With the regular season now in the books, the Marblehead High spring track teams headed to Peabody on May 21 to meet up with the rest of the Northeastern Conference teams for the annual NEC Meet.
The boys finished the conference season with a 3-3-1 record, while the girls went 5-2.
In the NEC Meet, the Marblehead boys (87 points) ended up second behind first-place Peabody (171). Gloucester was a close third with 85 points.
The Marblehead girls also finished second with 127 points. The Tanners (155) came out on top. Masconomet (63) and Gloucester (58) rounded out the top four.
Girls long jump
Claire Davis (15-10.75) medaled in the long jump after ending up sixth in the NEC Meet. Ana Vina de Garnica (14-11.5) was 12th.
“There was a steady headwind in the long jump pit, which seemed to impact everyone’s steps and jumps,” said coach Nolan Raimo.
Boys long jump
Errol Apostolopoulos and Alex Hersey made it to the finals. Errol (19-10) finished fifth, and Hersey (19-5) was seventh, just missing the podium.
Girls triple jump
Keira Sweetnam (34-9, a personal best by six inches) hopped, skipped and jumped to a third-place finish. Davis was close behind with a jump of 34-7 to finish fifth. Morgan Zion (30-8) ended up 17th overall.
“I doubted Keira’s ability to make the podium because the NEC has one of the best triple jump fields in recent memory, but Keira came out with a chip on her shoulder to score a third-place finish,” said Raimo.
Boys triple jump
Hersey (40-7.5) was the lone Marblehead jumper for Marblehead, and he finished fourth with essentially just one jump.
“The Peabody runway was horrible,” Raimo said. “The boards were seemingly loose, and Alex caught his heel on a board that bruised it. But Alex is an all-around athlete, and his performance in this event with limited attempts was just incredible.”
Girls high jump
Sweetnam took home a third-place finish with a clearance of 5-2.
“(Peabody senior) Brianna (Ewansiha) and Keira each jumped 5-2, but Brianna cleared it in just one jump, which won the tiebreaker for second place,” Raimo said. “Keira is a phenomenal high jumper, and it’s frankly bad luck that three of the best high jumpers in the state and New England reside in the NEC conference.”
Ewansiha’s classmate, Lindsey Wilson (5-6), went to the head of the class with a first-place finish.
Girls shot put
Rachael Albert was the lone Marblehead thrower, and she was eighth overall with a throw of 28-9.5, just two inches off her personal best mark.
“Rachael is a discus specialist, but she also has an impressive range in both the shotput and javelin,” said Raimo. “Although they are all throwing events, the technical prowess required in each is very different, and Rachael’s ability to place in the top 10 in all three events is a testament to her athleticism.”
Boys shot put
Justin Gonzalez’s season ended with a string of personal bests, finishing 13th overall with a throw of 37-5.
“Justin was the second-best sophomore in this event, behind a generational talent like Alex Jackson of Peabody (53-0), who finished first,” Raimo said. “Justin’s potential is off the charts. It’s going to be very exciting to see Justin’s progress during the offseason coming into next spring.”
Albert medaled with a throw of 101-10. Hannah O’Brien (73-6) was 13th.
“Like the girls triple jump and high jump events, the girls discus group had a handful of future collegiate throwers, and Rachael battled with the best of them for a fourth-place finish,” Raimo said.
Graham Firestone, the Freshman-Sophomore Meet champion, finished 16th with a throw of 90-9, tops among freshmen at this meet.
“Graham is incredibly gifted, and as his track career progresses we will see some special numbers,” Raimo said.
Albert threw the javelin around earlier this season for the first time, and now she’s approaching the 100-foot mark, according to Raimo.
She threw 97-4, a 15-foot personal best, to finish third. Sierra Leinberry (59-9) was 14th and Adelyn Cruickshank (54-4) 19th.
Firestone (115-2) accounted for 10th place, while Asher Oren (103-7) was 16th and Angelo Knight (95-2) 21st, 95-2.
“I’ve said it all this season, but this group is all new to the javelin, and their progress this season was remarkable,” Raimo said. “I look forward to seeing their second-year campaigns next year.”
