By Nate Leveille
Last year the D1 championship meet on the girl’s side was one of the closest meets in state history with Exeter pulling off a half-point win over up-and-coming Concord. Nashua North and Pinkerton rounded out the top 4. A lot has changed since that time with Exeter and Nashua North graduating a number of point scorers from a year ago. Bedford girls were the top D1 team at cross country Meet of Champions with a number of freshmen and finished runners-up at XC and indoors divisional championships behind Pinkerton Academy. Pinkerton behind the star power of Briana Danis in the throws and Jordan Wheaton in the jumps and hurdles is the favorite to follow up their indoor title with a spring title. If anyone can steal the podium spot it’s the Crimson Tide of Concord. They came out of nowhere last year to take the lead heading into the 4×400 behind their strongest two events the triple jump and the pole vault (Scoring 28.5 points in those events). Concord will score a boatload of points in the field events. The best of the rest may be Exeter, Bedford, South, and Portsmouth. It’s always a mystery this time of year to see what newcomers teams have come out for track and field. It’s usually a race to 75 or so points so it should be fun to watch where all these teams are at.
I was quoted as saying this is the deepest and best field of female sprinters the state of New Hampshire has ever had and I stand by that. My prediction is the state record and the first girl to break 12 seconds in the 100 meters will happen this year. The longest-standing state record the 200 meters from 1970 could also be in trouble this year. Soraya Ross of South is coming off a monster spring season from a year ago (placing 4th at New England’s) along with Alexis Best of Merrimack. Other top sprinting returners include Iyana Braswell of South, Lily Jenkins of Portsmouth, Jhanelle Thomas of Nashua North, Harriet Barber of Manchester Central, and Hannah Sippel of Pinkerton.
Jordan Wheaton of Pinkerton is the defending 100-meter hurdle champion. She has entered the conversation as a top 5 all-time female hurdler in the state of New Hampshire. Behind her should be Anika Scott of Bedford, Petrina Ofori of Alvirne, Morgan Doherty of Concord and Miriam Nada of Portsmouth. In the 300 Hurdles Kailey Dillon of Merrimack is the top returner followed by Wheaton, Isabelle Di Vernieri of Nashua North, and Katherine Muller of Concord.
Middle Distance/ Distance
Three sophomores went 1-2-3 followed by a 9th grader in last year’s 400m Barber got the win followed by Clara Knab of Exeter and Samantha Ducharme of Bedford and Thomas of North. Every year someone comes out of nowhere in the 400m and I expect much of the same this year with some talented underclassmen. Don’t forget about 600-meter indoor champ Anique Poulin of Dover. In the 800 the top returner is Fiona Lee of Bedford. We didn’t see her this winter, but we did see her biggest challenger Isabella McIntyre of Dover who put on a performance at the indoor championships. Don’t count out Charlotte Koutalidis of Winnacunnet.
Distance events are always a mystery on the girls’ side. Obviously, we know that McIntyre of Dover, Contessa Silva of Pinkerton, defending 3200-meter champ Shelly Smith of Concord, and Anna Fondakowski of Bishop Guertin. There are many cross-country runners that did not participate in the indoor season which will add more depth to these events and also shakeup the place winners.
Wheaton is the top returning high jumper and indoor champ, she is followed by Kelley Michelson of Concord and Kiersten Mackeen of Timberlane. Ella Goulas of Concord had a big indoor season and could be another one to watch. Kendall Barton of Concord is the top returner in the Pole Vault. After Barton is Marline Fitzgerald and Ava Ruppel both of Londonderry. In the Long Jump, Nada of Portsmouth is the top returner followed by Rachel Poulin of Exeter and Ayva Mullen of Concord. Watch out for Scott of Bedford who won the indoor championship. In the triple jump, Mullen of Concord is the two-time defending champ and top returner. After her Best of Merrimack, Goulas of Concord, and Mickelson of Concord are the top returners.
Briana Danis of Pinkerton is the top returning Discus thrower. She is followed by Madelyn Novak of Nashua North who is also the defending champion in both the Shot and the Javelin. Bella Colizzi of Salem is the returning runner-up in the shot. Margaret Montplaisir is the returning runner-up in the javelin followed by Jezelle Josef of Bedford. With so many younger throwers returning there could be a lot of movement in these events.
