February 5, 2014
By Rob Kean
If track success is indeed all about peaking at the right time, then the Nashoba Boys and Girls Indoor Track seasons appear headed for heady climaxes.
This past Saturday, both squads rolled into Fitchburg for Mid-Wach B league championship meet with targets on their backs, chief among them the Chieftain girls, on the heels of their perfect regular season. And when all the jumping, heaving and sprinting was done, the girls team walked away with a first-place finish that doubled as an exclamation point, and proclaimed them undisputed league champs.
The Chieftains were led by a trio of top performers. Senior Co-Captain Kelsey Horowitz took first in the 2-mile for the second straight year, her time of 12:38.65 bettering last year’s mark by almost three seconds. She also finished second in the mile with a time of 5:38.40. Meanwhile, junior Sarah Militano sprinted to victory in the 55-meter dash in a blistering 7.31 seconds, while Nashoba sophomore took second. The two then traded podium steps in the 300 meters, with MacLure crossing the line in 43.29 seconds and Militano a second-and-a-half later. The threesome contributed 18 points each to Nashoba’s winning effort.
But for all their three-headed monstrosity, the victory was a team effort, in the truest track sense of the term. All eighteen of Nashoba’s meet qualifiers contributed points, a remarkable display of depth that methodically put distance between the Chieftains and their challengers. Senior Sarah Mpelkas placed 4th in the shot put, with a chuck of 26’ 7 ¾,” while in the high jump seniors Taylor Brady and Meiling DellaGrotte and junior Sarah Gaffney took fifth, seventh and eighth, respectively. Junior Natalie Bettez accessorized Horowitz’ 2-mile triumph with a fourth-place finish of her own, while the versatile trio of Gaffney, DellaGrotte and Mpelkas took fourth through sixth in the 55 hurdles, and the equally tireless duo of Brady and Suleski bagged fifth and sixth in the 600. Bettez capped her solid day with a third in the 1000. And for the second straight year, the Nashoba Chieftains were your Mid-Wach B league meet champs.
“I’m really proud of our team for what we pulled off,” said co-captain Horowitz after the win. “Even with less than 20 girls on our team, we were able to win Leagues, which I think is amazing! We have such talent and spirit on our team and that is definitely a big part of it. I’m especially proud because every single girl got at least one point, and everyone got a medal.”
As for the boys, who entered the meet as two-time defending champs themselves, the young team left with a third-place showing that was highlighted by a thorough domination of the 2-mile race, which for the second straight year was won by senior Mark Puleo, his time of 10:13.13 a half-minute better than his performance last year and anyone else’s this one. Yet nearly as impressive was the performance of freshman Kyle Cloutier, who took third with a time that nearly equaled Puleo’s winning mark of last year, suggesting the latter’s legacy may one day hear footsteps. Junior John Atkinson placed fourth, as did sophomore Thomas Brunnell in the shot put, behind three seniors, making him already next year’s strongman to beat, though junior Ahad Mekkaoui (seventh) and freshman Michael O’Neil (tenth) will have something to say about that. Also looking like ones to beat down the road were sophomores Zachary Wright (tied for sixth in the high jump), Marcus Braudis (eighth in the 1000) and Daniel Oldham (ninth in the 300).
Still, for all the Nashoba underclassmen with bright futures, on this day it was the Chieftain juniors and seniors who were the brightest presence. Senior Matthew Boelens took the 1000-meter in a personal-best 2:50.28, a coronation made sweeter by his one second loss in last year’s league championships. Fellow senior John Militano bolted to a second-place finish in the 55 meters and a fourth in the 300, while Puleo added a sixth in the 600, with juniors Jared Wilber and Benjamin Hart finishing fifth and ninth. And three of their classmates – Adam Heislin, Jacob Hangen and Zach Honig – went fourth, sixth and seventh in the mile.
Up next for the both Chieftain tribes is the District Meet on Saturday, February 8th, also at Fitchburg, followed by the MIAA State Championships on Sunday, February 16th at the Reggie Lewis Track Center in Boston. Which means, in this sport of peaking, the Nashoba Track athletes have two more peaks to scale. But if this past weekend was any indication, they’ve got their climbing gear on.