What will 2023 Outdoor Season be remembered for? That is the question we polled coaches across the state. 2023 was certainly a year of great performances by individuals, relays and teams. School and state records were broken in spite of challenging weather conditions throughout the season. To put a bow on the 2023 season, one of the most interesting and memorable in NH history, lets take a stroll down recent memory lane.
One of the top stories had to be the Nashua South girls 4×100 meter Relay. They were dominant not only in NH but also New England. They began by breaking the state record at aa cold and wet Clipper Relays in early May. Mimi Ortiz, Iyana Braswell, Mia Cruz and Soraya Ross crossed in 48.40 claiming not only their school record, but also the state record! As a testament to how unique and rare it is to break a state record (weather, race situations, etc), the prevailing thought after Clipper Relays was just how far could South drop the state record. While they never posted a faster time, they still remained dominant, winning the D1 and MOC titles. They certainly saved the best for last when they WON New Englands in 48.42. Perhaps one indicator of just how fast and dominant South was, at least 2 coaches remarked how their own 4×100 teams broke their respective school records while racing South and could not even threaten them this season.
From state records to New England Champions. How about the hurdles and Pinkerton’s Jordan Wheaton. She will be remembered for how easy and graceful she made running the hurdles look. The D1, MOC and New England Champ certainly had a season for the ages.
Staying with sprinting, 2023 was certainly the return of parity at a high level of competition across the state, across divisions. It was also the year of sweeps. Beginning with the girls, Division 1 boasted the depth of 6-7 great sprinters from 100-400, who on any given day could win. Names like Ross, Braswell, Merrimack’s Alexis Best, Central’s Harriett Barber, Portsmouth’s Lily Jenkins and North’s Jhanelle Thomas. Division 2 was similar as well as Division 3. In the end, Kennett’s Aida Wheat put down the most memorable performances sweeping both the 100m and 200m at the NHIAA Division 2 State Championships and then again at the Meet of Champions. And who will ever forget her smile as she was coming across the line at MOCs? For icing on the cake, she ran super fast at New Englands placing in the 100 and breaking 25 seconds (24.91) to place 5th in the 200.
For her own sake, Central’s Harriett Barber was similarly dominant in the 400 especially as she ultimately placed second at New Englands in 56.91. This after winning the title in both MOCs and D1s rather easily.
Perhaps slightly overlooked, the Great Gandini will certainly be remembered as he completed the “Triple, Triple” at the Division 3 meet this year. Gilford’s Patrick Gandini won the 1600, 800, and 3200 for the 3rd consecutive year at Division 3s. This was history. Can anyone name any one else who has pulled this off?? He then went on to win the NH MOC title in 4:14, only to top that with a New England title in the Mile in 4:09 and change!!! The Naval Academy bound senior said he wanted to focus on the 1600 and 800 this season and that he did with great success. Gandini’s teammate, Isaiah Reese will also be remembered for being the unique athlete he is. Winning the New England title in the Javelin by throwing in the 180s capped a breakthrough season which also saw him as a serious contender in the 100 and 200. Can you remember another moment in NH History when a school as small as Gilford had 2 New England Champs on the same day?
How about Coe-Brown’s late season relay success. We will talk about this team as a whole, but four of their athletes combined to run 2 memorable relays in particular, late in the season. In a super exciting race with Hall, CT, Coe-Brown’s Jamie Lano, Aidan Cox, Tyler Tkaczyk and Gavin Demas won the New England title crossing the line in 7:48.18, within a second of the state record. Their anchor leg, Demas closed in 1:53 to close the deal. Then 5 days later they raced to within a second of a national title in the 4×1 Mile Relay at New Balance Nationals in Philadelphia. Cox closed this one in 4:09 after Tkaczyk ran another monster 3rd leg (4:21 mile) to get them into contention. Crossing in 17:30, the Bears averaged 4:23 for the mile. Has any team from NH run faster? Further, Demas had a monster season, but perhaps his most memorable moment was his true breakout race at the Black Bear Invite where he won in 1:52.65. Prior to this, Demas’s PR was 2:00.0. He capped his season as the state’s best 2 lapper winning the D2 and MOC titles.
Cox certainly saved his best season for last. While he ran consistently the entire season in the 3200 (9:00, 8:59, 8:57) and 1600/mile (4:16, 4:12, 4:10, 4:09), perhaps the more memorable moments came his approach to his races. He ran measured, precisely and evenly, when he was solo. This was on full display at D2s when he won the 1600 in 4:12 and then doubled back to an 8:57 (closed in 60) in the 3200. When he was racing the best in the nation, he raced brazenly. This was on display as he chased the eventual national champ in the 2 mile at NB Nationals. He could have played it safe and raced for 2nd, but decided to risk it all. Seems as if he doesn’t see the difference between 2nd and 5th places. He then capped his high school experience by racing the mile, his 3rd race in 3 days, simply because he wanted to race some of the best runners in the country. While he battled and placed 7th, out-leaned for an All-American spot, he still ran 4:09. That is a triple of a different kind but a 4:09, 8:50 and 4:09 with 2 All-Americans is somewhat memorable :).
