Heptathlon South Wrap-up !

.01 in the 200 meters. .01 in the 100 hurdles. .03 in the 800. 1 centimeter in the long jump or shot put. 3 centimeters in the javelin. Even one of those marks would have given Seekonk's Vanessa Noelte her first heptathlon title, but instead, that belongs to Weymouth's Jen Kimball. Thanks to a blistering 800 

performance, Kimball claimed the victory by just 1 point (3933) over Noelte (3922). In a sense, it was a come from behind win, but the Individual Heptathlon doesn't have a scoreboard, so the athletes have to run, jump, and throw against a point system and have faith that what they are doing is good enough.

The two-day event kicked off with a bang, in the only event where the top two athletes would face off, the 100 meter hurdles. Kimball edged Noelte at the line, 16.27 to 16.29, for a minuscule 3 point lead. Of course, every point would matter. The Yale-bound Noelte has a rare strength for a heptathlete, as she threw 30'11" in the shot put, a season best and better than Kimball's 3-foot personal best (28'4"). Pembroke sophomore Jess Gratzer would dominate the shot at 33'8", helping her to a 14th place finish. Kimball's 4'10" high jump clearance gave her the slightest edge over Noelte after three events (4'8"), but Noelte regained her lead in the 200, going 27.12, better than Kimball's 27.59. NDA's Kaleigh Erickson would be the lone athlete under 27.00 (26.98), using the hometown track to her advantage.

Noelte took day #1 over Kimball 2407-2375, well ahead of the Milton duo of Molly Dempsey (#3 in the 100 hurdles, 16.14) and Angie Higgins (whose 15.85 won the hurdles, just ahead of Marshfield's Kelsey Sullivan), and Sharon's Sam Kaplan (high jump champion at 4'11.75"), who would ultimately take 3rd in the event.

Each athlete had an advantage event on paper going into day 2, as Kimball holds a 99 foot best in the javelin, well ahead of Noelte (who would step up and throw 70'10"). But Noelte was an All State long jumper in the event Kimball is least experienced in. Kimball would survive the pit, going 14'10.5", but Noelte would bust out the best jump on the day of 16'2.5" (only 7 other athletes were even over 15 feet). Unless Kimball could uncork a big javelin throw, Noelte would command a lead going to the 800. Unfortunately, the skies opened up, and the rains came. Kimball mustered only a 76'3' toss, giving Noelte a seemingly insurmountable 109 point lead. Gratzer again took the javelin title (109'1"), just a notch better than All-New England performer Michaela Lievi (107'8"), who would carry that performance to 8th overall (3463).

The 800 provided some unrealized drama, as Noelte hustled to a 2:32.41 time, highly respectable for a sprinter/ hurdler/ jumper who rarely goes up that high. Kimball needed to smash the field in the race and did, going 2:23.77, the fastest time on the day (Erickson was close at 2:24.04, as was Rachel Blauner of East Bridgewater in 2:24.09). When the places were announced, and one point separated the two, Kimball was expectedly overjoyed. However, what happened next would have put a smile on even the most cynical track fan's face. Noelte came over to congratulate the Weymouth junior, but rather than giving the basic "I have to do this because it's the right thing to do... good job" greeting, she showed a sincerity and genuine happiness for her opponent that was as unforeseen as the meet's outcome.  She asked to pose for pictures with the champion, and showed a class and grace that this reporter-coach will never soon forget. What a great kid!

The team race was a two-way battle, in tight fashion, eventually going to the home Cougars of Notre Dame. With three of the top 12 athletes, Kalieigh Erickson (6th, 3570 points), Marypat Henry (7th, 3517 points), and Shauna Owen (12th, 3351 points) combined for 10,438 points, edging out Seekonk (10,396) and Weymouth (9884). Seekonk used another top 10 performance from sophomore Lucy Belt (10th, 3397) and another 3000 point effort from freshman Latroya Pina to take the silver, and Kimball joined with May Perriello and Kristin Leone to take 3rd.