The annual State Division 3 spring track championship meet was held last Friday and Saturday, May 26 and 27, at Fitchburg State University. The Marblehead girls fared very well with a seventh-place finish, while the boys were 17th overall.
“It was a great two days of track for both our squads,” said coach Nolan Raimo.
Freshman running whiz Marri O’Connell was the focus of attention throughout the two-day track extravaganza, not only among her own coaches and teammates but the opposition as well. She did not disappoint after qualifying for the New Balance Nationals in both the mile and 2-mile.
Girls triple jump
Claire Davis picked up a medal with a leap of 34-3 after a sixth-place finish. Keira Sweetnam (34-1) was close behind in ninth place to finish among the top 10.
Rachael Albert (101-6) was fifth, and Hannah O’Brien (84-6) came in 13th.
“Rachael had a rocky start but still made it to the finals on her third throw,” said coach Danny Plunkett. “She recovered really well, throwing over 100 feet on her last throw in the finals and has already qualified for All-States.
Plunkett added, “For Hannah, it was a great finish to her season after outperforming her seed by a sizable margin.”
Girls 400-meter hurdles
Devin Whalen (72.68) finished 14th.
“This event is such a difficult race where one mistake causes two mistakes later in the race,” Raimo said. “The volatility and unpredictability of the wind and temperature plays a significant role in the outcome of the race, and there’s no athlete I’d rather send out to fight and scrap in an event like this than Devin.”
Boys 400-meter hurdles
Ryan Thompson (60.24) finished fifth after only a couple of weeks competing in the event.
“Ryan is an outstanding athlete, and this medal is a great testament to his athleticism,” said Raimo.
Errol Apostolopoulos (60.52) narrowly missed the podium with a ninth-place finish.
Cate Trautman (26.62) led the way for Marblehead, finishing ninth overall, while just missing the finals by four-tenths of a second.
Ava Machado (26.75) was 11th, Le’Daisha Williams (27.53) 23rd and Sadie Halpern (27.68) 27th.
“With over 40 teams at this meet, it’s awesome to have four sprinters in the top 30,” Raimo said. “They work hard, and I think there is healthy competition among them, where they want to be the best.”
Harrison Curtis (23.22) finished 14th, and Sebastian Pantzer (23.23) was close behind, coming in 15th place. Thomas Carlson (23.74) ended up 30th.
“In an effort to save 10 minutes tops, the meet director decided to run two heats with 16 runners in each with no staggered starts,” said coach William Herlihy. “This was a mind-boggling decision that shortened three hours of competition by 10 minutes, but it created horrible conditions for the athletes to be successful. There were a handful of other coaches and plenty of athletes that were frustrated by this decision, but the show had to go on.”
In the first heat, Juliet Burchfield (2:34.1) turned in a fantastic effort to finish 25th. It was not quite a personal best, but a very good race nonetheless considering the circumstances.
“No one worked harder in the second heat than Kate Twomey,” added Herlihy. “She was boxed in twice, with runners stacked four-wide, while running in lanes one through three, but she fought her way out both times to finish seventh with a time of 2:26.6.”
Herlihy continued, “Unsurprisingly, the decision to stack the heats with no stagger starts made for a very physical race that didn’t result in fast times, but Kate and Juliet both stayed composed and fought back to survive the pack.”
Gabe Bayramian (2:06.53) also had to contend with a deep pack.
“He battled as best as he could, but the pack started slowly on the first lap, and so when he decided to get going in the second lap, everyone else also had enough gas left,” said Herlihy. “But it was still a very respectable race for Gabe, who finished 25th.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of writing this, but Cat Piper had the best race of her career once again,” Herlihy said. “Cat powered her way to a fourth-place finish in her heat and ended up 18th overall, while smashing her personal best by 22 seconds after running a 12:28.34. She has been so instrumental in the team’s success this year as both a leader and competitor, and now to see her take racing to the next level has been awesome to watch.”
Running in the second heat was O’Connell, who pushed the top pack throughout most of the race to come away with a very impressive second place finish with a blistering time of 11:08.56, a 15-second personal best that qualified her for the New Balance National Freshman Meet.
“Marri ran so well that a rival coach sought me out to tell me that she runs like a rockstar by displaying so much confidence and strength,” said Herlihy. “And anyone who has seen her race would have to agree.”
Both Isaac Gross (9:43.32) and Harrison Kee (10:09.30) were participating in the second heat, and they both fared well. Gross came in 10th and Kee 20th.
Albert (94-7) barely missed the podium after finishing ninth.
“A week ago, Rachael never expected to be competing at this meet in the javelin, let alone be seeded in the top 10 because she has always been focused on the discus throughout her track career,” Plunkett said.
Albert entered the finals in eighth place with a one-inch advantage over the top seed Grace Frasier (96-10, seventh) from Agawam.