Perhaps the heir apparent is BG’s Matthew Giardina. The D1 3200m champ placed 3rd in the MOC with a 9:23. But how many sophomores place second at New Englands with a 9:14?
The boys sprinting was deep deep deep. One could argue Division 3 was the deepest division, led by Bishop Brady’s Joshua Gentchos sweeping the 100 and 200 at D3s. He had to beat names like Gilford’s Reese, PCA’s Tim Kelm and Trinity’s Nehemiah Oyaronbi. Then you had Keene’s Chris Stevens, Pinkerton’s Caden Michaud, Oyster River’s Ty Dorow, and Sanborn’s Brady Ash. So when Memorial’s AJ Sebastien swept both the 100 and 200 at the MOCs, defeating the names above (some twice), that one day became one of the more memorable performances. Have to also give a shout out to Dorow. Injured for D2s unable to compete, he came back to the MOCs with 2 goals, the 400 and 4×400. He delivered on both winning the open 400 in 50.18 and anchoring Oyster River to the 4×400 title!
North’s Jhanelle Thomas continued to run down the competition in several events, but may have found her feature event in the 300 Hurdles as she has the state record in her sites with a 43.92 at D1’s. She continues to have competition here though as D2 Champ, OR’s Erin Carty is right on her heels with a best time of 44.18. Seems as if Thomas and Carty are in competition with each other for the most versatile as Carty is ultra competitive in the 100, 200, High Hurdles as well.
One more memory on the track involved the girls 800 at MOCs. PCA’s Brianna Malone eventually won in 2:13.49 after fending of a serious challenge from Newmarket’s Alanna Hagen (2:14.68), Bedford’s Fiona Lee (2:14.57), Dover’s Anique Poulin (2:16.70) and Winnacunnet’s Charlotte Koutalidis (2:16.75). That’s 5 athletes within 3 seconds of one another. The best part, 4 of those 5 return next year!
Focusing on field event memories, a unique double was pulled off as Londonderry’s Andrew Kullman won both the Long Jump (22’0.75″) and High Jump (6’4″) at Division 1s. How about Conant sophomore Ben Sawyer winning the MOCs Long Jump with a 22’3″ leap and FRESHMAN David Walker of Inter-Lakes winning the Triple Jump!
In addition to Reese winning the javelin at New Englands, another D3 upstart, Newport’s Kyle Ashley also podiumed with a toss of 175’3″ to podium in 5th place. Both are juniors, looking forward to next year as well! We can’t omit Toby Brown of Nashua North either. The senior swept all NH and then placed 4th at New Englands with a bomb of 57’9″!
Pinkerton’s Briana Danis will be remembered as the state’s best all around thrower in 2023. The SNHU bound senior finished her senior year with a second place at New Englands in the discus courtesy of her 140’9″ mark. She also won the shot put at MOCs with a 35’1″ mark. North’s Madelyn Novak has a argument for most versatility as she also placed 2nd at New Englands in the javelin with a toss of 123’9″ while placing 2nd at MOCs in the discus with a 114’11” toss.
The jumping on the girls’ side was also quite memorable. When you have a year when Bedford sophomore Anika Scott and South’s Braswell essentially tie for 3rd at New Englands while not winning D1s, credit to Merrimack’s Kailey Dillon (18’8″), it is an awesome year. And don’t overlook Merrimack’s Best as she was the state’s top Triple Jumper.
Lastly, a couple team achievements will be remembered involving unlikely sweeps. Bedford swept the Division 1 titles. While the boys were forecasted to win, the girls were not favored. A balanced attack featuring Scott, Lee, relays and strong field events pushed Bedford over the top accumulating 90 points. The boys featured double winner Christopher Chong (both hurdles) and Jacob Redman (1600 champ, 2nd in 3200), but also had a smattering of points from the track and the field.
And in Division 2, Coe-Brown was a heavy favorite on the boys’ side and they certainly delivered. A balanced track and field team which scored almost half of their points within each category, they amassed a grand total of 135 points. Not sure if that tally has ever been beaten. They had D2 Champs like Cox and Demas, but also Zachary Bistany in the Discus and Zachary Blades in the pole vault. They also had a throwing contingent who totaled 26 points. Perfectly demonstrating their level of excellence and team concept was the 1600 where they swept the first 4 places with Cox, Tkaczyk, Lano and Demas.
The girls were an unlikely win as they were not favored. They won with grit. Gutsy performances by Anushka Chavda (2nd in 100 and 200), Sheldyn Fisher (3rd and 4th in 1600 and 3200 respectively), Madeleine Grenier (discus champ, 5th in shot put), as well as their wins in the 4×100 and 4×800 relays were a few of the highlights. But they scored oodles of points in the Long and Triple Jump courtesy of Josephine Malloy, Natalie Sicard, and Alexis Cowan. They also have a young throwing contingent who amassed 31 points.
And that’s 2023! One of the best accomplished years in recent memory. If you think we missed a memory worth a shout out, please comment below to give them recognition! See you all in the fall!!! Congrats athletes and coaches of New Hampshire Track and Field!