BOSTON - For any schoolboy high-jumper, the pinnacle to supremacy in the vertical leap is achieving the seven-foot barrier; clearing a height that’s an impressive 84 inches from the ground to the top of the bar.
Defending New England indoor champion, Adam Couitt of Somerset Berkley Regional in Massachusetts, came close to attaining that milestone this past Saturday at the MIAA Auerbach All State Meet. After already wrapping up his first individual title with a personal-best and nation-leading height of 6-10 inside the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, the talented junior had the bar raised two more inches to seven feet.
“My first two attempts were a bit lacking, but my third attempt came very close,” Couitt said. “My torso and my hips made it over, but my calf hit the bar on the way down.”
Couitt, who is one of three returning champions in the boys’ competition, will be eyeing his second crown at Saturday’s New England Championship. But the 17-year-old leaper also wouldn’t mind making a little history, too.
His final jump at the All State Meet had something to do with it.
“I am looking for a win (on Saturday), but I am more focused on a seven-foot jump,” he said. “I know I have it in me. Hopefully I will have it at that meet.”
For a jumper who admits he thrives on facing good competition, there will be plenty of capable athletes that will push Couitt to possibly achieving greatness. Connecticut state champion Demario Gray of Bloomfield also has cleared 6-10 and is tied with Couitt and Ruben Owens of Le Roy NY with the No. 1 height in the country. Two more from the Bay State could also be in the mix, state runner-up Alex Niemiec of Chicopee Comprehensive and Jack Kahrs of Scituate. Both seniors have jumped 6-8.
Couitt has never faced the versatile Gray, who is also the No. 1 seed in the long jump with a state-winning distance of 23-5.5, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been keeping track of his strongest rival.
“I have looked him up and know it’s the first time he has cleared 6-10. That was a PR for him.” said Couitt, making reference to the Feb. 19 meet. “It will be interesting.”
Somerville MA senior Andre Rolim and Staples CT senior Henry Wynne will also be looking to take home another title at the New England meet. Rolim will be defending his crown in the 600. Wynne hopes to possibly repeat last year’s win in the 1,000.
Right now, Wynne is entered in both the mile and the 1,000, but he’s leaning towards just the shorter distance.
“I am making my final decision soon, but most likely it will be the 1,000 and then come back and run the 4x400 (relay),” he said on Tuesday night. “The 1,000 and mile are back-to-back, so that would be kind of tough to double.”
In last year’s NE meet, Wynne led from gun to wire en route to a fast 2:28.30 clocking. This season, he goes into the meet as the No. 2 seed based on his 2:31.32 winning effort at the CIAC on Feb. 19. Josh Kerber, a junior from Sudbury MA, is the top seed with his time of 2:30.21, which he achieved in winning the All State Meet. Other strong contenders include Scott Arsenault of Billerica MA (2:31.84), senior Tim Cox of Acton-Boxboro MA (2:32.33) and senior Brady Foshay of Chevrus, ME (2:32.72).
“I recognize a few of the names and see a few good runners,” Wynne said. “Obviously, Josh is a pretty good competitor. But my 2:31, that’s not close to what I think I can do. I ran that time at the State Opens two days after the class meet where I tripled because of the snowstorm and rescheduling.”
Throughout the season, Wynne has consistently run three events to help his team win meets. At the New England’s he’ll be concentrating solely on one individual event. The only time he was able to do that this winter the result was a victory in the heavily-talented Junior Mile at the New Balance Grand Prix where he ran a season-best time of 4:11.73.
“That was the highlight of my season,” said Wynne, about the Feb. 2 meet. “It was the first big meet I was able to do one race. There was a lot of great competition.”
The 17-year-old runner will be shooting for a personal-best effort at the New England’s.
“I am hoping to get a really fast time,” he said. “The Connecticut state record is 2:27 and the New England mark is 2:25. I hope to get close to the New England record. I am definitely confident. I will be fresh. I can really focus on running a fast time.”
Rolim will face a strong field in the 600. He goes into the race after winning the MIAA state meet with a season-best of 1:21.1, just a few tenths of a second shy of his 1:20.8 clocking from the 2012 New England’s. Rolim will match against four other runners that have dipped under 1:23, including last year’s fifth- and sixth-place finishers, senior Ben Ostrowski of East Lyme CT (1:22.73) and junior Zachery Emrich of North Kingstown RI (1:21.65). Two other viable contenders are sophomore Joe Luongo of Austin Prep MA (1:21.96) and senior Peter Winslow of Exeter NH (1:22.64).
Emrich could pose the biggest threat to dethrone the champion. He was unchallenged capturing the RIIL state championship with his seed time, a new meet record.
“His training is bang-on,” N.K. coach Charlie Breagy said. “He is capable of running faster than he has ever done before. He’s a strong kid. He takes no prisoners. He is not intimidated.”
Breagy feels his runner is capable of running a sub-1:20 on the banked oval of Reggie Lewis, a time that Emrich may need to run to defeat Rolim. The Skipper junior is less than a second from the R.I. record of 1:20.81.
“He is chasing time right now,” Breagy said. “He wants that state record. He’s in shape. He’s ready.”
