Makayla Paige, Schuyler Gooley, and Jada Johnson. Those are the top three names that you need to know and familiarize yourself with if did not know who these track stars were already heading into Friday's MIAA Division 3 Championships.
The Tewksbury Memorial junior Makayla Paige has become the queen of all things middle distance in Massachusetts as of late as one point this season she owned the state's leading time at all distances ranging from the 200 meters to 800 meters. She still owns the top time in the 600 from her 1:30.28 victory at the Millrose Games last weekend as well as two events not contested during the MIAA championship series in the 400 (57.42) and 800 (2:08.01).
Paige is entered to run the 600 and 300 meter races on Friday at the MIAA Division 3 Championships as she is the reigning Division 3 champ as well as MIAA All-State champ in the 600. It will be intriguing to see how she approaches the 600 and if she attempts to go after a record time in the event since she could also run hard enough to win being that she is five seconds faster than her next closest competitor in Milford junior Kerry O'Connor at 1:35.86.
O'Connor and her Milford teammate Sarah Flanagan could give Paige a better challenge in the 300 meter dash later as both have ventured into the 40 second range this season behind top seed Paige with her 40.13 best. And not to be forgotten. O'Connor is the defending Division 3 champion in the event (40.92 win last year) and she is not going to lay down her title easy to Paige coming down to her event. They might provide just enough push that Paige needs to break 40 seconds for the first time in the event.
The aforementioned Gooley had the fastest times for the 1000 (2:57), mile (4:59), and two mile (10:55) entering this week for Division 3, but has opted to only double with the mile and two mile. A sound decision as both events she is a favorite based off her competitors season best times with her Hopkinton teammate Olivia Jones at 11:23.06 as the second fastest seed in the two mile, while Milton senior Ava Duggan has run 5:09 in the mile this season as likely Gooley's only legitimate challenger in that race.
However, seed times mean nothing when you realize that both Duggan and Jones are the defending Divisional champions in both events including Duggan defeating Gooley in last year's race head to head when she ran her lifetime best mile time of 5:01.80 to defeat Gooley (5:01.94) in narrow fashion. Similarly, Olivia Jones has run much faster in prior years than her current season best seed time including her 11:04 PR victory in the 2019 MIAA Division 3 Championships.
The 1000 would have been a loaded field if featured Gooley as already have two girls in the five lapper who have broken 3 minutes this season in Shepherd Hill's Emma Sullivan at 2:57.86 and Billerica's Nicole Anderson at 2:59. The two runners went sub 3 minutes in last year's Division 3 Championships race with Anderson in second at 2:58 and Sullivan in third at 2:59, so both are very familiar with racing one another at this stage.
The female athlete who might have the best and maybe only opportunity to win three individual titles on Friday at the MIAA Division Championships is multi-event talent Jada Johnson of Sharon. Johnson is the defending Division 3 champion in the high jump and is currently ranked US #4 in the event with a state leading clearance of 5'8" this season. Johnson is also considered among the top 5 best in Massachusetts for the long jump (18'2" season best) and 55 meter hurdles (8.50).
The high jump will likely be the easiest of the three for Johnson to win, while the hurdles she may have to deal with her own teammate in senior Elizabeth Lee at 8.59 breathing down her neck but the potential of a 1-2 finish for the Sharon program in the finals. The long jump will be the test in the form North Attleboro senior Lily Wetherbee who is seeded ahead of her with an 18'4.75" season best and is the defending champion from one year ago.
Cannot wait to see what Johnson can do in a meet format more suited for her versatile talents in the pentathlon with the MSTCA hosted event later this month as well as New Balance Nationals aiming for another All-American showing.
Shepherd Hill senior Madison Marsh was 4th in last year's MIAA Division 3 Championships finals for the 55 meter dash, but enters this meet as a favorite to win despite returning champion Julia Mastrio of Minnechaug (7.30 victory in 2019) returning. Marsh has put herself in that top seeded position by not losing a single race for the entire season including notable victories at the MSTCA Speed Classic (Large Schools), MSTCA Northeast Invitational, and MSTCA Coaches Invitational (Large Schools) as she brings her MA #3 7.27 season best clocking into the competition.
It will be intriguing to see though the fight in the competitor that is Mastrio who has struggled to run her times from a year ago and actually ranks 9th coming into the meet as a bit of a wildcard now on what to expect from her. Putnam's Yulive Peralta might actually be Marsh's toughest challenger having run 7.34 this season as the PVIAC champion this winter.
Marsh will also likely be featured on Shepherd Hill's top ranked 4x400 meter relay as they have posted a time of 4:05.83 this season to lead Division 3. Hingham and Milford are among the teams who should be in pursuit. Those same two teams are also among the top 3 seeds for the girls 4x200 meter relay with Milford leading the field at 1:47.26, while Sharon has also run 1:47 this winter.
The biggest gap in any race based off seed times is found in the girls 4x800 meter relay with the Billerica girls almost a full 20 seconds faster at 9:38 than the next two fastest times in Hingham (9:57) and Milton (9:58). Seeing a trend though with both Hingham and Milton as two teams who invest and thrive in their relay squads. One of the 1000 meter title contenders in Nicole Anderson will be featured likely on anchor for Billerica. The Vanderbilt commit has run 2:07.10 in the open 800 last spring, which ranked #16 in the entire country.
The event farthest removed and isolated from most of the spectators in the girls shot put could be one of the more wide open events as several girls are within one breakthrough throw away from a division title. Pembroke senior Amanda Little leads the field though with a season best mark of 34'7.75" and less than three feet behind her is second seeded Chinazo Odunze of Stoughton.
The team projections for this meet make it tough to determine a clear cut favorite as it appears more than a handful of programs in Hopkinton, Sharon, Billerica, Shepherd Hill, North Attleboro, Milford, and Hingham could all score over 40 points. The margin of error is too small for any of these teams to have a miss step and likely the squad who seemingly everything goes right will come out on top.
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