By Nate Leveille
As I sat down to write the Division One preview there were more unknowns than ever before. There was no 2020 spring season to look back on, no indoor 2021 season, perennial power Portsmouth High School is back in Division 1, no invitationals, limited state meet fields, and really no clue about any newcomers to the sport. Track and Field meets will look a little different this year, but I have little doubt that our state’s outstanding athletes will amaze all of us with their perseverance and performances this spring. I would also like to send out a thank you to Winnacunnet High School for stepping up to the plate and being willing to host the D1 championships. A state meet would not be possible without a venue to host.
The addition of Portsmouth High School in the girl’s division is an interesting storyline. The last time Portsmouth competed in a state championship they coasted to a spring 2019 D2 championship and then destroyed the D2 field indoors in 2020. Typically teams moving up a division don’t immediately have an impact in the team race, but that might not be the case this year with an experienced and championship driven team. Exeter High School had similar performances winning the outdoors in 2018, 2019 and indoors in 2020. Exeter is the team to beat on paper. They have won the last two outdoor championships and return a number of state champs and place winners. Teams that are looking to knock off Exeter include Pinkerton Academy which returns a number of point scorers across many events and some younger distance runners, Nashua North who scores a ton of points in the field events, Bedford who always has solid sprinting and Carly Rinko in the distance races. Many athletes, other than distance, haven’t run a competitive race in over a year which will certainly be a major factor. This should be an exciting and close D1 state meet.
The following information was gathered through conversations with D1 coaches, 2020 Indoor results, 2019 Outdoor Results, and 2020 Cross- Country results.
The sprints could produce one of the more wide open and deepest fields in a long time. The top returner on paper in the 100m Is Ashley Griffin from Londonderry. She will have some competition as D1 55m champ Grace Kunysz of Exeter and D2 55 meter champ Maddy Ricard of Portsmouth both will be in the mix. In the 200m those three figure to factor in along with 2020 300m indoor champ Ella Fraser of Exeter. Taryn Naftali of Bedford and Adrienne Mckoy-Sophos of Alvirne are girls to watch.
The 100m Hurdles top returner is Sheridan McGadden of Bedford followed by Nikki Longua of Londonderry, and Camilla McAleer of Exeter. McGadden and McAleer were separated by .02 seconds in the 55m Dash last indoor season with McAleer getting the win. April Weeks of Portsmouth joins the mix as the 2020 D2 champ in the 55 hurdles.
In the 300 Hurdles defending MOC champ Sydney Lavelle of Exeter is the top returning performer. She will be pushed by teammate McAleer and Weeks, as well as Angela Hagstrom and Zosia Kobylinski of Portsmouth.
In the 400, the top returning running is Kylee Quinlin of WInnacunnet followed by Autumn Agri of Exeter, Grace Rippinger of Portsmouth, and Ashlyn Smith of Dover. All 4 girls have the potential to be under 60 seconds with Quinlin already having accomplished that as a 9th grader two years ago.
In the 800, Macy Graves of Pinkerton is the returning favorite. She looks to finish off her excellent track and field career with a win in her signature event. Her challenge may come from Fiona Doherty of BG, Grace Mercier of Exeter and Grace McDonough of Londonderry.
The distance kids were lucky enough to have an uninterrupted Cross Country season. The 1600 and 3200 fields should be super competitive much like XC was. Carly Rinko of Bedford won the D1 championships in cross country and also has excellent range and speed making her the early season favorite. She should be challenged by Mary Kate Finn of BG, Catherine Kennedy and Morgane Orcutt of Concord, Anna Madden of Exeter, Abby Goulas of Concord, Dantia Braccio of Nashua North, and Ginia Rufo of Pinkerton. With limited entries at the D1 meet this year and less recovery time between races, it will be interesting to see how coaches decide to play the distance events, double athletes or spread them out.
In the pole vault, Griffin of Londonderry is the top returner followed by Erin Eastwood of Exeter. Both girls could be over the 10ft mark. In the High Jump Defending D1 champ Olivia Mazerolle looks to continue her domination. If she is challenged, it should come from Marie Prock of Keene, or Molly O’Donnell of Alvirne. O’Donnell of Alvirne is the top returning long jumper, followed by Grace Jones of BG, and Natalie Boyle of Nashua South. In the very technical triple jump there are only a few returning competitors. The top returner is Annika Pinyochon of Pinkerton followed by Marissa Douglas of Pinkerton and Prock of Keene.
