The snow begins to fall as the calendar enters December and focus (aside from the handful of MA individuals racing at Footlockers in San Diego next weekend) has shifted to the indoor oval. Most of the state kicks off action this upcoming weekend so the divisional preview of athletes and teams to watch begins! With Northampton returning a fair number of seniors and juniors from their boys' title squad last year, it is theirs to lose with last year's podium teams (Burlington and Wakefield) likely needing to rely on their distance doubles and relay triples in order to make it interesting. However, Newburyport looks to ride their All-State title in cross country into the indoor season and take advantage of their depth to reach the podium as well.
*NOTE: Last year's Divisional/All-State finishes are acknowledged in the parentheses*
If Burlington hopes to vie for the title, they will be relying much of their weight on Cornell-bound Rishabh Prakash. The now-senior is in the middle of a breakout year, of sorts, doubling in the mile/2 mile (1st: 4:25.35; 3rd: 9:46.22) to then place sixth at the All-State Meet (4:21.81) last winter. He then dramatically shaved off nearly ten seconds during the outdoor season to secure a third place performance at the All-State Meet (4:16.64). A fourth-place overall finish from the Division 1 All-State Cross Country Meet in November displays Prakash's range in the distance events. The only factor likely to slow down his reign would be if he is placed in a relay in order to help Burlington's team title hopes. Those hoping that Prakash races conservatively include Old Rochester's Adam Sylvia (4th: 4:31.04), Weston's Tyler Morris (5th: 4:32.35) and Wakefield's Carter Margolis (8th: 4:38.21), whose run in Wakefield's 4x800m relay (1st: 8:21.73) kept the Warriors on the podium. Both Sylvia and Morris are riding All-State finishes in cross country, with Morris grabbing a medal spot in Westfield with a 17:21.43 12th place finish.
If Prakash decides to double, then his fiercest competition should be in the 2 mile run. He'll likely allow last year's top finishers, Sam Acquaviva (1st: 9:41.96) of Newburyport and Zach Conant (2nd: 9:46.82), to dictate the 2 mile pace, as it came down to a close finish last year. Closing speed may be a factor if all three athletes double or triple again this year. However, both Acquaviva and Conant carried strong finishes to the cross country season on the heels of an outdoor All-State 2 mile appearance (8th: 9:33.86 and 13th: 9:39.88 respectively). Acquaviva claimed the Division 2 All-State Cross Country title which aligns for a very interesting and extremely competitive matchup towards the end of the year. If you're looking for an edge, it'll have to go to the freshest set of legs, but with the work these young men have put in, such an edge will be razor thin.
Peter Diebold of Weston looks to repeat his success over 600m after a narrow victory last winter over Ethan Cooper of Northampton. The 400m specialists bring their speed to the quicker, indoor 800m alternative, as Diebold edged out Cooper last winter, 1:22.57 to 1:22.95. Both athletes made it to the outdoor All-State Meet, with Diebold claiming fifth in the 400m with a 49.28 and Cooper helping his Northampton 4x400m relay grab a fourth place finish. Cooper did make a trip to the indoor All-State meet (9th: 1:23.30) but the rest of the field will need to pick up the intensity to challenge the pair this winter. The following top returners, Diego Fernandez of Triton (5th: 1:25.57), Will Regan of Foxborough (6th: 1:25.89) and Liam Rittenburg of Melrose (7th: 1:25.96) are crucial seconds behind the pair. In a close team battle, expect Cooper to join his Northampton 4x400m relay as they attempt to defend their title and see if Diebold can take advantage of a conservative Cooper aiming to score as many points possible.
