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Spring Sports Preview

Popusoi, Warriors are ready to shine

  • Greenfield pole-vaulter extraordinaire Vlad Popusoi had New England-title aspirations coming into Saturday's meet but settled for a respectable third. Recorder/file photo

    Greenfield pole-vaulter extraordinaire Vlad Popusoi had New England-title aspirations coming into Saturday's meet but settled for a respectable third. Recorder/file photo

  • WESTFIELD, MA (June 1, 2013) - MIAA All State Track Championship Meet held at Westfield State University. Vlad Popusoi, Greenfield High School, State Champ in Pole Vault is congratualted by his coach. Photo by Beth Reynolds

    WESTFIELD, MA (June 1, 2013) - MIAA All State Track Championship Meet held at Westfield State University. Vlad Popusoi, Greenfield High School, State Champ in Pole Vault is congratualted by his coach. Photo by Beth Reynolds

  • WESTFIELD, MA (June 1, 2013) - MIAA All State Track Championship Meet held at Westfield State University. Vlad Popusoi, Greenfield High School, State Champ in Pole Vault. Photo by Beth Reynolds

    WESTFIELD, MA (June 1, 2013) - MIAA All State Track Championship Meet held at Westfield State University. Vlad Popusoi, Greenfield High School, State Champ in Pole Vault. Photo by Beth Reynolds

  • WESTFIELD, MA (June 1, 2013) - MIAA All State Track Championship Meet held at Westfield State University. Dario Sadri, Pioneer Valley Regional high School, Long Jump event. Photo by Beth Reynolds

    WESTFIELD, MA (June 1, 2013) - MIAA All State Track Championship Meet held at Westfield State University. Dario Sadri, Pioneer Valley Regional high School, Long Jump event. Photo by Beth Reynolds

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>GHS Vlad Popusoi won the pole vault at WMass championships

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    GHS Vlad Popusoi won the pole vault at WMass championships

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Mohawk junior Lucas Purington is seen winning the 100 last season. He will be back to compete in sprints and jumping events.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Mohawk junior Lucas Purington is seen winning the 100 last season. He will be back to compete in sprints and jumping events.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Mohawk sophomore Camron Olanyk (left) will be one of the top long-distance runners in the area this season.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Mohawk sophomore Camron Olanyk (left) will be one of the top long-distance runners in the area this season.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>The younger brother of All-State champ Vlad Popusoi, Greenfield freshman Silvian Popusoi will try to keep pace with his brother on the pole vault this season.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    The younger brother of All-State champ Vlad Popusoi, Greenfield freshman Silvian Popusoi will try to keep pace with his brother on the pole vault this season.

  • Greenfield pole-vaulter extraordinaire Vlad Popusoi had New England-title aspirations coming into Saturday's meet but settled for a respectable third. Recorder/file photo
  • WESTFIELD, MA (June 1, 2013) - MIAA All State Track Championship Meet held at Westfield State University. Vlad Popusoi, Greenfield High School, State Champ in Pole Vault is congratualted by his coach. Photo by Beth Reynolds
  • WESTFIELD, MA (June 1, 2013) - MIAA All State Track Championship Meet held at Westfield State University. Vlad Popusoi, Greenfield High School, State Champ in Pole Vault. Photo by Beth Reynolds
  • WESTFIELD, MA (June 1, 2013) - MIAA All State Track Championship Meet held at Westfield State University. Dario Sadri, Pioneer Valley Regional high School, Long Jump event. Photo by Beth Reynolds
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>GHS Vlad Popusoi won the pole vault at WMass championships
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Mohawk junior Lucas Purington is seen winning the 100 last season. He will be back to compete in sprints and jumping events.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Mohawk sophomore Camron Olanyk (left) will be one of the top long-distance runners in the area this season.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>The younger brother of All-State champ Vlad Popusoi, Greenfield freshman Silvian Popusoi will try to keep pace with his brother on the pole vault this season.

Is Vlad Popusoi still the best high school pole vaulter in Massachusetts?

The Greenfield High School senior won the event at the Massachusetts All-State meet as a junior last spring and will try to repeat as champion this season. He is one of a number of individuals looking to once again make their name on the western Massachusetts and state level as the boys’ track & field season gets underway.

