By Mike Smith
Making predictions for this upcoming track and field season certainly comes with some pretty big caveats. Considering this is the second year in a row we have no real “vision” into the winter track season, which let’s face it isn’t a very solid reflection of the spring season anyway. Couple that with last year’s championships being split with reduced entries (and a fast forward boys meet due to the weather) and simply taking last year’s results, removing seniors and trying to rescore those meets would be fraught with problems. So rather than speculate on the event winners and team championships, how about we look at what we can expect for the coming season.
100 Sam Boette, W-L Tim Kelm, PCA
200 Sam Boette, W-L
400 Brianna Malone, PCA JJ Davis, Kearsarge
800 Patrick Gandini, Gilford
1600 Patrick Gandini, Gilford
3200 Patrick Gandini, Gilford
PV Abby Friedman, Wt. Mt.
LJ Grace Hall, Hopkinton Shane Wang, C. Christian
TJ Grace Hall, Hopkinton Shane Wang, C. Christian
SP Opal Shinnlinger, Mascoma; Garret Somero, Conant
Disc Opal Shinnlinger, Mascoma
Last year Hopkinton (68 points) won the meet by nineteen points over Newfound (49) and Newport (48.) Portsmouth Christian and Campbell were two points back of that (46) with each team having seniors in scoring spots. Appearing least affected by graduation would be Hopkinton so I expect them to be forcing things up front and making the rest of D3 to chase them.
In the sprints, Sam Boette of Wilton Lyndeborough is the top returner in the 100 and 200 so I expect to see her towards the front. The top six from last year’s final in the 100 all return as the top three from the 200 as well. In the hurdles, with the top two in the 100HH and top three in the 300IH moving on, Kate Cochran of Kearsarge and Gwen Pelchat are the top returners respectively. Expect to see some new faces in these events.
In the mid-distance, top returner in the 400 in PCA’s Brianna Malone returns however with teammate (and Para-Olympian) Liza Corso having moved on, it will be interesting to see if Malone moves up to the 800 and 1600. Monadnock’s Liliana Chirichella was second in both the 200 and 400 and could be a force here. Malone is the top returner in the 800 Newmarket’s Isabel Pentony and Hopkinton’s Anna O’Reilly in hot pursuit.
In the distance events, Hannah Bennett (Hopkinton) is the top returner in the 1600 with Katie Palmateer (Bishop Brady) the top returner in the 3200 (and #2 in the 3200.) I also expect Cat Stow of Gilford to make her appearance in one of these two events as well. Also, it’s not out of the question that Malone runs the 3200 either.
The high jump lost only one competitor, with Kearsarge’s Amelia Lefebvre the top returner. In pole vault White Mountain’s Abby Friedman looks to become a repeat champion. Hopkinton’s Grace Hall looks to repeat in the long jump, having won last year by one inch over Belmont’s Emma Winslow. Hall also returns as the triple jump champ, having out jumped Campbell’s Ava Houle by two inches last season.
In the throws, Mascoma Valley’s Opal Shinnlinger is the returning champion in the shot put and the discus so I expect her to rule those two events. In javelin, with the top three having graduated, the Hopkinton duo of Elise Miner and Jessie Carney lead the returners more than 10 feet so I expect them to be setting the standard once the season begins.
Last year in a tight one, Newport won the team championship, 68 points to Kearsarge’s 66 points. Newport did that mostly on the backs of the Lovely brothers sprinting and Marius Edwards throwing, with those three gone it could be tough to repeat. Kearsarge lost less to graduation so I would have to believe they are in the driver’s seat.
Last year, Portsmouth Christian’s Tim Kelm shocked everyone, winning the 100 as a freshman. He returns and should be pressed by Kearsarge’s extremely versatile JJ Davis. While Davis didn’t run the 200 last spring, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in it this spring due to the change in format. Top returner in the 200 is Gabe Rock of Mascoma Valley, with Aidan Donahue of Winnisquam and Kelm in the mix as well. The 400 will be a battle of seniors with Davis the returning champ with InterLakes Owen Carney and Conant’s Ethan Vitello looking for the upset. With the top four in the 110 high hurdles and top two in the 300 hurdles having graduated, both events will have new champions. Tyler Geffrard of Trinity and Maddox Cahill of Sunapee with lead the charge in those events early this spring.
Last year Gilford’s great Patrick Gandini pulled off the trifecta, winning the 1600, 800 and 3200 in that order. It would seem likely he will shoot for the triple again and who could bet against him. He will face Monadnock’s Mitchell Hill and Laconia’s Sullivan Mousseau in the 800, Hopkinton’s Ben Daniels and Kearsarge’s Gavin Garzia in the 1600 with Belmont’s William Riley and Mascenic’s Drew Traffie in the 3200.
With the top spots in the vertical jumps gone to graduation there is sure to be new champions in 2022. Austin McHugh of Campbell is the top returner in high jump finishing third last year. Keegan Reynolds also of Campbell is the top returner in pole vault, having tied for third last year. The same can’t be said for the horizontal jumps as Concord Christian’s Shane Wang not only is the top returner, he also was the top jumper in NH last year, setting the State record in the triple jump. Safe to say all eyes are on him. JJ Davis and Ethan Vitello are the top chasers in the long jump and triple jump respectively.
Garret Somero is the returning champion in shot put and the top returner in discus and there is no reason not to believe he won’t win both of those events this year. Last season was Somero’s first so I expect a lot of improvement over this season. Mascenic’s Jimmy Crawford and Belmont’s Brian Miles are the top challengers in shot and disc. With ten seniors graduating out last year Campbell’s Justin Edmonds is the top returner and Gilford’s Anthony Haddocks the only other returner in javelin.
Athletes to Watch
As I went through the results there were a couple names that stuck out, mostly because they won multiple events and will be returning. When I looked to highlight them I noticed they grouped together nicely as well. So here’s the athletes to watch this season.
In the sprints, keep an eye out for Wilton Lyndeborough’s Sam Boette and Kearsarge’s JJ Davis. Boette was dominant in the 100 and 200, and got some winter training and racing in while working out with the Conant crew. Davis took a different approach and won the 400 and was the fastest returner from the preliminaries in the 100, one could surmise Davis is probably pretty good at the 200 as well and might get the opportunity to do all three.
In the throws, Mascoma Valley’s Opal Shinnlinger and Conant’s Garrett Somero are the top two returners in the shot put and discus, with Shinnlinger winning both and Somero in his first season, winning the shot. Shinnlinger has posted some results this winter, so the rust should already be busted. And with Somero growing into a thrower, I expect some new PRs this season, and considering he’s already at the top of the division, those will be some strong marks. As one of our neighboring school’s athletes, it will be easy to follow his exploits in the ring.
In the horizontal jumps both Hopkinton’s Grace Hall and Concord Christian’s Shane Wang are returning champions in the long and the triple jumps. As just a freshman, I expect Hall to only get better. And I have to admit, when I first saw Wang’s marks in the battlenotes last year, I thought for sure someone had screwed up the entries. With the 2021 season in the books, I can see they did not. While Wang’s margin of victory is greater, I expect both Hall and Wang to be at the front of the division.
And in distance, PCA’s Brianna Malone and Gilford’s Patrick Gandini will be dangerous in whatever combination of events they decide to tackle. For competitive reasons I’d like to see someone (or someones) step up to challenge them, much the way Liza Corso did for Mya Dube, I hope to see these two in some battles over the season. I hope Gandini tries to repeat across all the distance events again, and I’m intrigued if Malone might decide to do the same.