But Frasier bumped Albert off the podium into ninth place on her final throw.
O’Connell (5:19.52, eighth place) was the lone Marblehead miler.
“There was some confusion before the race on which heat she would be in, which made a big impact on how she was going to approach the race,” Herlihy said. “She ended up in the first heat, which has the slower seed times, and so it fell on her to try and run for time, which of course she did. Marri just dusted her heat, winning by over 12 seconds to put her third in the school’s record book, while also qualifying for the New Balance nationals.”
Gross (4:35.87) ended up 17th among his state’s peers. His time is now second in the school’s record book.
Gabrielle Hendy (63.25) ran a quality race to finish 19th.
“Gabby, nearing the 63-second barrier in her first season running long sprints, is a testament to her work ethic,” Raimo said. “After an offseason of training, I think Gabby is on pace for an incredibly long sprint career.”
Thompson (51.99, season best time) earns another medal with an eighth-place finish.
“Ryan has now earned medals in both the 400 and 400-meter hurdles, which is an impressive feat,” said Raimo. “Ryan has participated in just about every race in track, and he’s found success in all of them.”
Girls high jump
Sweetnam (5-4) battled the All-State indoor champion Haley McCormack of Tantasqua, and ended up second.
“Keira cleared 5-4 on her first jump, and it looked like she secured the victory, but McCormack’s third and final attempt was 5-6,” Raimo said. “Keira has jumped against some of the best competition in the entire state and New England, which is unfortunate for her placing. But to go up against the best of the best is a privilege, and Keira has rightfully planted her name as one of the top jumpers in New England with a 5-4 clearance.”
Boys long jump
Apostolopoulos (20-8.5, personal best) defied the odds as the 24th and last seed to finish seventh.
“Errol will be competing at Connecticut College next year, but his senior indoor and outdoor season was phenomenal to go out on a high note,” Raimo said.
Alex Hersey (19-11.25) finished 12th after fouling on two monstrous jumps.
Girls long jump
Davis (15-10.5) ended up 14th.
“It was an unbelievably competitive field with a couple of girls going over 18-0,” Raimo said. “Claire was a bit back on the board on a couple of jumps but running top-end speed from 14 steps out to jump off an 8-inch board is no easy task.”
Girls 100/110-meter hurdles
Whalen (16.9, personal best) put the pedal to the metal to finish sixth. Davis (16.67) was 11th, and Elise Burchfield (17.49) 22nd.
Boys 100/110-meter hurdles
Hersey (15.9) finished 12th, narrowly missing his personal best. He is heading to this weekend’s All-State Meet after his performance in the NEC Meet. Apostolopoulos (16.28) ended up 18th.
Ava Machado continues to build upon an incredible sophomore campaign with a new personal best of 12.74 in the prelims, which auto-qualifies her for the All States. Machado finished seventh overall in the finals with a time of 12.91.
Trautman then capped a great scholastic career with a new personal best of 12.88 in the prelims to finish 10th overall. Halpern (13.5) was 19th and Williams (13.13) 22nd to round out the local field.
Harrison Curtis motored his way to a fifth-place finish with a time of 11.22 in the prelims and then 11.25 in the finals.
“Harrison already auto qualified for the All-States, and if the conditions are right, I think we could see a sub-11 second performance from him,” Raimo said.
Thomas Carlson (11.51), a sophomore with a bright future, finished 23rd. Pantzer (11.53) was 25th.
Girls 4×800 relay
Grace Mortenson (2:34) had the best race of her season in the opening leg to get the team in the top mix.
O’Connell, who also raced a fast mile an hour earlier, still had enough to run her fastest split of the season (2:28) to keep her team competitive.
Juliet Burchfield (2:38) had a late surge in the third leg to give her teammate and anchor a chance to medal.
Twomey then had a monster anchor leg with a 2:25 split that propelled the quartet to a sixth-place finish overall with a combined time of 10:08.34.
Boys 4×800 relay
The boys relay far exceeded their expectations based on their seed time. They turned in an impressive combined time of 8:38.68 to finish 14th overall. It was the fifth fastest time in school history.
Xavier Grazado led off with a 2:13, his fastest split of the season. Bayramian gained some ground on the competition with a quick split of 2:05.
Gross kept the team in it with a 2:08, before Henrik Adams closed it out in 2:12, his fastest split of the season.
Girls 4×100 relay
Machado, Trautman, Halpern and Williams are state divisional champions with a time of 49.85, shattering their previous best time by nearly a second.
Girls 4×400 relay
Cora Gerson, Arielle Kahn, Maren Rowe and Hendy (4:30.84) finished 17th.
Boys 4×400 relay
David DiCostanzo, Curtis, Pantzer and Thompson put together the second fastest relay in school recorded history to finish fifth with a time of 3:30.5.