Mohawk Trail Regional High School enters the season as the reigning Intercounty League champion after a perfect 6-0 league record last spring. Greenfield, Frontier Regional School and Mahar Regional School tied for second at 4-2.

Popusoi was the lone state champion, although Mohawk’s Leroy Page also qualified for the All-State meet as a junior and finished 21st in the javelin and 22nd in the discus.

Pioneer Valley Regional School also has a pair of athletes coming off strong indoor campaigns, Darion Sadri and Dan Bordner. Sadri finished second at the All-State indoor meet and fifth in the long jump at the New England indoor meet. High-jumper Bordner came in 16th in the All-State indoor meet.

And, of course, there are plenty of up-and-coming athletes who’ll make a name for themselves. Here’s a closer look at the IL season:

Athol (1-6)

As another year went by last spring, the same question remained with Athol High School: Can the Red Raiders ever get back to prominence in the IL?

For third straight season, the Red Raiders finished with a regular-season record under .500, and for the second straight season, the team managed to win just one meet. Things were not always this tough for Athol, which won three straight IL titles from 2007-2009 and placed second in 2010 before its descent to the bulkhead steps. Only a win over a meager Turners Falls High School team kept Athol from a winless season.

The issue has been a decline in numbers, something that will again plague the team this season. Athol has one remaining qualifier for the WMass Division II meet last spring, and lost its top three athletes to graduation: Giovanni Palermo, Matt Summers and Tom LaRose. This season, the Red Raiders welcome new coach Bill LaRose, who said his goal is to try and get 25 athletes out for the team, which has been met.

The only returner who saw postseason action individually is senior Travis Heath, who finished 16th in the shot put. Heath is one of just three seniors on the team. One of the other two, Mike Kenniff, will join him in the throwing events. The third senior on the team is Kyle White, a pole vaulter and sprinter.

Juniors Mark Batchelor and Larry Coston are both 800 runners, while Tanner Pavilionis is a sprinter and pole vaulter. Juniors James Riddell, Todd Yavuz and Xavier Santana are jumpers and sprinters. Sophomore Tyler Bosworth is a sprinter, while classmate Patrick Curtin is a jumper. Colby Newcombe is a thrower and sprinter, while Raine Patterson and Charlie White are both distance runners, an area where the team has struggled. Matt Winters and Mark Brighenti are both up-and-coming throwers.

The freshman class consists of throwers Rowan Anderson, Matt Meunier and Dan Arpide, distance runners Zach Bergquist and Brendan Stebbins, sprinter Tyler Boyd and mid-distance runner Justin Simkewicz.

FC Tech (0-6)

It’s year two of the cooperative between Turners Falls and Franklin County Technical School, an effort to bolster programs that fell to perennial IL doormats. The issue has not been a lack of talent, but rather a lack of enough numbers to compete as a team.

This year the boys’ team takes the name of Franklin County Technical School for the first time, due to a number of the athletes coming from the technical school. Last season was not kind to the new program, with the Indians going winless, but with a number of talented individuals returning to lead the lineup, the Eagles will look to rise in the standings.

The team has only two seniors, Anthony Chaisson (jumps/sprints) and Max Pellerin (distance).

The junior class returns three postseason qualifiers. Alex Giurgiu is an up-and-coming pole vaulter after finishing ninth last season. Aaron Moore placed 10th in the mile, and Zaviere Washington placed 19th in the triple jump. Ryan Bezio is new to the team and will compete in throws and mid-distance running events, while James Dolan returns to sprint and throw. Tyler Millane is another middle-distance runner, while Mark Pedercini and Alex Sanderson both throw.

C.J. Daignault leads the sophomore class and was the only Indian with a top-3 postseason finish last spring after taking third in the javelin at the WMass Division II meet. Jared Brown and Zach Korpiewski are both solid distance runners, while Riley Palmer is another distance runner who also competes in throws. Corey Mitchell is the fifth sophomore on the team and will jump and sprint, while Kyle Gray is a newcomer and will be a sprinter.

Look out for freshman Owen Ortiz, who qualified in a pair of events at WMass, placing 23rd in the triple, and also 14th in the 100 preliminaries. Classmate Rick Smith is a thrower, and fellow freshman Nick Waterman is a newcomer and will run middle-distance.