In the mile and two mile, Massachusetts will be minus some of its biggest stars, who have decided to forego the New England meet to concentrate on the New Balance Indoor Nationals the following weekend in New York. Among the notables is Methuen senior Mike O’Donnell, who won the recent state meet with a 4:15 mile, and seniors Jonathan Green of St. John’s Shrewsbury (9:21.48) and Blake Croteau of Westfield (9:24.96), the 1-2 finishers in the two mile at the states.
The two distance events will still be hotly contested. In the mile, Patrick Coppinger of Lowell MA has the No. 1 seed with a 4:18.87, a time he ran in placing second to O’Donnell at the state meet. Jacob Holscher of Gloucester MA is second on the list at 4:20.62 and senior Bryce Kelley of Chariho Regional RI is third with a 4:20.71.
Kelley’s time is calculated from his meet record of 4:01.39 for the 1,500 at the RIIL championship. He should be considered the favorite based on what he has done out of state in meets that are not included in the seeding process. The Charger runner has run faster than his seed time three times, placing seventh at the New Balance Grand Prix (4:18.5), third at the New Balance Games in New York (4:16.59) and first at the Dartmouth Relays (4:20.13).
The two mile should be a down-to-the-wire affair with the top five runners less than five-seconds apart. Senior Peter Hale of Swampscott, who was third at the MIAA state meet with a 9:26.97, has the best seed. He’s followed by junior Christian Alvarado of Fairfield Prep CT (9:27.86), senior Jacob Feinstein of Newtown CT (9:29.52), senior Trevor Crawley of Cumberland RI (9:30.19) and junior Colin Tierney of Bishop Hendricken RI (9:31.65).
Crawley placed fifth and Hale took sixth in last year’s New England’s. Look for Crawley to take control in the race. His game plan always includes taking the lead and pushing the pace. The Cumberland standout won the 3,000 at the recent state meet with a time of 8:47.95, less than two seconds ahead of the Hawks’ Tierney. He was a fourth-place finisher at the Yale Classic with a season-best 3K time of 8:42.93.
Crawley, who won the 3k at last spring’s outdoor states and captured the cross-country crown back in November, rarely has a bad race. Cumberland coach Tom Kenwood expects his star runner to continue the trend.
“He should (win),” he said. “I expect he’ll go under 9:20, that’s my feeling. He ran 8:42 at Yale and 8:47 at (the states). I expect 9:20 or better.”
Hingham MA junior Andrew Boize will be tough to beat in the 300 dash. Boize set a meet record at the states with a sizzling 34.7 effort. He’s the only sprinter in the field to crack 35 seconds. Other notables are senior Ryan Lucken of Newton South MA (35.02), Brian Sommers of Acton-Boxboro MA (35.15) and Joseph Carter of Ledyard CT (35.22).
Demario and Niemiec, who are among the best in the high jump, also occupy the top two spots in the long jump. Demario has the No. 1 seed and Niemiec is just a quarter of an inch behind with his best of 23-5.25. Both could challenge the meet record of 23-7.75, set by former Bacon Academy CT standout Josh Fournier in 2001. The next five jumpers have leaped in the 22-foot range with Windsor CT senior Sherrod Peay at No. 3 with a best of 22-5.5.
North Attleboro MA senior Eric Beckwith appears to be the favorite in the shot put. Beckwirth tossed a PB of 59-5.5 to take the All State Meet. He has consistently thrown in the mid to high 50s this winter. He was fourth at last year’s New England’s.
Senior Jared Bell of Deering ME could be a threat in the shot. Bell is the No. 2 seed with his PB of 56-0.25, a distance he heaved at the Class A Indoor Championship on Feb. 19. Coventry RI senior Adam Comery (54-11.75), St. John’s Prep MA senior David Roy (54-11), Newton North MA senior Carl Whitham (54-4) and Seekonk MA senior Nate Robitaille (54-0) all have a chance to score high.
In an event that is often decided by inches, Harold Copper of Hillhouse CT owns the fastest time in the 55 dash with his state-winning time of 6.46. Right behind is fellow state rival David Campbell of Bloomfield (6.47). A few other talented sprinters among the bunch are Haverhill MA senior Alex Mayhew (6.5), Wells ME senior Denzel Tomaszewski (6.53), Amherst Pelham Regional MA sophomore Taj-Amir Torres (6.54), Middletown CT senior Jashane Brown (6.58) and the Rhode Island tandem of Classical senior Derek Jackson (6.59) and Coventry senior Lawrence Warwick (6.59).
Another race that should come down to the last few meters is the 55 high hurdles. Bloomfield CT junior Isaiah McEwen (7.56) and Newton South MA senior Jung Park (7.57) own the top two spots in the field. The third and fourth seeds are also from the Bay State – Lincoln-Sudbury junior Ben Colello (7.63) and Walpole senior Connor McCarthy (7.65).
In the relays, the Cambridge R&L MA foursome of junior Shaquel Anderson, junior Joseph Kozlowski, junior Dashawn Velez and senior Alexander Kirby are the No. 1 seed in the 4x200 with a time of 1:31.31. The quartet of senior Nick Usoff, senior Andrew Doelp, senior Tim Cox and senior Brian Sommers from Acton-Boxboro MA have the top clocking in the 4x400 at 3:25.13. Lowell MA has the best time in the 4x800 with a time of 7:57.9. The junior-laden team consists of Tyler Richards, Andrew Whitney, Johnny Abraham and Randy Nong.