Short Strides & Odd Thoughts: State Champs Thoughts!

Well now that we’re more than twenty four hours out and I’ve been able to catch up on some much needed ZZZs, I wanted to reflect on the Indoor Track State Championships we had the luck to witness this past weekend.  I’ve always enjoyed the spectacle that is indoor track here in NH.  With the dearth of track availability, whether it be for competition or for training, our little state does a great job with the sport at the HS level.  Big kudos for Mike Lyford and Amy Sanborn for “getting it done” as there are a lot of moving parts to go into the season.  If you asked them, they would tell you there are a lot of people behind the scenes, and while I don’t doubt it, these two certainly shouldered a lot of the heavy lifting and responsibility for pulling off this season.  I would be remiss not to mention their efforts on all of our be halves.

I’d also like to shout out Plymouth State, the All Well North facility, John Ostler, and everyone who not only made this championship season happen, but the season overall.  With less contests happening at Dartmouth, PSU stepped up big with most of the additional meets happening there.  With Mr. Ostler moving on to Dartmouth, maybe we’ll see some more meets happening in Hanover, however I feel we’re in good hands at PSU.  Lest anyone forget that Holderness Road was underwater back in December and three days later we were in the facility, continuing with our season.  Hats off to the crew at PSU.

And I don’t want to leave out Bob Mullen and his crew at Merrimack Valley.  They treat each and every meet at PSU as a home meet, including these State championships.  The MV crew does a lot behind the scenes to make this past weekend and the entire season at PSU happen. Including this past weekend when Bob and the crew there into the wee hours of the night this past Sunday, long after the Division 2 meet that their teams competed in was over.  Not to mention missing the Super Bowl to do so.

And while I don’t want to forget to thank anyone (NHTF and all it’s staff), I do want to highlight how great this past weekend in Plymouth was.  I’ve been coaching indoor track for more than twenty years and the vast majority of the State Championship contests I’ve seen have happened in Leverone.  I don’t remember how many SCs I’ve seen were at UNH but Leverone became synonymous with the indoor track state championships.  For me, there were many a long ride with a half (three-quarters) empty bus or car ride to the Upper Valley either early in the morning for the start of the meet, or many hours into darkness for the end of the meet.  I had a lot of people mentioning to me why they either hated the change (further ride, unfamiliar track, the unknown) or they loved the change (closer to them, familiar track, great facility.)  To be honest I had my reservations as there is seemingly less space for both the spectators and for the athletes.

However, I was encouraged by how obvious it was that the entities at Plymouth State wanted the championships to happen in AllWell and how committed they were to making it happen.  Thank you nameless people for helping us get it done.

And what a championships it was!  While the meets moved slowly, as we needed to get all the field events in before we could switch to track events, once things got moving, everything operated like a well oiled machine.  There was very little down time between heats which highlights the quality of the performances and makes the meet management and officiating almost invisible, as it should be.

And what performances there were!  Consider this, there were 52 finals contested on the day, and there were 10 divisional or state meet records broken.  Factor in that in two events, Division 1 girls 55 dash and Division 2 boys 1000, both the winner and the runner up surpassed divisional records. You’re looking at 12 individuals surpassing some very strong divisional records, with almost 10% of the divisional records on the day going down.  Toss in the two state records, Anika Scott’s state record long jump at D1s and Harriet Barber’s state record win in the 300, and you can say NH had quite a day.

Not to mention some of the amazing racing that went on.  Coe-Brown’s Jamie Lano had some of the best times ever in the state of NH during the season, but was needed to score points if the Bears were to have a chance to win the D2 title.  Looking to run each of the events as easily as he could in order to be prepared for the next event was the plan, but he was challenged from the gun as his competitors knew they needed to challenge him in order to have a shot.  With the race of the day in the 1000, where he went up against Hanover’s Lucian Gleiser, only to come in second in his marquee event by 9/100ths of a second, diving for the line.  Lano came back to win the 1500 in 4:09, summoning an incredible last lap.  Lano contributed 28.5 of Coe Brown’s 54 points, for what Jim MacKenzie has anointed as the best indoor track performance by an individual ever.  If anyone should know, it’s Jimmy Mack, just ask him.

Another highlight of the day for me was the absolute dominance by Oyster River girls.  With many of the top times across all the distance events, along with some pretty good coverage by Erin Carty in the hurdles, the Bobcats put up 100 points for the win.  Not only is that an impressive amount of points, considering if you added up the next three teams collectively they wouldn’t beat that, is that they didn’t simply cover those distance races but hammered them.  Winning both the 3000 and 1500, with Mackenzie Cook winning the 3K by 25 seconds and Haley Kavanagh breaking the divisional record and winning by over 16 seconds over Cook.  In total, the distance crew earned 46 points in just those two events!  Not to mention winning the 4×800 and 4×400 relays (and placing second in the 4×200.)  Simply stated, very impressive.

I do not want to leave out recognition of our two new (and soon to be certified) state record holders.  Anika Scott took down the old record by almost two feet with her first jump, going 20-3.25!  I was watching that from the commentating booth and even at that distance you can tell a jump that’s two feet further than your competitors.  There were only ten people in the state that day that jumped further.

And let’s not forget Harriet Barber in the 300.  Not only did she take down Concord’s Grace DeVanny’s divisional record, but Lebanon’s Anna Cioffredi’s state mark of 39.87 by almost 3/10ths of a second.  That’s a ton in a 300 meter race.   Not to mention some of NH’s best long sprinters in South’s Jhanelle Thomas, multi athlete Scott and Portsmouth’s Lily Jenkins.  That’s a good day’s work right there.

I don’t want to leave out impressive showings for the Bedford girls or the Pinkerton boys, both earning the team title with balanced scoring across the disciplines.  Having scoring opportunities across most all events on paper is great, but you still need to put it together on the day. These teams did with Bedford scoring an impressive 74 points, but Pinkerton amassing an insane, record breaking 111 points! And these feats were just slightly overshadowed by individual performances within their meet and the contrast of the winning teams in the previous meet.  Kudos to all of those that contribute to a team championship.

And finally, how about we start the chatter about the AllWell North track being the BU of the north country?  I may have suggested just that on the broadcast, but again, nine of the fastest runs in the state at the divisional level, with a state record in there, and three of the best long jumps at the divisional level, with another state record, is not what we normally see in one year of an Indoor Track SC cycle.  It will be a long time (never) before we see a world record on the PSU oval, but I think we are willing to take two state records in one season.  I certainly am.

I’m sure there are lots of highlights I’ve left out and lots of people deserving recognition and praise.  For all of them, I apologize.  From the timing (thanks Rick Berryman), to the officials, to the people behind the livestream, good on all of you for being there supporting these athletes perform at their highest level.  To coaches, parents, supporters and athletes alike, thanks for a great season and we’ll see you in outdoor!