Frontier (4-2)

One team looking to supplant Mohawk as league champ is Frontier Regional School, which was loaded with talented sophomores last season, all returning a year older and stronger.

Even through the Red Hawks had just four seniors a year ago, they managed to ride an impressive sophomore class to a 4-2 record, finishing in a three-way tie for second place. It marked the second consecutive runner-up finish for the Red Hawks, the 2011 IL champs.

Frontier remains young this season but has 10 postseason qualifiers returning. That includes seven from the junior class and one sophomore, and the youth payload should keep Frontier competitive for seasons to come.

The junior class includes six athletes with top-10 finishes at the 2013 Division II meet. Oliver Fox had the best finish of anyone on the team with his third place in the 400. Two Red Hawk juniors placed in the top 5 of the 400-meter hurdles, as Andrew Lankarge took fourth and Justin Blake finished fifth. Junior Dylan Talbot came in sixth in the 200, while classmate Ian Blake placed seventh in the 800. Saul Soto came in ninth in the javelin and also qualified in the 100 but finished 18th in the preliminaries. Jack Hebert is the seventh junior to qualify last season and finished 13th in the shot put. The rest of the junior class is Jamie Blinder, Colin Hickey, David Joslin and Ariq Welch.

The senior class is once again small but has two athletes with postseason experience. Collins Higgins finished ninth in the 400 at the Division II meet, and Frankie Watroba came in 21st in the triple. Adam Kellogg and Torsten Nelson round out the class.

Sophomore Andy Habel continues to improve in the distance events and finished ninth in the 2-mile last season. The rest of the sophomores are Cam Braverman, Carter Gudell, Connor Hamilton, Jared Kellogg, Liam Koski, Dylan Landry, Matt Olsen, Chad Parent, Robert Rogers-Manatt, Aidan Waldron, Nate Walker and Orlando Wildman-Hanlon.

The freshmen class is also large and consists of Ewan Bennett, Carlos Cosme, Dalton DeForest, Aaron Dorshow, Ryan Olmstead, Daniel Bronke, Miguel Olvera Aguilera, Junehyung Bernaski, Jake Boyer and Joe Cohoon. There are also 12 middle-school athletes on the team.

Greenfield (4-2)

Another team that finished in the IL traffic jam that was second place last season is Greenfield.

The Green Wave had a number of talented athletes on what was a well-rounded squad, but there may not have been a more automatic win in the league than first place in the pole vault. That happens when you have the best pole vaulter in the state in Vlad Popusoi, who went on to New Englands and placed sixth.

Popusoi also gives the Green Wave a viable threat in the hurdling events. While he may be the headline stealer for his pole-vault exploits, he is far from the only talented athlete on the team. In fact, the Green Wave is stacked in the pole vault event, as Popusoi’s younger brother Sylvian Popusoi, a freshman, finished fifth at the Division II meet last spring.

Greenfield finished tied for second in the PVIAC meet last spring due to its balance.

Greenfield has a strong performer in the shot put in Veniam Darmanchev, who had a strong winter indoor season and enters this season after finishing second at the Division II meet. Also in the throwing events is junior Scott Grote, who finished fourth in the discus last year. Senior Riley Phelps had a solid winter season in throwing events, while juniors Jordan Brewington, Andrew Grote and Sam Mimitz also return to give the team a solid corps.

Darmanchev also qualified for the postseason in the long jump and came in 19th. Junior Zac Pyfrom is another jumper.

Junior Will Borcy gives the Green Wave a threat in the distance events and finished 13th in the 2-mile last season. Other distance runners include senior Sam Guiod and sophomore Josh Day. Juniors Sam Duncan, Kodey LaBombard, Dylan Renfrew and Julian Torres return to run the mid-distance events.

It has been a while since Greenfield has had a dominant sprinter, but senior Dominic Glasson may emerge this season after finishing 15th at the PVIAC meet last spring. Classmate Vladimir Cobileanschi is another solid sprinter.

