had just gotten started.

Once again, Mike O'Donnell deserves the headlines for his 4:15.81 win in the mile, a race he commanded from start to finish, but the real battle was taking place a few meters behind the Methuen star. With a lap to go, 8 points were anybody's for the taking, as Brookline's Sam Burrington, Newburyport's Nick Carleo, the next man up in Massachusetts distance running, and Gloucester's Jacob Holscher, who shot onto the scene a week ago from seemingly nowhere, all made a push for the inside position. But, once again, it would be Pat Coppinger who would have no problem playing bridesmaid to O'Donnell, knowing full well that Lowell needed every position and every place.

Andre Rollim of Somerville (1:21.10) looked relaxed in taking the 600 over Austin Prep sophomore Joe Luongo, another major player in the future of Mass. track and field. But, another fire on the track type battle was coming in the 1000, with a pedestrian start clearing the way for a spectacular final lap. Josh Kerber (2:30.21) of Lincoln-Sudbury claimed the title with a 27 second final push, ahead of Scott Arsenault of Billerica and Tim Cox of A-B, but lurking there in 4th, in no need of individual praise, was Mike Killa Kalenoski of Lowell, getting out ahead of the pack of wolves behind him. Five events in, Lowell was a scoring machine, matching Walpole's 16, with still plenty left to do.

Hingham's Andrew Bolze (34.70) set the meet record out of the 2nd fastest heat of the 300, making the duel between Newton North's Ryan Lucken and A-B's Brian Sommers one for second. Once again, the eye-popping results were coming, and nobody was noticing Lowell's workmanlike efforts coming in. Ryan Fitzgerald was 4th in 35.60, pushing the Raiders to 21 points. When St. John's Jon Green won the 2 mile (9:21.48) over Westfield's Blake Croteau, thanks to an impressive final quarter that made last week's reversal of fortune but a memory, Lowell's Johnny Abraham was there in 6th.

The field events were no different. Eric Beckwith of North Attleboro nearly joined the 60 foot club, tossing the shot 59'5.5" to outduel St. John's Prep's David Roy by over four feet, Lowell's Colin Hoey found his way to 7th place. Lowell was shut out of the rest of the field events, each featuring spectacular efforts. Alex Niemec of Chicopee Comp, all 5'6" of him, soared to a one foot win in the long jump (23'5.25"), exactly one foot better than Xaverian's Kyle Darrow. Niemec then nearly came back for the double, in a spirited high jump duel with Somerset-Berkeley's Adam Couitt and Scituate's Jack Kahrs, one of the best events of the day. While all eyes were on the pits, only Couittcould clear 6'10", the first person in Mass. to do so indoors since Corey Thomas four years ago. But both Couitt and Niemec can call themselves State Champions.

Heading into the relays, the boys meet was more or less sealed if Lowell lived up to its seeds, but Cambridge and A-B would still put on a show in the 4x200. R&L would have just enough (1:31.11) to outsprint a rejuvenated A-B squad (1:31.86), and sticking with the theme of giving them the day, the team that nobody seemed to notice in 5th, you guessed it, was Lowell. After Hingham laid down the gauntlet in the unseeded heat of the 4x800 (7:59.11), Lowell and Pembroke would trade leads in the fast section, with Christian Stafford of Pembroke trying his best to hold off Pat Coppinger. But, for this one moment in the meet, Lowell could not stay behind the scenes, and could not remain anonymous. Coppinger would anchor Lowell in 1:57, giving them the win in 7:57.90, just .3 ahead of the Titans. The 4x400 was not without drama either, as Marshfield laid down a major time in the unseeded heat for 2nd, requiring Acton-Boxborough (3:25.13) to not only get anchor Brian Sommers past Newton North, but also past the ghost of the Rams. The 36 points from A-B gave them the runner-up trophy in what was  total team effort from the Colonials. It just wasn't enough to beat the anonymity of Lowell, the working class team with a heart of gold.