The longer, Massachusetts 800m equivalent (1,000m) boasts heavy team-title implications. Northampton's Benjamin Gordon-Sniffen (2nd: 2:35.14), Wakefield's Tanner Jellison (3rd: 2:37.28) and Burlington's Christian Boyadjiev (4th: 2:40.44) all contributed to their team's podium finishes by the end of the meet. A sprint finish amongst Bedford's Jasper Shapiro (6th: 2:41.20), Charlestown's Victor Baez (7th: 2:41.32), and Norton's Austin Carroll (8th: 2:41.33) made it a true race to medal. Of those returning, however, Carroll managed the top finish from the All-State Cross Country meet, grabbing 15th place in the Division 2 race (17:29.48). Again, race favorite Gordon-Sniffen should not be overlooked, especially with his closing speed on Northampton's 4x400m relay. Nevertheless, if Northampton is in a spot to challenge Wakefield and Burlington for a team title, it may become a tight race over the five-lapper to safely get points as energy-efficient as possible.
With nearly the entire 55m dash final field graduating, Hudson senior Michael Blake has a clear path to a double sweep repeat. His championship time of 6.47 last year was only 0.02 seconds off of Smith Charles of Milton's meet record time from 2017. He completed the double with a 35.52 win in the 300m, placing fourth in both events at the All-State Meet and third (6.48) and tenth (35.86) respectively at the New England Championships. Dracut's junior Tyler Pearce (8th: 6.78) is the only other returner from the 55m final looking to disrupt Hudson's double repeat. However, more trouble can come from Northampton's Cole Lavalle (3rd: 36.02) whom also scored a victory on Northampton's 4x400m relay. A false start cost Lavalle a spot in the 55m finals but a seventh place finish for Northampton's 4x400m relay at All-States demonstrates redemption that may be looking to come back around inside the oval.
A new champion is destined to be crowned in the 55m hurdles with top returners Jovan Aigbekaen (2nd: 7.80) of Dracut, Ryan Eng (4th, 7.96) of Medfield, William Lord (5th: 7.99) of North Reading and Matthew Cahill (8th: 8.37) of Nauset returning from last year's final. Aigbekaen has the edge with a fifth place finish at the All-State Meet (7.88). However, both Eng and Lord have sub-7.90 speed, both splitting such in the preliminaries. The 55m hurdles has the potential to be a toss-up with the victor going to the strongest start and cleanest clearance. Look for all three to advance with Cahill mixing it up.
Three of the top eight long jumpers graduate, leaving a competitive field that all cleared 20 feet 2 inches. Defending champion, Longmeadow's Carter Rosewell, carried a 21-7.5 jump into All-States that just missed grabbing the final scoring position. His legs are to be watched as he also placed in the high jump (5th: 6'-0") and in Longmeadow's 4x400m relay (5th: 3:36.53). However, on the heels of a runner-up finish, North Middlesex senior Carson Doody may opt to focus on the long jump in order to secure a divisional title. Doody was only a quarter of an inch off Rosewell at the All-State Meet.
At the high jump, the crowd is to be impressed by Medfield junior John McNeil as his 6'-6.5" jump cleared the competition by four and a half inches. McNeil followed his performance with a runner-up finish at the All-State Meet (6'-6") and the New England Championships (6'-7"). A 6'-8" personal best from last year's outdoor track All-State Meet begins to threaten Trent Baltzell of Sutton's 2009 Divisional 4 Meet record of 6'-8".25. Regardless, any height close to this will likely seal another title for McNeil, as the New Balance Indoor Nationals competitor surprisingly only has one divisional title under his belt. Aside from McNeil, Nauset's Cahill (3rd: 6'-2") and Longmeadow's Rosewell (5th: 6'-0") hope to follow the contingency sent to the All-State Meet.
ThrowsThe lone indoor throws event should yield perhaps the biggest coming-out party as Holliston's Cameron Connell (5th: 45'-2") and Falmouth's David Doherty (8th: 44'-3.5") are the lone returners from last year's scoring podium. The overwhelming majority of the field graduated (18 of last year's 22-man field were seniors) which leaves expectations towards this event up in the air. It appears to be Connell and Doherty's event, with Connell gaining almost a foot advantage on the Falmouth senior, as both of their throws from last year's divisional championships stand as indoor bests. The pair will look to improve on their bests while the rest of the division reloads rosters to claim crucial points in a seemingly wide-open event.