With the New England Championships and the New Balance Nationals taking place the same weekend this year, some of the elite athletes from the northeast portion of the country were faced with a difficult decision – New England’s or Nationals?
One of those athletes was Sierra Irvin. The Hingham High junior, a fifth-place finisher in the 400-meter dash at the indoor nationals, will be taking her talents to Bridgewater State University on Saturday to compete at the 67th annual New England meet.
Irvin, who recently won the MIAA State Meet with a personal best of 54.51 seconds, made the decision less than two weeks ago at Eastern Division 2 Championships. At the June 1 meet, she attempted the tough 400m-200m double. She won the longer race with a then-best of 54.7, but faltered in the shorter dash, finishing eighth overall.
Faced with a similar scenario of limited rest down in North Carolina, Irvin figured it was best to stay local.
“I wanted to run the 400 and the 200 and the scheduling didn’t work out,” she said. “There wouldn’t be enough time to rest. I didn’t think it was worth it to go all the way down there and just run one race.”
Irvin is looking to strike gold at the New England’s, a year after finishing second in the regional competition down in New Britain, Conn. Right now, the gifted quarter-miler’s top competition could come from her home state. Ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the event is Milford senior Kellan Nova (56.08) and Latin Academy sophomore Ashley Lewis (56.33).
Irvin, who will also run on her team’s top-seeded 4x400m relay, is hoping for more than just a victory.
“My goal is to go out and better the New England record,” said the Hingham standout, about the 54.6 mark by Boston Technical’s Tasha Downing in 1986.
Hope junior Quashira McIntosh, a multiple state champion from R.I. and another frequent NBN participant, will also make the short drive to Bridgewater this weekend. She sits atop the list in both sprints with season bests of 11.94 in the 100m dash and 24.73 in the 200m.
Head coach Thom Spann figured his talented sprinter and her teammates were more prepared for the nationals next year and that the New England meet just made sense.
“We decided next year that the whole group we’ll go to nationals,” Spann said. “’Q’ got selected to represent the Virgin Islands at the World Juniors in July. We are just going to focus on the New England’s, take a little break and re-load again for the World Juniors.”
McIntosh is the clear-cut favorite to break the tape in the 100m with a time that is nearly .20 faster than No. 2 seed Amanda Henson of Barnstable (Mass.). Her biggest challenge should come in the 200m. In that race she’ll be matched against a pair of Dominiques – senior Dominique Hall of Shrewsbury (Mass.) and Dominique Twombly of Oyster River (N.H.), who come in with times of 24.97 and 24.98, respectively.
If McIntosh runs the 200m in what Spann feels she’s capable of running on a perfect day, it could be no contest. At the recent state meet, the Hope speedster won the 100m and the 200m for the third straight year. She also anchored the first-place 4x100m relay and the runner-up 4x400m squad.
“I think she can break 24 (seconds) in the 200,” said Spann, about McIntosh, who has a PB of 24.44. “It could happen with the competition. I could happen (at) the New England’s. I think she has the potential to run twenty-three point. If not this year, definitely next year.”
Coe Brown Academy (N.H.) senior Hannah Parker will be returning to defend her crown in the 800m. Parker smashed the N.E. record last year with a PB of 2:06.42, beating a loaded field that also included Stanford-bound senior Karina Shepard of Dracut (Mass.), who was second at 2:08.05. Parker, who placed sixth at the NBN in 2013, has broken 2:10 three times this season, including a winning time of 2:08.42 at the NHIAA Meet of Champions on June 7.
The field feature several runners capable of giving Parker a challenge, including New Hampshire tenth-grader Maegan Doody of Oyster River, who has run 2:10.88. Other strong competitors are Bellingham (Mass.) sophomore Sarah Edwards (2:12.80) and Middletown (R.I.) senior Shannon Hugard (2:13.55).
The 1,600m has potential for excitement down the final straightaway. The field features nine runners that have broken five minutes this spring. Defending champion Danae Rivers, a sophomore from Wilbur Cross (Conn.), owns the No. 1 seed with a PB of 4:47.45. That’s a time she ran on Sunday to defeat Hannah DeBalsi, the All-American sophomore from Staples, by a mere .05 at the CIAC Open Chamionships. Two other runners from the Nutmeg State, RHAM senior Christine Bendzinski (4:49.26) and Fairfield Ward senior Cate Allen (4:49.33), could also contend. La Salle (R.I.) sophomore Eliza Rego might figure in the mix, too. She was second at the recent state meet with a 4:29.96 for 1,500 meters.
