New England Championships - Boys Preview

The best milers in the country are split up on the east coast this weekend.

In New York, 14 runners will answer the starter’s pistol inside Icahn Stadium on Saturday for the adidas Grand Prix Dream Mile. Down in North Carolina, it’s the New Balance National Outdoor Championships that will feature some of the best nationwide for the four-lapper.

But that doesn’t mean the field will be dry for this Saturday’s New England Championship. While the caliber may not match up with their counterparts, the regional competition for the metric mile (or 1,600 meters) at Bridgewater State University will certainly generate some excitement for track & field enthusiasts.

Based on the seed sheets, the top seven runners have run faster than 4 minutes, 22 seconds this spring with Capital Prep (Conn.) senior Dharan Velasquez occupying the No. 1 spot with a time of 4:15.70, a nearly two-second personal best that he ran to capture the CIAC Open Championships on Monday. Hidden as a No. 9 seed is La Salle Academy (R.I.) sophomore Jack Salisbury, the recent R.I. state champion and the reigning N.E. indoor titlists.

The 13-year-old meet record of 4:10.31 looks like it will survive another year, but don’t be surprised with the level of competition that the winner hits a time in the 4:15 range or even faster.

“I bet you’ll have at least three of four runners under 4:20,” said La Salle distance coach Bill Myers.

Just like he did during the indoor season, Salisbury is one of those runners that can get the job done.  He captured the N.E. title in early March with a then best of 4:17.50. He ran slightly faster a few weeks later with a PB of 4:17.36 at the New Balance National Indoor Championships.

The top three seeds in the field hail from Connecticut with Velasquez, Danbury senior Mickey Kozak (4:16.93) and Staples’ senior Oliver Hickson (4:19.94).  Myers is looking for his star runner to figure right in the mix.

“He wants to win,” he said. “I think he has to get to the 800m in 2:06, 2:07. Hopefully he feels good and runs a great race.”

Speaking of great races, one that has potential to develop into a must-see event is the 800m. Just .80 separates the top four runners in the field with Lewiston (Me.) junior Isaiah Harris the top seed with his best of 1:52.96, a time he ran to earn gold at the Maine Class A Championships this past weekend. Minnechaug (Mass.) senior Russell Wells (1:53.41), Oliver Ames (Mass.) junior Connor Donavan (1:53.71) and Campbell (N.H.) junior Sean Munnery (1:53.76) are others runner capable of striking it rich this weekend.

Hometown favorite Abu Ceasay of Bridgewater Raynham (Mass.), who is just a tenth-grader, could break the tape in the 200m. He’s the only sprinter to crack 22 seconds with his top-seeded time of 21.95, a time he ran to place second at the MIAA State Championships. Lawrence (Mass.) senior Jose Adames (22.13), Nashua North (N.H.) junior Zakari Jenkins (22.33) and Burlington (Vt.) senior Makahil Abdinoor (22.36) occupy the next three seeds in the event.

In the 100m dash, the competition is tight, led by three sprinters from the Bay State that have cracked 11 seconds –  Groton-Dunstable (Mass.) junior Evan Lexo (10.77), Acton-Boxboro (Mass.) junior Jeremy Thaller (10.83) and Brockton (Mass.) junior Jonathan Derolus (10.92). Lexo and Thaller were second and third, respectively, at the recent state meet.

A talented 400m field will feature nine runners that have broken 50 seconds and are separated by just a second. Chevrus (Me.) junior Jake Dixon is the top-seeded quarter-miler in the race with his PB of 48.93, which he ran to win the Maine Class A State Championship this past Saturday. Another underclassman, Brockline (Mass.) sophomore Jeff Santos, is not too far behind with his best of 48.96.

The overwhelming favorite in the 3,200m is Darien (Conn.) junior Alex Ostberg, the CIAC Class L champion. Ostberg’s seed time is 9:13.34, but he ran nearly 20-seconds faster last month when he placed second at the Glenn D. Loucks Games in N.Y., with a PB of 8:52.64, a time that ranks No. 9 nationally. Ostberg was also the runner-up in the two mile at the New England Indoor Championships where he blazed the 16 laps in 9:02.74. The next three seeds also hail from the Nutmeg State – Darien sophomore Armstrong Noonan (9:18.06), William Hall junior Ari Klau (9:25.13) and Ridgefield sophomore Gabe Altoop (9:27.36).

A pair of state champions could be duking it out in the 110m hurdles with Souhegan (N.H.) senior Ben DeForest (14.48) and Mount Mansfield (Vt.) junior Alec Eschholz (14.64) owning  the fastest two times in the field.  DeForest is undefeated so far this season in his specialty.  Brockton (Mass.) senior Deion Rapper, a runner-up at the MIAA All State Meet, is the No. 3 seed with a best of 14.74. Eshholz and Lincoln-Sudbury (Mass.) senior Ben Colello are tied for the top seed in the 300m hurdles at 38.34. Colello was third at the New England meet last year.

A legitimate choice to win the high jump is top seed John Cioffredi of Lebanon (N.H.). Cioffredi leaped his all-time best of 6-8.25 at the NHIAA Meet of Champions this past weekend. He also won his state’s indoor title and was the Dartmouth Relays winner. In addition, he was fifth at the New England Indoor Championships. Boston College High (Mass.) junior Rashad Williams, a second-place finisher at his state meet, has leaped 6-8, a height also achieved by Somerset (Mass.) senior Adam Couitt.

Eleven of the top 12 long-jumpers from last year have graduated and the other one, Hingham (Mass.) senior and runner-up Andrew Bolze, is injured and unable to compete. It’s anybody’s guess in this event. The top two seeds are Old Rochester Regional (Mass.) junior Kevin Saccone (22-0.75) and Hope (R.I.) senior Dave Balony (22-0.50). Just like they did at the state meet, the triple jump has the makings for a down-to-the-wire affair between Nipmuc Regional (Mass.) junior Kurt Robakiewicz (46-9) and Randolph (Mass.) senior Evandro DaCosta (46-5.25).

In the shot put, the potential is there for a 1-2 finish for Massachusetts’ athletes.  Right now the favorite would appear to be St. John Prep senior Evan Dombrowski, who recently won his state meet and has thrown the metal ball an impressive distance of 57-6.25. Newton North senior Ryan Kim has a best of 55-1 and Bishop Hendricken senior Alex Cerbo is the No. 3 seed at 54-5.25, a distance he tossed last weekend at the states.

Shelton (Conn.) senior Peter Cotto is the No. 1 seed in the discus at 162-02. Occupying the No. 2 position is Lyme (Conn.) junior Jared Stanland at 159-02. Four athletes have tossed the javelin more than 180 feet, led by York (Me.) sophomore Jack Bouchard at 186-08. Fitch (Conn.) senior Tyler Latham has a best of 184-00.

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