The Tigers' road to victory was a bit less anonymous, as it was anchored by two runner-ups a 3rd place 4x400, and a 6th and a 7th. 27 points would be more than enough for North to get by the pack of Acton-Boxboro (21), Cambridge (20), Lexington (20), and the one-man show of Oxford (20). Emily Dawidczyk made mincemeat out of the field in both the hurdles and long jump, earning the rare status as double All State Champion. Her 8.29 hurdle time was a huge improvement on her seed, and amazingly came just after placing 10th in the 55 dash. She outleaned New Bedford's Melissa Isidor in a deep field, then took it to the pit to outjump Isidor and Jessica Scott of Hopkinton in 17'9.5', just an inch better than the Hilltoppers' junior. A-B's late surge put an end to the awkward moment when four teams would have to share the runner-up trophy, one of which was stocked with exactly one athlete.

Barnstable's Amanda Henson exacted some revenge on Attleboro's Brianna Robitaille, winning the 55 dash in 7.19, the state's fastest time in 2013, and a spot better than the DI champion Robitaille. Hopkinton's Scott was 3rd here as well. The mile was a terrific example of front-running from Peabody's Catarina Rocha, who took down the meet record in 4:49.14, right in front of Olivia Lantz (4:57.67) of Manchester-Essex and Abby McNulty (4:58.30) of Bishop Feehan, putting three under 5:00 in an All State meet for only the 2nd time ever (2009). But North was finally set to get on the board in the 600, as Meghan Bellerose (1:33.06) put down the hammer for 2.5 laps, draining every bit of energy out of Amy Piccolo, before the Ursuline sophomore found a will and a way to win (1:32.56), just a touch shy of Maura McCusker's long-standing meet record. The 1000 was another great duel, as Lowell's Brianna Allison (2:53.32) led 7 runners under 3:00, just a second ahead of Dracut's Karina Shepard. In the 300, in Lowell-esque fashion, everyone seemed to notice the battle between Shrewsbury's Dominque Hall (40.14) and A-B's Maya Jarostchuk (40.45), and the 5 under 41.00. But watching more closely, it was the 6th place finish of Newton North's Madi Nadeau that probably meant to most for the meet.

Acton-Boxboro might have gotten a late start to the scoring, but when they started, it was like they couldn't shut it off. Bedford's Erin Dietz (10:38.12) was stunning in the 2 mile, seemingly unfazed by the departures of Julie McConville and McNulty, and simply chopped down the field like a series of redwoods. Christine Davis ran a brilliant race for A-B in 4th, and freshman Lee Al-Atraqchi was 6th. Emily Cahill of Uxbridge came through the deep high jump competition in 5'6", better on jumps than L-S's Lucy Alexander, an upset in a field that featured three jumpers who had cleared 5'8" during this winter. Mahar's Sabrina Silva (40'11.75") got the best of the shot putters, but Newton North's Michaela Smith came up huge for second, throwing 38'10".

Heading into the relays, Oxford held onto a slim lead, but with so many teams running relays, and they not, it was obvious that it would be fleeting. Cambridge's 4x200 pulled the "upset" out of the 4x200, running 1:44.98 from the unseeded section in a jaw-dropping time. They also pulled Wachusett past NDA-Hingham, the top seed entering the meet. The 4x800 favorites were Narragansett (9:26.18) who lived up to that billing by never being challenged in a deep, solid field. Whitman-Hanson was 2nd, better than Bishop Feehan, who took 3rd out of the unseeded section, thanks to a nice racing partner in Concord-Carlisle. Newton North's 7th place here would loom large.

With the meet coming down to the 4x400, it would have taken a disaster for Newton North not to at least share the trophy, but they left no chance of that happening, by setting Bellerose off in the lead, and making everyone else chase them down. Lexington ultimately did, running 3:56.27, and putting everybody away with a 57. anchor leg, and Mansfield would ultimately blast past North as well, but the Tigers hung on to edge A-B's team, taking a 27-21 win over the Colonials in the process. A low-scoring affair, it took all of North's guns to defend its castle. Coach Tranchita said "this one's special," and given all of the adversity they put up with, I'd have to agree with him.

Anonymous no longer, Newton North and Lowell can call themselves All State Champs once again.