With dual meets underway, the first MSTCA invitational concluded this past weekend as thousands of athletes packed the Reggie Lewis Center to compete in the Winter Festival on Saturday and Sunday. The non-team scoring meet was nothing short of spectacular with nation-leading performances taking shape early in the winter track season. We'll now wrap up with the opener; the Large School section that ran this past Saturday.
Despite the Small School section producing a US#1 and new Massahusetts state record in Aiden Felty's 64'-5" toss, the Large School meet produced plenty of depth to help make the shot put an event of interest this winter in the Commonwealth. Likewise, if the divisional championships have any implications, Lowell may find itself a more complete team to collect points in the field as well. Seniors Ben Kyeremeh (50'-3.25") and Brian Callery (49'-3.5") swept the two top spots for the Red Raiders, earning MA#3 and MA#5 distinctions as well. Newton North's Henry Sobieszczyk was a distant third with a 45'-10.75" throw, opening up opportunities for the Red Raiders to compliment their mid-distance strength in February to seek out a second straight Division 1 title. The girls shot was a closer contest with Lexington's Chrisondra Awomah (35'-1.75") outdistancing Shepherd Hill's Jillian Sullivan (33'-9"), despite Sullivan throwing a MA#13 and a US#15 within the sophomore class. Awomah picks up right where she left off with last year's Division 1 third place finish, while the competition was run well by young talent, with Methuen's Geraldine Gomez (32'-6.75") the lone senior in the top three.
Brokton's Zio Barber-Amado (20'-8.5") led the charge in the long jump, reaching a MA#13 in winning the long jump while Lowell scored potential points with a second place finish from Richmond Kwaateng in his MA#17 20'-3.75". Again, the Lowell field athletes were on display Saturday putting Division 1 on notice, while North Andover's Tyler Glendon (20'-3") grabbed third. The Lady Red Raiders took the charge in the long jump as well with Lowell's Eunice Tabea (16'-5.75") squeezing out a win over Wachusett's Amyah Santana (16'-3.5"). The two posted MA#9 and MA#11 marks on the season in the process while Tabae's teammate, Kimesha Lewis, just missed reaching the 16-foot mark, jumping 15'-11.5" for third.
Lowell's field dominance continued in the high jump with indoor newcomer David Ajama. The Outdoor All-State runner-up (6'-10") made his debut on the winter circuit to the tune of a 6'-6" jump that cleared Thomas Allardi of Reading's runner-up mark (6'-2") by four inches. Ajama's emergence grabbed him a MA#3 and makes him, and the Lowell team, instant favorites to watch for the Division 1 meet, prior to even considering the rest of the events. Worcester Tech's Emanuele Dokyi (6'-2") bested the rest of the competition, on attempts, to reach the podium position. Meanwhile, Wellesley's Anna Jordahl-Henry, on the girls side, secured her spot as the early favorite of the state, jumping 5'-8" to beat out North Andover's Sarah Lavery (5'-4"). Jordahl-Henry's jump propelled her into a tie amongst the country's elite, placing her at a US#5 position nearly a month into the indoor season. But not to be overshadowed, Jordahl-Henry's sister, Julia, also jumped 5'-4" to match Lavery for second place, providing a fun 1-2 punch to watch this season in Division 1.
Brockton's Jordan Williams (7.90) beat the field out of the preliminaries, clocking what would have been a MA#5 had he not already had the MA#3 mark in 7.82 a week prior. But he made good on his early season consistency running that same 7.82 in the finals to claim the Winter Festival win. The Indoor All-State finalist was closely followed by teammate Zio Barber-Amado (8.00), who gave Brockton a second top five hurdler in the state, clocking in at MA#5. Fitchburg's Evans Orduro (8.08) outleaned Peadbody's Kemani Jackson for third to reach a tie at the eighth best mark in the state this season. Unfortunately, Haverhill's Jayla Kitchings (9.12) did not get to carry over her top seed in the preliminaries as she struggled to replicate her efforts in the girls 55m hurdles finals. Instead, Chelmsford's Meghan Stagnone (9.11) squeezed out a W, and MA#9, over Andover's Kassie Brink (9.21). However, Kitchings's 9.12 and Brink's 9.15 from the preliminaries earned the two a MA#10 and MA#11 mark respectively, giving the two proud performances to carry out of Reggie.
