By Matt Williams
---- — BOSTON — Every track season is about peaks and valleys, and if yesterday’s Northeastern Conference championships at Reggie Lewis Center are any indication, plenty of North Shore athletes are peaking at exactly the right time.
Peabody won yet another boys title, but the point differential was the closest its been in the Tanners’ six year stint as NEC members. With boys from six different schools winning gold medals, it was definitely peak season.
For the Peabody girls, peaking was about finishing better than they started. The Tanners lost two dual meets this winter and fell behind season champion Beverly early yesterday. They then rallied down the stretch to take the girls meet with 87 points to the Panthers’ 82.
Senior Catarina Rocha was one of five Peabody girls to win events as she cruised to the 2-mile title in 10:46. Antonia Pagliuca’s third place in the 2-mile gave Peabody 16 points in that event, a lead they did not relinquish.
“We had hoped to win, but it wasn’t everything,” said senior Heather MacLean, the NEC 600 champion. “The biggest thing today was to have all our girls do their best and try to run their best times heading into states.”
MacLean won the 600 in 1:39 just days after setting a school record in the event. She now has NEC titles at 300, 400 and 600 meters, showing off a remarkable versatility she garnered as part of the Tanners All-State champion cross country team.
“I feel a lot stronger,” MacLean said. “I definitely feel like running sprints last year has helped me at the end of the longer races this year.”
Peabody also got golds from senior Hayley Dowd, who nosed out Danvers’ Xanthi Pantazelos in the dash (7.53 to 7.57) and shot putter Pam Zabala, who repeated as NEC champ with a heave of 36-7. Sophomore Lauren Barrett won the 1000 for the Tanners in 3:08.
Beverly had a tremendous start to the event, winning the first two golds handed out. Kristen O’Connor claimed the hurdles in 9.11 and sophomore Julianna Wesley won the mile in 5:27. Junior Caitlin Harty had an exciting kick to win the 300 in 42.38.
“There were so many good races. It was a great day overall,” said Beverly coach Dave Jellerson. “We’ve sort of been the little team that could this year and the girls gave 100 percent effort. You could see that they’re learning how to run.”
The Panthers also won two of the three relays, with Harty anchoring the 4x400 victory and Keely Higgins barely edging out Marblehead at the end of the 4x800. Jess Goodall also gave Beverly come crucial points in the mile (third) and Madison Shropeshire was second in the 600 (1:42). Nicole Demars added a third in the 1000.
Marblehead made an impressive late charge to finish third. The Magicians amassed nearly 40 points in the last four events. Lily Cummings won her second straight high jump title (5-2) and the Magicians grabbed seconds from Paige Ferrucci (1000, 3:09), Janaya Randall (2-mile) and the 4x200 and 4x800 relays. Mimi Goetz was third in the shot and Olivia Vener won the long jump (a non-scoring event) and was third in hurdles.
The Peabody boys have lost just one meet in their six years in the NEC, but the Tanners certainly sweated out last night’s victory. Peabody trailed Gloucester at the midway point and earned 22 points from the relays to pull away with 63 total points.
Gloucester was second with 52 points, followed by Swampscott (46), Revere (43) and Danvers (42).
The 4x800 team of Ben Braz, James Christopher, Connor Wolf and Drew Fossa won one of two golds for the Tanners. Chris Cedullo won the hurdles for the other.
“The kids are excited,” said Peabody head coach Fernando Braz. “We have a young team and they matured quite a bit tonight. They came through.”
Peabody’s depth certainly paid off, with four fourth place finished, two fifths and three sixths accounting for 23 points.
Cedullo’s hurdles win of 7.97 was by a nose and set the tone for the Tanners.
“He’s really developing,” said Tanners hurdle coach Steve Symrnios. “He worked in the offseason and really pays attention to details.”
