By Nate Leveille
Finally the weekend we have all been waiting for! It seems like a year ago most of us were having our first tri-meets snowed out. Despite the pretty windy and cold spring season there have seen been some great marks run by the D1 athletes heading into the Division 1 Championship this Friday night at Merrimack High School. Some teams appear to be getting healthy at the right time, which is a good thing because as coaches, athletes, and spectators we want to see all the best athletes have the ability perform on the biggest stage. On paper the girls team championship could come down to the very last event. On the boys side, there will be a number of teams aiming for the runner-up plaque. In my pre season preview I selected Pinkerton Academy on the boys side and Nashua South on the girls side as the preseason favorites to win the Division 1 States, heading into this weekend they are still the two favorites, but they have some teams closing in behind.
This past indoor season the Pinkerton Academy girls ran away with the team title followed by Exeter and Nashua South. Those three teams should finish 1-2-3 in the meet this Friday, but as previously mentioned Nashua South is the favorites with a projected point total of 107, followed by Exeter with a projected total of 92, and Pinkerton with a projected total of 57 (those projections came from scoring the track meet out after the seeding meeting). Other teams that will be in the mix for the top 5 include Londonderry, Memorial, Bedford, Nashua North and Concord.
As we all know point scoring projections rarely ever match up with the actual result. The swing events in this meet are the field events. Field events are always the most challenging to predict especially the horizontal and vertical jumps. South has a ton of experience in the jumps led by Sydney Lewis and Amber Hedquist in the high jump. They will have competition from Skylar Bomba of Alvirne, who has been one of the most consistent jumpers this spring.
The long jump and triple jump could very well determine the team championship. The triple jump favorite Alana Choate of Nashua North is 6 inches ahead of the two seed Sydney Ward of Exeter. After those two, Julia Zhang of Nashua South and Kelsey Pierce of Exeter come in at the 3 and 4 seeds. Zhang is the one seed in the long jump after her monster 16’ 10” jump at Londonderry last weekend. Kaylie Longua of Londonderry will try to play spoiler as the 2 seed and from a team perspective, Exeter has 4 girls entered all with jumps of 16’0” of better. Pole vault has 6 girls bunched together between 9’8” and 8’6”. The current one seed is Taylor Nydam of Winnacunnet.
In the javelin throw Amelia Graves of Pinkerton is the one seed. Unfortunately her teammate Laurel Breen (who was the two seed) will not be competing this weekend after a knee injury late in the season. Despite that Pinkerton will still look to secure more than 10 points in the event. If Graves were to have an off day, she could be challenged by Hedquist of South or Hailey Fontaine of Timberlane. The shot and disc have been two difficult events to predict as the season has gone on except for Sarah Williams of Dover, who will be the favorite in both. Victoria Conrad of Nashua North is the two seed in shot put followed by Meredith Basta of BG. In the discus, Akolam Wambu of Londonderry is the two seed followed by an Exeter duo of Jordan Heiser and Samantha Vorster.
Crismeily Borg and Lewis of South are the 1-2 seeds in the 100 meter after Grace Devanny of Concord opted for the longer sprints and relays. South could score a massive 19 points in the 100 meter and jump out to a commanding lead early in the meet. They shouldn’t forget about indoor 55m champ Johanna Koroma of Merrimack who is currently the 3 seed. In the 200, Borg and Devanny should have yet another epic battle. Devanny got the better the last time the two faced off. Amelia Graves of Pinkerton and Elizabeth Flynn of Bedford will also play a factor in the 200 meters. Devanny and Graves will both battle to sub 60 second times in the 400 meter run. They will be chased by Sara Padellaro of Timberlane, Mollie Simpson of Memorial, and Dominique Milinazzo of Alvirne, all of which are capable of breaking 60 seconds. The sprint with hurdles in the way is led by Lewis of South and two seed Ellie Johnson of Exeter. Johnson of Exeter is the one seed in the 300 hurdles, but the defending runner-up, Katya Rojco of Salem is coming in as the two seed.
The distance events could be challenging this Friday with a current weather forecast in the upper 80’s. Jackie Gaughan of Exeter is looking to go out with a bang, running for team points in the 1600m, 800m and 3200m. Cali Coffin of Nashua South is the two seed in both the 1600 and 3200. The favorites in the 800 are Macy Graves of Pinkerton and Caroline Fischer of BG. Britney Johnson of Pinkerton is entered in the 1600m and 800m and is coming back to form from injury. Violet Sullivan of Exeter, Kendall Bush of South and Meghan Cross of Pinkerton are the 3-4-5 seed in the 3200 and will also be running the 1600m.
It’s fair to say that some or all of those distance names will show up in the 4×800, which could set the tone for the meet. Speaking of the relays, teams such as Londonderry and Bedford don’t figure to challenge for the overall team title but have outstanding 4×100’s. In the 4×400, the top 9 teams are only separated by 7 seconds! Memorial and Bedford come in with the top two times, but the winner may be decided by who can keep their relay the freshest. I don’t think any team will feel safe with the lead if Grace Devanny of Concord and Amelia Graves of Pinkerton are within striking distance.