Spring Track is back and NHTF couldn’t be happier! Here are some way too early thoughts and predictions.
This season could see some very fast 100m times this season once the weather gets a bit nicer. Could we even see some sub 11 second performances? Maybe! Chris Stevens from Keene is the top returner in this event but faces a very fast duo from Memorial in AJ Sebastien and Steven Elezi. Expect another duo to be in the mix as well with Concord’s Quinn Marino and Jacque Tunguru on par with those already mentioned.
The 200m looks very interesting as the top 5 returners 2022 seasonal bests are all within 3 tenths of a second of each other. Stevens gets the early nod as the favorite after a stellar indoor season as the 300m state champ. But Londonderry’s Anthony Amaro along with Marino, Tunguru, Sebastien, and Elezi are all capable of very fast times and could challenge for the top spot.
The 400m looks a little more wide open after the top returner and Indoor 600m New England Champion Sean Clegg from Londonderry. Could Clegg take down the current state record? Time will tell but it’s likely on his mind. Portsmouth’s Jake Haley and Keene’s Erik Nolan look like they could push Clegg and battle for a top 3 spot and should make for a real battle. Zackary Smith from Pinkerton and Nashua South’s Keith O’Donnell are the other 5 top returners. Watch for some new blood to make waves here as well; this event lends itself to new names every year in scoring positions.
The 800m has some familiar names as the 400m; Clegg again returns as the top seeded returner but could be pushed by Haley as both ran very fast 800m races Indoors at various meets in Boston. Right in the mix is “newcomer” Jacob Redman from Bedford, posting very fast times Indoors from every event 600m through 3000m. How can the #2 returner be considered a newcomer? Redman hit another level this Indoor season joining Clegg and Haley in going 1:55 or better in the 800m. Mathew Allen of Exeter and Liam Gleason from Concord are strong runners as well and can not be taken lightly.
Watch for Redman again in the 1600m as the Bedford junior has a ton of range. He is the top returner in this event by 11 seconds! But don’t think for a second the NH distance crowd will let that gap be that large at the end of the season. Portsmouth Avery Crowell is the #6 returner on paper, but had an electric season Indoors that included a 4:25 mile and a very tough and very successful 1000m/1500m double at States, so he is currently considered a top contender in this event. Ryan Fortin of Londonderry also had a very good Indoor season and can be dangerous as well. In that same time grouping (like all within 1.5 seconds of each other!) are two Alvirne runners in Nicholas Marcotte and John Crawford, as well as Merrimack’s Cameron Fredette. No one would be surprised if Bishop Guertin’s Matthew Giardina was in the mix for a top spot either!
Speaking of Giardina, he is the top returnee in the 3200m by a few tenths of a second with Fortin listed right behind. Some familiar names return in this event with Fredette and Redman always dangerous. Exeter’s Gavin Malark is a serious threat as well after a very good Indoor season. This race could belong to any one of these athletes and with everyone’s PRs grouped so tightly, this should be an exciting race late in the State Meet!
Bedford’s Chris Chong dominated the 55m Hurdles Indoors this past season and looks to do so Outdoors in the 110m hurdles. He will be pushed by a very talented David Jacques of Salem in front of a friendly home crowd at the D1 State meet! Nashua South’s Rory Olsen will be a real factor as will two other Bedford hurdlers in JJ Powers and Jaden Cote. Jake Lovern of Portsmouth looks to be in the scoring mix as well.
Chong won the 55m hurdles and placed 3rd in the 300m at the Indoor State meet, so that math adds up to a top seed in the 300m Hurdles right? Close, but Olsen from Nashua South would like a word. He is the top returnee and those two should have a great battle in the low hurdles as well as in the high ones. The Portsmouth duo of Cole McLaughlin and Lovern look to have big point potential, as does Windham’s Henry Ntoro.
In the High Jump the top two returning performers of Nashua South’s Sami Witta and Londonderry’s Andrew Kulman both have identical 6’4” PRs and should make for a really entertaining event at States. Lurking right behind those two is Paul Butler from Spaulding. In an event that does not always go according to plan, this year could see all kinds of possible outcomes. Not far off the top three returnees is the versatile Jack Sullivan from Nashua North, and Witta’s Nashua South teammate Barion Perry.
