Quirky practices, strong seniors lay foundation for Monument boys track/field success
GREAT BARRINGTON -- Monument Mountain boys track and field practices can feature so many quirks that it's hard for Kevin Marzotto to pick the oddest one.
That's where his Spartan teammates come in.
As he tried to pick just one to mention Thursday, Jesse Arevalo and Tom Randolph began to pantomime pulling a sled. That was just the cue Marzotto needed.
"We pulled a sled backwards with weights on it a couple of times, until our legs got tired, then we tried to run a 100[-meter] sprint," he said. "Everyone started falling over because they couldn't feel their legs."
Seems like punishment, right? It's not. Tiring as it may be, the Spartans love it -- and it helps make them winners.
Monument Mountain's boys head into Saturday's Central-Western Mass. Division II meet at Fitchburg State University as one of the region's strongest teams. The Spartans claimed the team championship at last weekend's Districts F&G Division II meet -- a sort of unofficial Western Mass. crown -- and they might not be done there.
Seven individuals and all three relay teams are ranked in the top five on the MIAA's official performance list for the meet, which starts at 9:30 Saturday morning. Both the 400 and 3,200-meter relays head in with the fastest seed times in D-II.
This will be the last sectional meet for many Monument senior standouts -- Jesse Arevalo, Mike Kotleski, Jason Laramee, Weyessa 'Ace' McAlister, Tom Randolph, Connor Storti, etc. -- and they want to go out on top for both themselves and for coach Mickey McCartney.
And McCartney's beard. He's told the athletes that, if the Spartans win the Central-Western Mass. title, he'll shave it off. It's an annual promise he makes to the Spartans, provided they go one step further than they did the previous year.
"We definitely gained a lot of confidence [from winning divisionals], Laramee said. "We've been pushing to shave McCartney's beard every year. I believe that, this year, we're going to meet that goal."
The Spartans have pulled a lot of sleds and thrown a lot of medicine balls to get to the top of Berkshire County, where they seem to be every year at this time.
On Saturdays, McCartney typically gets the athletes together for "Ultimate Med Ball," or Ultimate Frisbee played with a heavy medicine ball. McCartney and girls coach Ted Collins developed the game, and it's incredibly popular with runners, throwers and coaches alike.
"You want to do something that isn't routine," McCartney said. "When we do that Saturday morning ... they work harder than they do at any other time, because they're having so much fun. They're getting all the elements of conditioning."
They're also building the foundation for success with all that cardiovascular, muscular and plyometric work. There's only one event -- the javelin -- in this year's Eagle Track and Field Honor Roll that doesn't feature a Monument boy. (With a good throw Saturday, Laramee could improve his 12th-place seed and change that.)
The Spartans aren't easily satisfied, though. Just ask Arevalo, who will compete in the 800 and the 1,600 relay Saturday.
Monument's boys took third place at the Western Mass. D-II cross country meet in the fall, qualifying for states. Still, to Arevalo, they struggled.
"Toward the end of the season, our cross country team got better as others slowed down," he said. "A group of us tried to work out and stay in shape [over the winter]. We used that as a foundation for track season."
It's certainly worked for McAlister, who heads into today with the second-fastest two-mile (9:37.12) and the fourth-fastest mile (4:32.57). He won the mile and took second in the two-mile last weekend.
Storti, Monument's four-event threat all season, enters with the fifth-fastest 200 seed time (23.15). He won it last weekend, not far off that time, while also finishing second in the 100.
Laramee's 6-foot-4 jump is second-best in the high jump entering Saturday, and Kotleski's 57.66 is the third-fastest seed time in the 400 hurdles.
Kotleski and Randolph make for a formidable 1-2 punch in the hurdles when it comes to county dual meets. Both, though, know the stakes are higher in the postseason.
"I've seen a lot of talent, both last week and [this] week," Randolph said. "Looking at the seeds, I know there are plenty of guys ahead of me who are beatable."
It helps to have coaches, like hurdle assistant and former Spartan Jordan Storti, who have been there before.
"I was terrible when I started," Kotleski said. "They worked on me and worked on me and I got good."
McCartney also credits assistant Matt Naventi, who sees many of the athletes as soccer players in the fall. Naventi is the head coach of the Spartan boys soccer squad.
"He knows a lot of those kids and gets them from soccer, and he has such a good rapport with them," McCartney said.
The Spartans have seen county and sectional success in the past. The 2014 seniors hope they can reach a little further than previous teams, while setting an example for future Spartans -- the way the previous classes did for them.
"Once we got a tradition going when we had success, and they saw that as young guys, I think that's what they wanted," McCartney said. "They just happened to be in the same age group, and they grew together. Success breeds success."
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