Berkshire track and field teams ready to face Western, Central Mass. foes
For Mount Greylock girls track and field coach Brian Gill, there was always a certain kind of pride in being able to represent Western Massachusetts against the rest of the state.
"I like the centrality of coverage of the event," Gill said of the annual Western Mass. meet. "It is a Western Mass. event."
Not anymore, though.
For this season, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association altered its sectional track format, dividing Divisions I and II while combining Western and Central Mass. Rather than one western meet at Westfield for I and II, the Western/Central Mass. D-I meet will be held Saturday in Fitchburg, while the D-II meet is Saturday in Westfield.
Monument Mountain boys coach Mickey McCartney -- coming off a Districts F&G D-II team championship last week -- is "intrigued" by the format, and is willing to give it a shot this year before passing judgement.
"All of a sudden, there's these other schools I've never heard of," he said. "I guess I understand the concept of giving smaller schools a chance at a championship. It just feels a little weird."
Pittsfield and Taconic are the only Berkshire County schools competing in the D-I meet. Typically, Wahconah is classified D-I, but that was changed for this year's Western/Central meet -- though not for last week's divisional meet.
It hasn't changed the approach for Warriors girls coach Jeff Pike. If anything, he expects the Westfield meet to be harder for his competitors, due to the Central Mass. schools participating.
"I feel like I'm going to miss the old Western Mass. format, definitely. It'll be interesting to see how it goes," he said. "I believe the list had 72 schools for Division II. If there's 72 schools competing on Saturday, that's going to make for a very long, long day."
Wahconah and Greylock were two of the top girls teams in the county, and both have a number of top-10 seeds going into the meet. The Mounties have Alex Majetich (first in the 100, second in the 200, fourth in the triple jump) and Emily Kaegi (fifth in the mile) as top-five seeds, while Wahconah has Laura Harnett (ninth in the 800) and Maddie Sprague (10th in both the long and triple jump) as top 10s.
Majetich is expected to compete in the 100, 200 and triple, but Gill said she could be pulled from the 200 to run a leg of the 400 relay.
"I know I'm going to hold the 100 seed pretty well, looking at the competition," Majetich said. "In the triple, I'm just seeing what I can do with that for fun."
Jenna Phelps is expected to compete in the hurdle events, despite fighting through hip, back and quadriceps issues.
"It's going to depend on her body and how she feels," Gill said. "She'll just do one and maybe come back in a relay."
On the boys side, McCartney scored the meet strictly by the seeds given, and has his Spartans chasing Putnam for a team title. That doesn't mean it has to stay that way Saturday.
"What we noticed was that one of the top athletes from Putnam is listed in four events," McCartney said. "You can't do four events, so it's going to be even closer than that."
Monument's multi-event standout, Connor Storti, will run the 200 and do the long and triple jumps. These were chosen because Storti felt his jumps would be affected negatively by running both the 100 and 200.
The Spartans still have a staggering 14 top-10 seeds heading into the meet, though Mike Kotleski isn't expected to run the 400 hurdles due to recovery from a sprained ankle. Monument still holds top seeds in the javelin with Jesse Dupont, and 3,200 relay, while Weyessa "Ace" McAlister is seeded third in the 2-mile. Storti is third in the long jump and seventh in the triple. Monument's 1,600 relay is also third.
Lenox's Scott Carpenter is in line to bring home a pair of championships, seeded atop both the 800 and the 2-mile. Carpenter was a Western Mass. and state cross country champion in the fall.
At least one D-I competitor doesn't mind the move from Westfield to Fitchburg.
Taconic junior Courtney Luscier welcomes it, in fact.
"It's going to get a better time out of me," she said Wednesday. "Running at Westfield, I know what to expect. Going to a new place, you don't know what to expect."
Luscier expects to run the 100 and the 400 relay Saturday, but might also run the 200. She's intensified her training on the track with Braves boys coach/sprinters coach Jeric Tyler in the last two weeks. Tyler says the Braves are working through nagging injuries, but have been working on form and technique in late-week practices to prepare for Saturday.
Defending Western Mass. 100 champion Dom Nda will run that event Saturday -- he's seeded ninth -- and will also run a leg of the 400 relay.
Tyler said that, despite the changes, no Braves are worried about who they're facing and where they're from.
"They've been more focused on what they're doing," he added. "It's better to do it that way. It seems like the guys were nervous a little bit, but the more we talked about it, the more focused Pat [Boua] was and Kareem [Tyler] was."
Nda is a part of both Taconic top-10 seeds, in the 100 and as part of the fourth-seeded 400 relay team. Pittsfield's lone top-10 seed is Dan Brien, who's seventh in the mile.
For the girls, Pittsfield sprinter Amanda White is the county's best seed in the 100 at seventh. Luscier is 10th in the event. The PHS girls also have distance standout Lauren Farry second in the 2-mile and high jumper Megan Kittler seeded seventh.
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