Improvements were found from the preliminaries to the finals as Shepherd Hill's Bryan Santos (6.54) and Woburn's Marcus Qualls (6.58) led the charge in what would have been two of the fastest times this year. Yet in the finals, Qualls (6.45) ran even harder to secure a MA#1 and US#8, demonstrating a strong start to the season for last year's fourth place finisher at the New England Championships. Santos (6.50) had to settle for second with a new personal best and a MA#2 standard. Rounding out the top three, the Lowell Red Raiders squeaked into another podium finish, with Richmond Kwaateng (6.64) moving into the Massachusetts Top 10 in the dash. In the girls finals, nearly duplicating the preliminaries, North Andover's Trinity Tapper (7.48) outreached Andover's Delia Barbanti (7.49) to the tape, bringing MA#9 and MA#10 performances back home with them. Abby Comella of Wellesley (7.57) ran herself a personal best to join the two in the top three event finishers.
The longer sprint brought about a resurgence of last year's Division 2 300m champion, with Matthew Madamba of Algonquin (36.52) running a personal best to win with relative ease over Sean Glass of Haverhill (36.99). Madamba's new best moves him up to second in the event in Massachusetts with Glass sliding into MA#8, after edging out North Andover's Trevor Nassar (37.14; MA#11). Wellesley magic struck twice on the girls' side, with the high jump champion, Anna Jordahl-Henry, claiming the 300m title (40.37) by over a second and a third over runner-up Madison Marsh of Shepherd Hill (41.63). Jordahl-Henry's state-leading time puts her 18th nationally and grabs attention from the track community to see what else the Raider senior will put together this winter.
Arguably surprising most in the event was the absence of Newton North's Theo Burba in his specialty, the 600m. The reigning Indoor All-State runner-up and New Balance All-American in the 800m ran his first cross country season this past fall. So it may have been a healthy scratch to let himself recover before the quicker races hit the track. But his seeding in the 300m, 600m, and long jump, and no mention of him in the results, brings curiosity to those outside the Newton North camp. Nevertheless, his teammate Raghav Kadambi (1:24.34) didn't leave the 600m Tiger-less, as he finished second to pitch a MA#2 in the process. Kadambi was only beat by Jon Polanco Soto of Leominster (1:23.34) who claimed a MA#1 and a US#8. The first indoor track action for the junior brings a lot of interest moving forward into the season. While Newton North made a surprisingly strong, and young, presence in the girls 600m, with freshman Charlotte Kouroriez breaking through in 1:40.89 to take the win and a US#2 among freshmen, behind Murdock's Lilly Digman (1:39.90) set the following day during the Small School section. Lowell's Kimesha Lewis (1:43.08) and Peabody's Lexi Bettencourt (1:44.11) chased Kouroriez down in an event that may have promise to be run by the future of Massachusetts track & field this winter.
But Newton North kept the party rolling in the 1,000m with Marco Leo leading the top three under 2:40, running 2:37 even to put down a Massachusetts state-leading time. Haverhill's Keith May was right behind him in 2:38.96 along with North Andover's sophomore Jack Bicksler (2:39.20) as second and third placed MA#3 and MA#4. The mid-distance youth in the girls race continued with junior Emma Sullivan of Shepherd Hill (3:04.40) leading her sophomore teammate, Christina Gunsalus, to a 3:12.06 and third place, good for MA#12. But Sullivan's MA#1 and US#18 time provided sophomore Courtney Dalke of North Andover (3:07.24) plenty of push to seize a second place finish and MA#4. Depending on which events Dalke and Gunsalus pick, the Auberbach Freshman-Sophomore Invitational may put Kealy Richards of Lowell's 3:02.38 meet record in jeopardy.
