Record Assault at the New England Championships

The buzz about how good Precious Holmes really was began early this winter and continued through the indoor season. The Hillhouse, CT phenom didn’t disappoint the Reggie Lewis Center crowd at Friday night’s 25th New England Interscholastic Indoor Track & Field Championships.

 

Holmes was at her absolute best and was never challenged on the way to taking down a pair of meet records. She was out fast in the 600 and finished three seconds ahead of runnerup Erica Johnson of Bay View, RI in 1:30.79. That performance erased the New England best of 1:30.87 set in 2006 by Samantha Gawrych.

 

Thirty minutes later, Holmes took on Massachusetts state champion Rebecca Robinson of Arlington in the 300 and won by more than a second in 38.22. The victory was especially sweet for Holmes as she broke Robinson’s meet record after finishing second to her last March. Holmes closed out the meet by teaming up with Johnesse Peterson, Jayvona McDaniel and Lanaja Carr to win the 4x400 with an impressive 3:56.84.

Holmes expressed a tinge of disappointment by the fact she fell just short of Janine Davis’s 1:29.27 national best in the 600.

 

“I was trying to shoot for the national record. I was feeling pretty good. I have the 300 coming right back up. This is going to take a lot out of me. I felt tight.”

 

Brockton’s Vanessa Clerveaux made it a point to savor everything about the meet, her last at the Reggie Lewis Center. The two-time Massachusetts state champion was very aware of the meet record and was determined to get under the mark.

 

Clerveaux had her best start of the season in the final and meticulously picked apart the field to win in a meet record 7.97, her second sub 8-second race in a week. Clerveaux’s time bettered the meet record of 8.07 set in 1997 by Keisha Haughton and was a tick faster than her New England record.

Clerveaux led a 1-2-3 Massachusetts sweep with Mansfield’s Jen Esposito taking second in 8.25 and Nicole Genard of Somerville checking in with an 8.27.

 

For Clerveaux the meet was bittersweet knowing she was racing at the facility for the final time. “I literally told someone if I PR’d by a hundreds of a second I’d be satisfied,” she said. “I feel like everything I’ve been doing the past four years - practice after school, practice on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays - came down to this. I’m happy to have one of the fastest times in the country. That’s crazy.”

 

Clerveaux credited her fast start to tweaking her position in the blocks. “I’ve been working on my start,” she said. “Two weeks ago I started changing my blocks. I put my left foot closer to the (starting) line. It pushes me more. Going from 8.09 to 7.97 just comes from the want. I wanted it the most.”

 

Clerveaux’s move up to the 60 hurdles at this weekend’s nationals does present a challenge for her. For starters, she has only raced the distance a total of three times in her high school career. And Clerveaux also has to approach the race differently than she does the 55.

 

“I’m working on getting over the last hurdle and getting into sprinting position,” she said.

Newton North’s Swardick Mayanja remained unbeaten in the shot put, but this time he had to weather some tense moments in coming from behind to win with a heave of 59-3-½.

 

“First place is first place,” he said. “A kid threw 58-1 and that was in the preliminaries. In the finals I was seeded fifth. I came in and my first throw was a 57 and then I banged out the 59. There was definitely a sense of urgency. Not like panic, but urgency. I had to get down with my technique. Get around and go.”

 

Mayanja will try again at the nationals to break the coveted 60-foot mark. “I have to prep a little more and get around at the beginning of my spin and at the end,” he said. “My release has to be on point. Definitely 60 feet. That’s definitely the goal.”

 

Harry Warnick of Fairfield Ward, CT realized one big move in the mile would give him the win so he surged hard into the lead with 400 meters remaining. That put him 10 meters ahead and that was all he needed to take the glamour event of the meet in a personal best time of 4:20.22. Methuen’s Mike O’Donnell was second in 4:21.88 and Robert Massey of Chelmsford took the bronze with his 4:21.96.

 

“I started kicking and I thought, ’Wow, there’s not a lot of guys. I can take this,’’’said an ecstatic Warnick. “On the last lap I knew it was mine.”

 

Somerville’s Andre Rolim defended his title in the 600, but first had to recover from nearly going down early in the race. Rolim surged away from the field with 200 meters and held on for a 1:20.8. Aaeron Sykes of Hartford, CT was a close second in 1:21 and Marcus Motill of Greenwich, CT took third in 1:21.08.

 

Maddy Berkson of Classical, RI was somewhat of a surprise winner in the 1,000. The talented sophomore had a disastrous fifth-place finish in the state meet two weeks before that wound up with her racing in the unseeded heat.

 

Berkson, though, came to run. She was on her own at the start and built and insurmountable lead. She sprinted across the finish line with a quick 2:50.11, faster than anyone in the seeded heat and good enough for a meet record. Her time was well ahead of the 2:52.54 run by Jill Laurendeau in 1999. Sarah Gillespie of North West Catholic, CT won the seeded heat in 2:51.31, also under the meet record.

 

Berkson knew she had no choice but to run as hard as she could and hope for the best. “I didn’t run a very good time at states,” she said. “This whole two weeks I’ve been preparing for a mental race against the clock. I was pretty prepared. It was very comfortable, I was surprised. With two laps to go I knew I was running a fast race. I looked back at one point and didn’t see anyone.”

 

La Salle, RI senior Molly Keating won the mile with a swift 4:54.57 to erase the 4:54.82 meet record set last year by Newton South’s Katy O’Keefe. Bethanie Brown of Waterville, ME and Keating’s teammate Madison Meehan were also under 5 minutes in 4:56.35 and 4:59.78 respectively. Reid Watson of Glastonbury, CT did a superb job running in the lead after overtaking Dennis-Yarmouth’s Jordan O’Dea with 800 meters left to capture the 2 mile title in 10:51.

 

Kakota Dailey-Harris of La Salle, RI was an easy winner in the high jump at 5-9 while Somerset’s Adam Couitt was victorious on the boys’ side with a sterling leap of 6-9. Jake Scinto of Cheshire, CT won the long jump with a 20-10-½ leap. Mollie Gribbin of Burlington, VT won the 55 dash in 7.11 and Janae Wilson of Windsor, CT was victorious in the long jump at 18-7.

 

 

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Photos: Peter Rufo | Newton Sports Photography

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