The throwing events might be the most challenging and wide open this season. The top returning girl in the discus is Samantha Vorster of Exeter followed by Morgan Kelley of Winnacunnet and Natalie Burgess of Nashua North. In the Shot, Victoria Conrad of Nashua North would appear untouchable after her dominant indoor season in 2020. She is followed by Burgess, Vorster, and Brianna Davis of Pinkerton. In the Javelin, Aliana Mercado is the defending D1 champ followed by Samantha Franks of Pinkerton and Alexis Adams of Concord.
Relays will be wild and super competitive this season. With less entries in events and relays this could open the door for certain schools to focus on relays rather than individual events.
The team race for the boys title has always gone through Pinkerton Academy. Pinkerton has won 3 of the last 5 titles and finished runner up the other 2 times. This year should be no different as they return a boatload of point scorers and potential champs. In the 1990’s, Londonderry and Pinkerton and Merrimack battled it out for D1 supremacy. I can see Pinkerton and Londonderry renewing some border rivalry this year as Londonderry might have enough talent on paper to give Pinkerton a challenge. Other teams that could put a championship run together include both Nashua North and Bedford. Both teams can and will score a bunch of points in the field events. If they can sprinkle in points on the track, they could make a run at the plaque. With so many points up for grabs in many of the field events the meet very well could be decided off the track.
*** The boy’s preview is much more challenging than the girl’s as it typically takes boys a couple years before they have an impact at the state level and we haven’t seen anyone race in over a year***
Ben Flemming of Pinkerton is the top returning sprinter this season. After being in the shadow of some very talented teammates the past couple of years this will be his opportunity to have a breakout season. He should be challenged in the 100m and 200m by teammate Ryan Dane and Damon Macleod of Londonderry. Others to watch in the sprints include Connor Dunning of Nashua North and Patrick Cotnoir of Pinkerton.
Patrick McDonald of Bedford is the top returning hurdler based on 2020 Indoor results followed by David Jacques of Salem. Other notables include Jacob Chow of Pinkerton and William Beck of Bedford. In the 300h Nick Richards of Concord is the top returner followed by Macleod of Londonderry. There potentially could be a lot of points up for grabs in these events.
Matthew Griffin of Londonderry just needs to decide if he wants to win the 400m or the 800m or maybe he decides to win both. He is coming off an indoor season that saw him drop a 1:20.32 in the 600m and 2:29.35 in the 1000m. A 1:50 in the 800m is not out of the question. Others that should have an impact in the middle distance are Torin Kindopp of Keene in the 800, Christopher Keefe of Nashua South in the 400, Matthew Flannigan of Bedford in the 800, Stephen Connolly of Pinkerton in either, and Ryan McClure of Timberlane in the 400.
D1 XC Champ Eben Bragg is the favorite in the distance events heading into the 2021 season. Others that should be in contention in the 1600 and 3200 include, Brayden Kearns of Concord, Ryan Young of Londonderry, Tyler Sheedy of Dover, Nate Fondakowski of BG, Ryan Fischer of Merrimack, Luke Brennan of Pinkerton and Jackson Mazejka of Salem. Kearns has the fastest 1600m/1500m time out of returners and Sheedy the fastest 3000m/32000m time from returners. Brennan is one to watch as he ran an electric 9:29 as a 9th grader at the D1 meet two years ago. Most of these guys have been training and racing, so should be ready for the season.
William Pagliarulo of Bedford is the top returning high jumper. He is followed by Jacob Spezzaferri of Pinkerton and Isaac Smith of Nashua North. All three jumpers are separated by 2
inches making this a fairly wide open event. In the long jump Ryan Dane of Pinkerton is the top returner from last winter going more than 21 feet. He is followed by teammate Nick Tagalakis and Thomas Alhers of Salem. Pagliarulo of Bedford is also the top returner in the pole vault. He is followed by Colin Cantwell of Nashua North and Nate Muler of Concord. In the triple jump Xavier Provost of Nashua North is the returning favorite by more than a foot over Isaiah Sapp-Consaul of Manchester Central.
The throwing events should be wide open with almost all the returning qualifiers having graduated. The top returners in the shot include Chandler Sutton of Spaulding, George Nigro III of Pinkerton and Preston Quimby of Dover. In the discus Daniel Powers of Pinkerton is the only returning qualifier from two years ago making him the default favorite heading into the season. In the Javelin Quimby of Dover is also the only returning qualifier from two years ago. In the throws there are a lot of points up for grabs with so few returning place winners and qualifiers.