In what continues a trend for the hypothetical team scores in the Winter Festival, Lowell took control of the boys mile, expanding their depth across all disciplines. Senior Jadiel Pinales (4:37.87) and sophomore Joeben Jacobs (4:42.91) claimed a 1-3 finish, with Pinales grabbing a MA#13 time. Shepherd Hill's Brian Belmonte (4:39.05) sandwiched in between the Red Raiders, crossing the line in a MA#16 spot as well. Similarly, the girls mile was relatively controlled with the finish between the final two competitors coming down to a last kick. In the end, Algonquin's Tess Reyes (5:16.04) outleaned Hingham's Caroline Johannes (5:16.40) for MA#4 and MA#6 times respectively. North Andover's Abby Mastromonico (5:26.04) escaped the chase pack to grab the third podium position, sliding into 15th in the state.
The individual events concluded with the two mile as Methuen's Xavier Metivier (9:58.72) was the only boy to crack 10 minutes, earning the win and placing himself at MA#9. Brockton's Imanuel Fernandez (10:06.57) and Algonquin's Jonathan Symons (10:13.15) followed suit to finish up the boys individual events on the long Saturday afternoon. For the girls, a small field of only six made it to the line, with Shepherd Hill's Rebekah James (11:31.40) working against the clock to run an early season MA#2, with Methuen's Mariah Fernandez (11:50.52) needing every last meter to hold off Chelmsford's Anna Quirbach (11:50.66) for second, with both girls cracking the state's top ten, with MA#9 and MA#10 marks.
Wrapping up the MSTCA opening event came about with the relays on the track. In the sprint relay, Shepherd Hill (1:34.56) and Methuen (1:35.22) ran 1-3 in the second heat while Algonquin (1:34.76) found themselves escaping the first heat throughout the event to make the podium, finishing second on the boys side. All three teams finished with Massachusetts-leading times, in third, fifth, and fourth respectively. Meanwhile, the Battle of Andover took place in the girls race, with Andover (1:46.89) winning out the first heat over rivals North Andover (1:48.53), with MA#1 and MA#2 leading times. Wachusett managed to get under 1:50, in running a MA#5 time of 1:49.72 to take third.
The boys 4x800m relay, however, did not get out as fast as the small schools, with West Springfield (8:40.33) claiming the only top five state time out of the field, winning the event in a MA#3 time. Algonquin (8:56.54) and Shepherd Hill (8:57.06) battled out for second and third along with a likely tired Lowell (8:58.69). The girls, on the other hand, made no excuses with only nine teams lining up to race. Lexington (10:06.06) took advantage of a competitive North Andover (10:08.07) to lead the two to state-leading times while climbing up the US leaderboards (#33 and #40). Algonquin finished in a distant third with a time of 10:37.22 in a race that strung out pretty quickly.
The grueling Winter Festival came to an end with the boys and girls 4x400m relay. And ultimately saving the best for last, Newton North demonstrated that their speed is not one to underestimate. The Tigers (3:29.21) finished the relay 13 seconds of Walpole (3:42.73) who finished second in the first heat and third overall to Leominster (3:41.53). Although it cannot be confirmed if Theo Burba raced the relay, what can be certain is that the Newton North quartet is thinking bigger than just All-States and New Englands, as they now sit at US#11. And it looks like the Tigers may have some company on the girls side, as Wellesley decided to wrap up the Winter Festival to place themselves on the national list as well. The Raiders winning time of 4:02.16 is the fastest time run in the state this season and the fifth fastest run nationally, outpacing Shepherd Hill's 4:07.16 (US#18) by five seconds. Judging by how coaches line-up their teams for the State Relays, Wellesley may be eyeing to break under the 4:00 mark.