Fun Fact: The last time Nashua South won a track and field championship they were actually Nashua High School back in 1995. The last time Exeter High School won a girls team championship was in 2012 when they were powered by Hillary Holmes.
The boys side is a different story. Pinkerton came into the season as the clear preseason favorites and not much has changed over the duration of the season. They remained healthy and have put up solid performances from their stars. They are projected to score 105 points based on the scratches after the seed meeting, which is far and away ahead of Concord (75 points), Bedford (63 points), Nashua North (59 points), and Exeter (51 points). For the first time in a long time, Pinkerton is not projected to score any points in the distance events, but that won’t stop them from potentially running away with the meet, no pun intended. Pinkerton is projected to score 38 points alone in the field events. Bedford can rival them in the field events where they are projected to score 36 points, but will have a hard time keeping up on the track and in the relays. Concord is led by the deepest distance crew the state has seen in a long time. They can throw athletes in all the distance events and relays along with sprinter Dalton Mutz. Concord is not projected to score any points in the fields. The team race is really for second place unless Pinkerton has a ton of things go wrong.
The boys meet does offer some intriguing individual races. In the sprints, Mutz of Concord and Jadyn Ruimwijk of Pinkerton (I’ve written his name in so many articles, I no longer need to look up the spelling of his last name anymore) along with the Bedford guys will battle it out. With the expected weather conditions, they could go sub 11. They will have a rematch in the 200m later in the meet, but Devin Jones of Central will be in the mix and no one should forget about Billy Powers of Winnacunnet, who is also entered in the 200 meters. In the long sprints, UCONN-bound Noah Woodman of Pinkerton as been healthy and been a beast in the 400 meter distance. He could lead potentially 4 guys under 50 seconds! In the hurdle sprints, it will be the last time we get to see one of the most dominant hurdlers Division 1 has ever seen in Billy Powers of Winnacunnet. Billy is the clear cut favorite to win both hurdle races. Jordan Trombly of Manchester Memorial and Adam Spencer of Pinkerton are two other hurdlers to watch.
In the distance events, the 1600 meter run should be exciting, fast, and fun to watch. Aidan O’Hern of Concord is the #1 seed after his performance at the Loucks Games. He will have plenty of competition from David Vorbach of Nashua North and Jake Winslow of Exeter. The 800 meters includes another #1 seed from Concord, Colin Conery, with Winslow as the two seed and O’Hern as the 3 seed. My guess would be all the guys in this race will have run at least one previous race, which could make for a slower, more tactical race.The 3200 meter run will include Vorbach and teammate Max Ireland of Nashua North. They come in as the top two seeds, but never count out Forest MacKenzie ,who will make them work for everything in the 3200.
In the relays, Pinkerton has the top times in the 4×100 and 4×400. They should be challenged by Bedford and Merrimack in the 4×100. In the 4×400, someone will have to get out in front of Pinkerton if they want to take the title there as Pinkerton closes with Woodman. If anyone can challenge them in the 4×400, it may be Winnacunnet or Concord. In the 4×800, it will be fun to see if Concord loads it up and goes after the Division 1 record and possibly the state record in the next couple of weeks. If Concord runs their “A” team, I don’t see anyone challenging them for the title in the 4×800.
In the field events the athlete to watch has to be Scott Rathbun of Keene who has already cleared 15 feet in the pole vault! If you’re not into the pole vault, you can look a little to the left at the javelin runway. Jon King of Pinkerton has already launched a throw of 190’ 5”. We haven’t seen a boy chuck it that far since the Kyle Faucher v. Jacob Stanko battle of 2016. Stanko’s D1 and state record throw of 200’ 9” could be in trouble if the wind cooperates, but King won’t have the luxury of having someone on his heels like Stanko did. He enters the meet as the 1 seed by more than 32 feet. Patrick Hagearty of Londonderry has been the top thrower in the discus and shot put this season. He has gone head to head with Jeremiah Swett of Exeter in the discus on three occasions this year and it will be fun to watch the two of them battle it out. In the shot put Hagearty will be challenged by Kaleal Cerafici of Pinkerton.
In the other jumps, Jake Langevin of Exeter is the top seed in the high jump with a seed of 6’ 3”. Dinebari Adumene of Manchester Memorial is the top seed in the triple jump, but will have competition from Lucien Mumpini of Bedford. Mumpini is also the top seed in the long jump over 2 seed Josh Sibanda of Salem. The horizontal and vertical jumps are always some of the most unpredictable events to predict. It only takes one good jump to win the whole thing.
I can’t wait for tomorrow. Best of luck to all the athletes competing stay hydrated and healthy.