Girls 400-meter hurdles
Devin Whalen (72.19) was the top dog in the seedings and went on to cruise to the conference championship.
“Devin historically was a 100-meter hurdler, but with a new focus and drive in this event she ran over four seconds faster than her previous best time this season,” Raimo said.
Boys 400-meter hurdles
Ryan Thompson (59.89) began jumping in this event just seven days ago, but he quickly rounded into form, finishing second in the conference meet with a sub-60 time. Errol Apostolopoulos continues to build upon a great season in this event with a personal best time of 60.41. Tommaso
Santoni, a superstar exchange student from Italy, was 12th with a time of 65.52.“This is Tommaso’s first season running track, and he’s had a spectacular one,” Raimo said.
Marc Grazado (65.84) finished 13th.
This season has been a huge step forward for Cat Piper (12:54.16), according to her coach.
“Her performance in the NEC Meet was the gutsiest race I’ve ever seen from her, and although it was just shy of her personal best time, it was still far and away the best race of her track career,” said coach William Herlihy. “She hit her consistent splits lap after lap, and although she ended the race in seventh place, she now knows that she has what it takes to compete with the next level of competition.”
Harrison Kee (9:55.36) made a return to racing after missing some time with an injury and did not disappoint, coming in second. Jonah Potach (11:52.79) ended up 18th.
Girls 100/110-meter hurdles
Whalen, Davis and Elise Burchfield all made the finals in impressive fashion. Whalen (16.38) led the way after tying her personal best-time to secure a third-place finish.
Davis, with a monstrous half-second personal best time of 16.51, claimed the fourth spot.
Burchfield, with another half-second personal best time of 17.26, came in sixth.
Boys 100/110-meter hurdles
In the continuing saga of the best NEC boys hurdler, Leo Sheriff took home the crown.
Hersey (15.69) finished second by surpassing his personal-best time by a half-second.
Apostolopoulos (16.15) also had a half-second personal-best time to finish third.
Ava Machado (13.1) led the way for Marblehead with a second-place finish.
Sadie Halpern (13.8) sneaked into the finals by three seconds and unsurprisingly stood tall against great competition to nab third place.
Arielle Kahn (14.24) capped an impressive first season, finishing 20th.
Curtis (11.28) was credited with a third-place finish. Thomas Carlson (11.48) was close behind in fourth place. Sebastian Pantzer (11.49) was sixth.
“As a track fan, I love to talk race strategy with my athletes,” said Herlihy. “Sometimes the plan is as simple as ‘just race,’ but sometimes a race plan has multiple layers of trying to hit split times while managing pack positioning, which can be a tall order for someone with years of experience, not to mention newcomers.”
Freshman Marri O’Connell’s race plan was the latter, according to Herlihy.
“She knew exactly what to do going in and was executing it quite well for most of the race,” he said.
Unfortunately, an incident on the sixth corner changed all that. Contact occurred, and O’Connell fell.
“But all that matters is this: She got back up and willed herself through the final 500 meters through exhaustion and overwhelming emotion to finish third in 5:33.89, a seven-second personal best, good for sixth on the known school records,” Herlihy said. “She deserves all the credit in the world for her performance in this race, and for her fortitude and character, attributes that can’t be coached into an athlete.”
Maren Potter (6:09.94) also had her best race of the spring to finish ninth in the first heat.
Isaac Gross (4:39.86) stepped down from the 2-mile to try and improve his mile time.
“After getting off to a fast start, Isaac was able to hold on for 1,608 of the 1,609 meters before getting out-leaned at the finish line to come in third,” said Herlihy. “It was a terrific effort from Isaac to stave off the Danvers runner, but he came up just five-tenths of a second short.”
Nate Assa (4:52.3), who was also in the seeded heat, was ninth. Henrik Adams (5:02.91) and Ryan Blestowe (5:03.20) rounded out the local runners, finishing 12th and 13th, respectively.
Le’Daisha Williams (62.47) led the way from the third heat with a third-place finish. Cate Trautman (62.50) was a close fourth, and Gabby Hendy (63.97) ninth.
