Monument boys track wins Central-Western Mass. D-II championship
FITCHBURG - As soon as they got their hands on the Central-Western Massachusetts Division II team championship trophy, the chant started from the Monument Mountain boys track and field members.
"Shave the beard! Shave the beard!"
The Spartans did what they had to do to both win the team title and force coach Mickey McCartney to shear off his white beard Saturday at Fitchburg State University. Monument, with four boys and three relays qualifying for next week's state meet, won going away with 75 team points. Douglas was second with 56, and Wahconah took third with 43 points.
McCartney said he projected his team at 77 team points heading into Saturday morning, and he wasn't far off.
"They just had to [hold] all their seeds, which they did," the coach said. "After four years, they [the seniors] really deserve it. It means a lot to them."
For Jason Laramee, an individual champ in the high jump (6 feet, 4 inches), the improved competition with the mix of both Central and Western Massachusetts' best made every Spartan a little better Saturday.
"I think we have something to prove," he said, "that Western Mass. isn't New York. Being one of the top seeds, we had that weight on our shoulders to push ourselves."
Mount Greylock had the top team score for Berkshire County on the girls side. The Mounties tied for 14th place (22 points) with Littleton, and will send their 3,200 relay team to states.
In all, nine Berkshire County boys qualified for D-II states. Monument's Weyessa 'Ace' McAlister will run in two individual events, as he won the two-mile and took fourth in the mile. He also ran the anchor leg of Monument's third-place 3,200 relay team (a race won by Wahconah).
McAlister, a senior, pulled away from the two-mile field in the final laps to secure his sectional championship.
"It was the sixth or seventh lap that I started picking up," he said. "There were more people sprinting, and I was like, 'I'd better get away.'
"The field, it was actually perfect. It was a good running event. It was a good running day, especially for me. It was a good time before the rain started."
The rain was off and on throughout the day, but always seemed to miss McAlister's events.
(Top four finishers qualify for state meet)
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He'll be joined at states individually by teammates Laramee, Mike Kotleski and Connor Storti. Kotleski was third in the 400 hurdles (58.42 seconds); and Storti was second in the long jump (20-8).
Laramee and McAlister were joined by Wahconah's Marcus Duncan (400, 49.7) and Eric Klem (mile, 4:24.36) as Central-Western Mass. individual champs from the Berkshires.
Duncan also ran the anchor leg of the Warriors' 3,200 relay. He took the baton in third place, and passed both runners in front of him - including McAlister - in the final 800.
He held off the field by almost a full second in the 400.
"Where I made up the most time was probably the last 100 meters," Duncan said. "Last week, I slowed up a lot because I was tired in it. This week, I kept it up and sustained my momentum through the end."
After winning the mile, Klem pulled out of the 800 due to problems with his right foot that have been "off and on for the last couple of weeks." He said, though, that he'll be ready for states next week in Bridgewater.
Monument and Hoosac Valley's boys went 1-2 in the 400 relay, with the Spartans (44.74) holding off the Hurricanes (44.84) at the end. Kotleski's lean at the finish line of the 1,600 relay gave Monument second place over Auburn.
Other boys state qualifiers from the Berkshires include:
-- Dalton Hill of Wahconah, third in the 800 (2:00.09);
-- Lenox's Tucker McNinch, second in the two-mile (9:38.18);
-- Travis Ciempa of Hoosac, fourth in the two-mile (9:45.26).
Four Berkshire County girls qualified for states, though only three of them will be going. Mount Greylock's Emily Kaegi, second in the mile (5:12.53), will skip states due to a conflict with the high school's graduation.
Her time was the second-best mile ever run by a Mount Greylock girl, according to coach Brian Gill - who wasn't happy with his own approach for Kaegi. The runners had a much slower first lap than both coach and runner expected, but Kaegi didn't seem to mind.
"I didn't even realize how slow we were going out," she said. "But I was able to negative-split the next couple of laps, and I still PR'd."
Lenox freshman Shannon Meisberger reached her first state meet, taking third place in the 400 hurdles (1:07.14). The time, like so many seemed to be Saturday, was a personal best for her.
"I was really happy with my race," she said. "It's great to know I can do that."
Mount Greylock's 3,200 relay (third, 10:07.88) also qualified for states.
After Greylock, Monument Mountain was the next-best girls team from the Berkshires (20 points, tied for 16th). The Spartans will send their 400 relay (third, 51.96) to states, as well as senior high jumper Heather Hassett (5-0).
Hoosac Valley will send Meg Rodowicz to states; the senior took fourth in the 800 (2:20.96).
Another Mountie who won't head to states, but nevertheless finished her season strong, was senior Jenna Phelps. She took second in the pentathlon, scoring 2,402 points. Lunenburg's Sophia Holman won with 2,560.
Phelps took second place in the 800, 100 hurdles and shot put in the competition, though she felt her fourth-place long jump was the best event for her. She'd done the Western Mass. Heptathlon in eighth, ninth and 10th grades, but the pentathlon was a first for her.
"It was a little different doing all the events in one day, but it gives you a different feel," she said. "I figured, I might as well have fun with it. I might be a multi-event runner in college; I figured I'd test it out a little bit."
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