Scott Myers, Cedullo, Steve Villani and Chris Cenami ran the 4x200, which was second for Peabody. Villani and Cenami picked up points in the dash and Drew Fossa was third in the 1000 (“A huge PR and big points for us,” Braz said). Doug Connolly’s fourth in the high jump was crucial as well.
Swamspcott’s Peter Hale won another NEC 2-mile title, his fourth straight conference crown through all seasons of track. He ran 9:40 and teammate Matt Mahoney was third in the event in 10:03. The Big Blue’s Robert Seymour was the only athlete to toss the shot over 50 feet and won the league title in 50-4.
Declan McClung and Noah Conti displayed excellent teamwork for Swampscott in the 600, working together as McClung finished third and Conti fifth.
The Big Blue girls saw Vy Le finish second in the hurdles and Aisling Dennehy third in the 300. Emma Walsh and Melinda Wilson impressed by going 3-4 in the 600.
It was a banner day for the Salem boys, who took home three gold medals. Jon Crimble earned the first when he blazed to a 36.6 in the second heat of the 300. He had to sweat out the “top” heat and had the best time of the day for the win.
Ben Sattiewhite had one of the best performances of the meet, topping 6-foot-6 to remain undefeated in the high jump. Five athletes cleared 6-feet yesterday and as the bar continued to rise, the crowds continues to grow around the jumping pit.
The Witches’ 4x200 relay of Crimble, Tommy Ryan, Aaron Woodfall and Aaron Palmer also had the best time in the league in 1:34.58.
“This is the best we’ve done at the NEC meet,” said Salem coach Gary Lavoie. “It was a great mix of kids, some really powerful schools and programs. Ben’s closing in on a school record of 6-10 in the high jump and most of the kids we brought had personal bests even if they didn’t place.”
Danvers sophomore John Thomas, the runner-up by thousandths of a second at the MSTCA Elite meet, took the NEC by storm with a time of 6.61. The Falcons Drew Piazza also broke a 10-year-old school record when he ran 2:35.16 in the 1000, which was tenths better than Mike Rockett’s 2:35.36 from a decade ago according to coach John Norris, who called it a “Super run and a great performance.”
Danvers also got a second in the shot put from Joe Manson (48-11) and a solid third in the mile from James Bailey (4:47).
Overall the distribution of points and medals in the boys meet was a welcome change, and most of the coaches agreed that it was a sign of the NEC’s strength.
Beverly’s Alex Greco was very strong in the mile, pushing the pace and finishing second (4:40). Brendan Flaherty was third in the 300 and fourth in the shot and Harry Brown was third in the shot. Jay Richardson finished third in the high jump, clearing 6-feet.
NEC INDOOR TRACK INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONS GIRLS 55m hurdles: Kristen O'Connor, Beverly (9.11) 55m dash: Hayley Dowd, Peabody (7.53) 300: Caitlin Harty, Beverly (42.38) 600: Heather MacLean, Peabody (1:39.00) 1000: Lauren Barrett, Peabody (3:08.79) Mile: Julianna Wesley, Beverly (5:27.83) 2-mile: Catarina Rocha, Peabody (10:46) High jump: Lily Cummings , Marblehead (5-2) Shot put: Pam Zabala, Peabody (36-7) Relays: 4x200, Gloucester (1:52); 4x400 Beverly (4:10); 4x800, Beverly (10:11) BOYS 55m hurdles: Chris Cedullo, Peabody (7.97) 55m dash: Jon Thomas, Danvers (6.61) 300: Jon Crimble, Salem (36.66) 600: Matt Carpenter, Gloucester (1:25) 1000: Everest Crawford, Gloucester (2:35) Mile: Jake Holscher, Gloucester (4:34) 2-mile: Peter Hale, Swampscott (9:40) High jump: Ben Sattiewhite, Salem (6-6) Shot put: Robert Seymour, Swampscott (50-4) Relays: 4x200, Salem (1:34); 4x400 Revere (3:33); 4x800 Peabody (8:47)