The New England mark of 10:10.26 in the 3,200m, set last year by DeBalsi, should stand this weekend. The Staples’ runner is among the top seeds at the nationals and will skip a defense of her title. Vermont’s Autumn Eastman of Champlain Valley Union, her state’s recent 3K winner, has the fastest time in the field with a 10:39.42 best. Simsbury (Conn.) senior Sarah Mattison (10:44.46), Mercy (Conn.) senior Kaleigh Roberts (10:47.12) and Conard (Conn.) senior Elizabeth Lagoy (10:48.54) are among other runners that could pose a challenge to Eastman.
In the 100m hurdles, Ledyard (Conn.) senior Chenoa Sebastian will be looking to improve on her third-place finish from last year’s meet with a possible win at Bridgewater. She has the best time among her peers with a 14.73, a time she ran to win the recent CIAC Open Championships. Merrmack Valley (N.H.) senior Nancy Taban and Maloney (Conn.) senior Brianna Burt have also broken 15 seconds FAT in the hurdles with times of 14.81 and 14.99, respectively. Don’t count out the Rhode Island tandem of Classical senior Alicia Holloway and North Kingstown senior Maria Bolibruch, who staged a down-to-the-wire affair at the state meet, which Holloway won at 15.06 to Bolibruch’s 15.07.
The youngest of the top contenders could be the first to cross the line in the 300m hurdles. In that event, Lebanon (N.H.) freshman Corinne Kennedy is the top-seeded runner with a best of 43.54. She posted that time with a win at the NHIAA Meet of Championships, a meet she also finished second in the 100m hurdles. Five other runners have dipped under 45 seconds in the field.
New Balance National Indoor champion Ellen DiPietro of Marshfield (Mass.) will be eyeing her second straight N.E. crown in the high jump. DiPietro had her all-time best of 5 feet, 10.5 inches to win her national title back in March. This spring, she had a season-best of 5-8 to take the MIAA Eastern Division 2 meet. She copped the vertical leap at the state meet last week with a 5-6 effort.
Shelby Strickland of Kennebuck (Me.) did her best of 5-6 to cop the Maine Class A state title on Saturday. The next 10 competitors in the field have all done 5-4. In other words, it’s anybody guess who will make it to the podium.
Coe-Brown (N.H.) junior Ariel Clachar looks to be the odds on favorite in the long jump. She won her state meet at 18-1.5 and had a PB of 18-7.25, set at the Merrimack Invitational in mid-May. Danvers (Mass.) junior Angela Caldarone leaped 17-8.5 to place second at the All State Meet. Worcester Tech (Mass.) freshman Adia Sackor is the No. 3 seed in the event with a 17-7 effort.
Massachusetts’ state champion Kerstin Daraney, a senior from Triton, owns the No. 1 seed in the triple jump. She did a PB of 39-1 to win the Eastern Division 2 crown and won her state meet with a distance of 38-8. Salem (N.H.) senior Lauren MacGregor has the ability to break 38 feet. She has a best of 37-9.25.
Look for a close battle in the javelin with a possible duel between two state champions, North Kingstown (R.I.) junior Paige Olausen (131-0) and New Bedford (Mass.) senior Ellie Bucknell (130-03). Watertown (Conn.) senior Megan Perrin and Farmington (Conn.) junior Megan Perrin have tossed the spear 127-09 and 127-02, respectively.
Defending New England champion and recent state titlist Michaela Smith of Newton North (Mass.) will be aiming for gold again in the shot put. She has the top seed of 43-11. North Quincy (Mass.) senior Maya Umoren (41-8.5) is the only other shot-putter in the field that has bested 40 feet.
Junior Morgan Ferland of Fall Mountain (N.H.), undefeated this spring in the discus, is hoping to continue that trend on Saturday. She sits atop the seed list with her best of 127-07. Oxford (Conn.) senior Taylor Drayton is No. 2 at 125-09 and Brookfield (Conn.) is the third seed with a best of 124-09.
The pole vault has five competitors that have cleared 11 feet with Carly Railing, a senior form Alogonquin (Mass.), the one with the target on her singlet. She had a PB of 11-9 this past weekend to win the All State Meet. Central Catholic (Mass.) senior Madison Arndt, Keene (N.H.) senior Jamie Briggs and Concord (N.H.) senior Megan Reese have all done 11-3.