The Pole Vault seems to be top heavy when looking at the returnees but past performance doesn’t always dictate future success. Look for Salem’s Nicholas Rushton to be the heavy favorite at his home pit in this event, with a talented Wyatt Patterson from Winnacunnet looking for a top spot as well. With improvements and a full season of training, the versatile Nashua South duo of O’Donnell and Olsen are real contenders as are Spaulding’s Luke Lovins and Portsmouth’s Kelly Moriarty.
Many names already mentioned in the preview crop up in the Long Jump, with Nashua North’s Sullivan as the top projected seed, with Salem’s Jacques and Nashua South’s Witta both very capable of making that title uncertain. Dover’s Brady McInnes has to be considered a top contender as well, and don’t count out Exeter’s Michael Dettore after a big Indoor season. If Memorial’s Alexis Rivera comes out, that’s another 21 footer in the mix with all 6 names previously mentioned capable of exceeding that mark! This might be one of the deepest LJ lineups in years.
The Triple Jump is always full of new names every year as athletes discover the event in their track & field journey. Nashua North’s Sullivan is a prohibitive favorite with a whopping 2+ foot PR over any of the returning jumpers! A very tight grouping of Londonderry’s Donavan Gannon, Nicholas DuMond of Keene, Colin Fay of Alvirne and yet another Nashua North jumper in Preston Thompson.
The Shot Put this Indoor season was incredible to watch and there’s every indication this Outdoor season could exceed even that. Nashua North’s Toby Brown has reached a new level and is the top returner in this event by 8 feet! He will be pushed and supported by two more top throwers that just happen to be North teammates in Darius Smith and Richard Tavarez. Right in that top grouping is Nashua South’s Antonio Martinez who joins the throwers listed previously in potentially reaching the 50+ foot club. This event could add some early meet drama as it did last year.
Sam Foulds from Concord is the top returner in the Discus, and will be pushed by the North duo of Brown and Smith. This event opens up a bit after those three throwers with Exeter’s Henry Brassard and Bedford’s Joey Bellemore looking to close the gap.
The Javelin is always an impossible to predict event with so many variables in play. Pinkerton’s Joseph Packowski is atop the rankings and Portsmouth’s Jason Yeaton comes in just behind him. Alex Grudinskas from Bedford is just a capable of taking home a victory as well. Winnacunnet Alexander Frost is in this mix as well with all of the top returnees only separated on paper by a few feet. Good thing we don’t compete on paper! Watch for a few new faces to emerge here just as in the triple jump.
It’s too early to do a realistic team ranking with very few Spring results to examine so far, but here are some pretty safe thoughts on the team battle for a championship. We currently see 5-7 teams in the mix for a title, in no particular order:
With potentially monster points in the throws and jumps; Nashua North looks like a top tier team. If they can add some track points to their resume the Titans might be on to something. Bedford is coming off a convincing Indoor D1 Championship win and looks to have big points possible in the hurdles and distance events. The Bulldogs are a well-rounded team and have enough field event and relay points to add to their mix to be a very dangerous team. Pinkerton isn’t listed in many spots in the article above but make no mistake; they are top tier team that can reload quickly. The Astros took 2nd in the team chase Indoors and have enough potential firepower to surprise everyone. Portsmouth graduated most of its heavy hitters from last year’s Spring title team, but rebounded Indoors this season for a 3rd place, 1 point behind Pinkerton. The Clippers look to ride mid-distance /distance, relays and some field event points as far as they will take them.
Nashua South has a variety of events they can score big in and if they can bring some relays and running events along the Purple Panthers will be a formidable team. Exeter can score in many places and look to surprise the field with a combo of “old” and new talent. Always dangerous in relays and field events, the Blue Hawks can’t be counted out. With top individual athletes we all know about and some surprise performances from those we don’t know yet, watch for Londonderry to be a not so sneaky team that can rack up points as well. The Lancers can play a few cards that could get them in range of a title should they choose to.
Good luck and good health to all athletes this season!
Athletes listed above: Prove us right.
Athletes not mentioned: Prove us wrong.