There are also a number of other athletes to fill out the roster and possibly make a name for themselves, though they did not have events by deadline. Senior Steve Samal, juniors Justin Hart and Sam Isotti, sophomores Romeo Thompson, Max Pirozhkov and Nick Xayasouk, and freshmen Mike Aras, David Giurgiu, Sam Knight and Isaiah Morrison are the others on the team.

Mahar (4-2)

Mahar was another team to finish tied for second in the IL last season, and the boys wound up seventh in the PVIAC meet.

Mahar’s strength over the years has been numbers. The Senators have had one of the largest squads on a consistent basis in the IL, which helped it win the IL in 2012. Things were no different last season. Although the team finished second in the IL, it still had a depth of talent at multiple positions.

Junior Zabien Shaw has been one of the top distance runners in Franklin County and it showed last season when he won the mile at the PVIAC meet and took 16th in the triple jump. Another distance runner who will help the Senators is senior Patrick Richard, who finished 14th in the 2-mile last season. Both boys had strong cross-country campaigns in the fall. Junior MJ Watson, freshmen Ethan Barbato, Andrew Hill and Anthony Negron are also distance runners.

The Senators also have some strengths in the jumping events. Shaw finished 16th in the triple jump last season, while senior Dan Bergman came in 25th in the event. Mahar also had a pair of long-jump competitors at the PVIAC meet, as sophomore Angel Biegen came in 18th and senior Andrew Wagner finished 20th. The team has plenty of other bodies looking to score jumping points. Seniors Joe Capuzzo, Tyler Robideau and Tyler St. Louis all return to the team, while junior Ethan Nye is a promising newcomer. Sophomore Rashad Duncan is another up-and-coming jumper, as is freshman Hunter Apteker. The freshman class has a number of other jumpers in Zack Geyster, Issak Reinikainen and Nick Stafford.

Bergman is also a strong hurdler and finished in the top 10 in both events last spring. The senior came in eighth in the 400 high hurdles, and ninth in the 110 intermediates. Junior Nick Newton will also compete in the hurdles.

As for the sprints, the Senators have a pair of returnees who had strong years last spring. Biegen came in 12th in the 400 at PVIAC, while sophomore Shawn Dennis took 16th in the 100. Senior Darnell Jones is a solid returnee to the sprints, while juniors Isaac Fortner and Winston Chayee are both promising newcomers to the team. Clay Richardson returns to sprints, while Kennie Nutter-Truehart (senior), Datu Pendatun (junior), Caleb Nutter-Truehart (sophomore) and Chad Marcoux (freshman) are each newcomers looking to make their mark.

The Senators lost some talented throwers and will try to replace them, but one returnee who had a strong campaign last spring was junior Leo Jillson, who came in eighth in the javelin. There are plenty of other returnees and some newcomers who should pick up the slack. Juniors Thomas Anderson, Aaron Briggs and Russell Grasso are each talented returnees to the thrower pool, while classmate Tristan Melanson joins sophomore Jason Soucie as promising newcomers. Junior Nick Sullivan, sophomores Troy King, Gabe Marcoux and Jack Richardson, and freshmen David Dexter, Ryan Dube, Austin Gelinas, Ben Gilmore, Damon Mitchell and John Nye are also newcomers.

The pole vault is still relatively new at Mahar but the team includes senior Joe Martinez, juniors Zach Gurganus and Luke McGann, and freshman Levi Baruch. Juniors Henry Drost and Cody Jean join sophomore Joe Geyster as mid-distance runners on the squad.

Mohawk (6-0)

The target has been firmly placed on Mohawk boys’ team back this spring.

Mohawk claimed its first IL title since 2006 and finished what had been a bit of a rebuilding phase over the past three years.

The Warriors have been one of the top boys’ track & field programs in Franklin County for decades but stumbled a bit in 2010 when they suffered their first losing season since 1998. The team recovered in 2011 to finish 5-2, then went 4-2 in 2012 before moving back to the top of the league standings last season. Mohawk also placed second as a team during the Division II meet last spring.

Mohawk certainly comes into the spring as the favorite to repeat at the top of the league with nine returning postseason qualifiers from last spring, including four multiple-event competitors. The most noticeable change comes at the top, where former coach Kevin Freitas retired and has been replaced by assistant Shawn Billings, a Mohawk grad who competed on the track & field team while in high school and who has been with the team for 12 years. His experience, coupled with the veteran multiple-event returnees could make for a repeat in Buckland.