David Di Costanzo (53.3, personal best) was the lone Marblehead competitor, and he ended up third.
“David has been putting in extra time and focus into improving his running form this spring, especially the latter half of the season when we’re supposed to, and his diligence is indisputably paying off,” said Raimo.
After an exceptional regular season, Kate Twomey (2:27.77) fittingly capped it off as a NEC champion in the 800.
“Against a very competitive field in less-than-ideal conditions, Kate knew going in that this race was about planning and execution,” said Herlihy. “She stayed right in the top pack for the first 500 meters, then coming off the turn with 300 to go she sling-shotted her way around and up into the lead spot, which she never relinquished.”
Herlihy added that Juliet Burchfield (2:37.14, 10th place) went out with the top group but made a savvy decision to save some strength for the 4×800 relay, when she felt the podium slip away on the second lap.
“Sometimes, it’s just not your race, and Juliet’s recognition of that and decision to save some gas for the relay demonstrates a lot of maturity for a young runner,” he said.
“Like the girls 800, this was a stacked event,” said Herlihy. “In challenging conditions, the entire Marblehead contingent worked hard.”
Thompson (2:06.36) finished fifth, Gabe Bayramian (2:07.75) was seventh, and Peter Sullivan (2:18.70, personal best by one second) 15th.
Running into a steady headwind, Trautman (26.56) was second. Machado (26.74) was close behind, coming in third. Williams (27.34), starting from the fifth heat, accounted for a sixth-place finish. Sadie Halpern (27.94) was ninth.
Curtis is knocking on the door of the school record set 11 years ago after running 22.84 into a headwind, only three-tenths of a second away from that mark. For the record, he came in third.
Sebastian Pantzer (23.37) was fifth, Carlson (24.12) 14th and Ethan Horgan (26.26) 28th.
Grace Mortensen, a consummate teammate, offered to sit out the 800 to focus on this relay for the benefit of the team, and it paid off big time with a first-place finish, according to Herlihy.
“Opening the relay against the second best 800 runner in the conference (Gloucester’s Caroline MacKinnon), Grace (2:37.76) handed the baton off only a couple of meters out of first, her best performance of the season,” Herlihy said. “Marri O’Connell (2:36) wasted no time erasing that (deficit) and then built up a more significant lead in the second leg for Juliet Burchfield (2:43.19), who held the lead throughout her leg.”
After winning the 800, Kate Twomey knew that she was still racing against the clock to get the team a good seed time for the state divisional meet, so she buckled down and kept her foot on the gas to close out the race with a very impressive time of 2:31.18, Herlihy noted.
“Will Cerrutti made his return to racing after some injury concerns and had a rollercoaster of a race,” said Herlihy. “Three-quarters of the way into his race, he stumbled a bit, but before I could even make it over to check on him, he was back up and sprinting the final 200 meters to hand off the baton to Xavier Grazado, who made huge moves to get his team back into the race.”
Grazado pulled up on the fourth-place runner to give his teammate Henrik Adams a chance to pull ahead. This chance was not wasted as Adams was able to pass the Salem runner to establish a lead, allowing Gabe Bayramian to cruise in the anchor leg to see them finish fourth as a team.
Ava Machado, Cate Trautman, Sadie Halpern and Le’Daisha Williams finished second with a time of 51.43.
“Ava and Sadie ran three races before this, and Cate and Le’Daisha ran two, which included a 400 not too long before this one,” said Herlihy. “At times, it’s not about running a top-notch time, but rather running your best possible time given the conditions, and Ava, Sadie, Cate and Le’Daisha did exactly that.”
Jacob Bobowski, Curtis, Carlson and Pantzer finished third with a time of 44.76 in an electric finish with four teams within seconds of each other. Bobowski battled through a back injury to give the team a chance.
Devin Whalen, Elise Burchfield, Arielle Kahn and Gabrielle Hendy (4:24.41) ran an incredible race to finish second.
David Di Costanzo, Slater Johnson, Harrison Kee and Ryan Thompson finished fourth in a respectable time of 3:41.88.