Four county athletes are individual track champs
WESTFIELD -- The first thing Berkshire County track and field enthusiasts noticed about Saturday's Western Massachusetts individual meet was the weather -- with a high temperature approaching 90 degrees, it was easily the hottest of the season.
It really didn't affect many of the county's best athletes. Thirteen individuals (five boys, eight girls) and four relay teams qualified for the All-States meet with their performances at Westfield State University, with four winning sectional championships. The champions are Taconic's Dom Nda and Lenox's Scott Carpenter on the boys' side, with Wahconah's Marisa Sprague and Mount Greylock's Jenna Phelps for the girls. Greylock's girls finished third in the team standings.
Sprague qualified in two events, winning the long jump (17 feet, 81 4 inches) and taking second in the triple jump (36-4 1 2). In each event, she outdid her previous best jump in The Eagle's latest Honor Roll. Both top jumps were also accomplished in the preliminary round, with the results carrying over to the finals.
"I know I had to push myself [in the triple jump]," Sprague said. "I was seeded third, and I didn't expect to do as well as I did. If I pushed myself harder than before, it would pay off, and it did."
Sprague also outdid her Western Mass. championship long jump of a year ago, when she won with a 17-3. This is just the second year the senior has long jumped, and the first year she's triple jumped. Wahconah coach Jeff Pike said Sprague's goal was to at least defend her championship.
"She's always been the type of athlete who goes all out, all the time," he said. "Her legs were fresher in the prelims. She was pretty exhausted after her finals in the long jump."
Phelps said she was nervous before her 400 hurdle final. It didn't show once the starter's pistol was fired, as the Greylock sophomore won in a season-best 1:05.17.
"I was standing at the line, shaking," Phelps said. " ‘I don't know what to do right now.' I took off and tried to run my pace, and gave it all in the last 50 meters."
Nda won both his preliminary heat and the final of the 100 meters, prevailing in 11.12 seconds. He'll be joined at states by teammate Pat Boua, who was second in the 200 (23.16).
"It was kind of a blur to me," Nda said after the final. "I just wanted to get out fast and stay ahead, like Tyson Gay against Usain Bolt [in 2010], where he took the lead and kept the lead the whole time."
Nda was unorthodox in his finishes, slowing up much quicker than any other sprinter who crossed the finish line. It certainly didn't hurt his finish, as he won the 100 by .3 seconds, but it's just one thing he said he'll work on this week before the state meet.
"I definitely have to work on getting my knees a little bit higher so it improves my time," Nda added.
Carpenter, also the defending Western Mass. Division II cross country champion, pulled away from the field in the 3,200 meters to win in 9:36.33 -- his fastest time of the season.
The biggest difference Carpenter saw in the track meet was that it was a combination of Divisions I and II, unlike cross country. It didn't stop him from winning his event by more than 7 seconds.
"With about 800 to go, I decided to kick it in," Carpenter said. "At the mile, I took the lead. From there, I tried not to look back and run my own race."
Runners-up other than Boua included: Greylock's Alex Majetich in the girls 100 (12.68); Greylock's Emily Kaegi in the 1,600 (5:24.1); Hoosac Valley's Liz Provost in the discus (113-1); Pittsfield's boys 3,200 relay team of Greg Dowland, Joe Botto, Dan Brien and Peter Wilke (8:22.49); and Greylock's girls 1,600 relay in 4:07.75.
For the General boys, the second-place time was a school record.
"We all just wanted to come out hard, no regrets and leave it on the track," Botto said after the race. "I feel we did. I feel everyone performed our best."
Other state qualifiers include: Monument Moun tain's Nick Masiero in the 400 (52.63) and Sydney Engel berger in the girls 800 (2:21.63), as well as the boys 1,600 relay (3:35.57); Wah conah's Joey Szczepaniak in the javelin (151-8); Greylock's Oona Wood in the 400 (59.91); Pittsfield's Lauren Farry in the 3,200 (11:45.92); and the Greylock's girls 3,200 relay (10:19.5).
Of Engelberger, Monument coach Ted Collins said, "The better competition certainly made her better. She got bogged up at the start [and] got tripped up a little bit, but she held her composure."
While everyone acknowledged the heat, no one was complaining about it. They expected it coming into the weekend.
"[We were] just reminding them to hydrate, stay under the tent and stay relaxed," Pike said. "I saw the times suffered a bit, but ... every other athlete is going up against the same conditions."
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