Senior Leroy Page is a captain and one of the best IL throwers. Page had a huge indoor season and returns this spring after placing second in the discus and fourth in the javelin at last spring’s Division II meet. Junior Lucas Purington is another captain and a multiple-event dynamo. Purington won the 400 at the Division II meet and finished eighth in the long jump. The third captain on the team is senior Josh Rode, one of the league’s top 800 competitors and also a top triple jumper, placing 18th at Division II last spring.

Tyler Osman is another top senior Mohawk thrower, placing 12th in the shot put last spring. Evan Bruffee (200), Tom Damery (800, discus), Tyler Tobin (sprints) and Tyler Andrews (sprints) round out the senior class.

Sophomore Amar Abbatiello is another versatile competitor on the Warriors, placing fourth in the pole vault and sixth in the 110 hurdles last spring. Freshmen Aidan Sandvik and sophomore Leif Miraglia will join Abbatiello in the pole vault this spring, while junior Josh Taylor is another hurdler.

Eli Shearer returns for his sophomore season after a fantastic freshman campaign. Shearer placed 11th in the 100 and joins junior Matt Walch as one of the team’s top sprinters. Shearer will compete in the 100 along with teammates Zachary Goodel (sophomore), Clay Selleck (junior), Nick Brown (junior), Ben White (freshman), Guy Rice-Lesure (seventh), Seth Hoynoski (eighth) and Ben Warger (eighth), while Walch is a 200 specialist who finished 11th in Division II last spring and will line up alongside teammates Eddie Munkel (sophomore), Jason Wooldridge (eighth) and Jon White (juinor).

Shearer also placed 15th in the triple, joining Purington and teammate Nikolai Anzuoni as the top jumpers on the team. Anzuoni came in 16th in the long jump and will also be a sprinter. Sophomore James Harding is another long/triple jumper. Junior Mike Schuetze and sophomore Jacob Cross will each compete in the high jump, with Cross also joining junior Alex Dekoschak as mid-distance runners.

The Warriors have one of the league’s top distance runners, sophomore Cam Olanyk, who took seventh in the mile last spring. Junior Sam Rode and freshman Zach Coburn are also solid in the distance events. Juniors Jake Orzechowski and Issac Sisum join freshman Brendon Gerry and eighth-grader Andrew Hicks as other throwers.

Pioneer (2-4)

Pioneer is built like a seesaw.

The Panthers are heavy with seniors and juniors and also full of eighth-graders and seventh-graders, but there is nothing in the middle.

Pioneer has 11 athletes in the senior and junior class, and another 14 middle schoolers, but the team does not have a single competitor in the freshman or sophomore class. The Panthers showed well for themselves by finishing 11th at the Division II meet.

The team does return some very talented athletes, as both Dan Bordner and Darion Sadri are multi-event stars. Sadri, a senior, is coming off a wonderful indoor season in which he won the Division V state long-jump crown and finished second at the All-State meet. He will compete in the long jump, although last season he took 13th in the triple jump at the Division II meet. He is also a solid sprinter, finishing fifth in the 200 in Division II. Bordner is another talented senior coming off a strong indoor campaign. Last season Bordner finished fourth in the high jump in Division II, and also came in 24th in the triple jump. The Panthers also have a number of youngsters looking to try out the jumping events, including eighth-grader Spencer Ross and seventh-graders Clayton Garland, Wyatt Keith and Jake Wallace.

The Panthers are captained by seniors Chris Gilbert and Ethan Finnell. Gilbert is battling hamstring issues but is a strong mid-distance runner, while Finnell is a solid distance runner and also throws the javelin. Cody Wickline is a sprinter and throws the javelin, Dan Horvath is a hurdler and Jamie Wheeler runs middle-distance events.

Junior Malcolm Crosby is a strong middle distance runner and javelin thrower, while Tre Raymond is a thrower looking to replace Greg Betsold, one of the best throwers in western Mass., who graduated last spring. Ben Potee-Martin is a pole vaulter, and Micah Hardy is a junior transfer from Brattleboro High School who can sprint and vault.

The rest of the team is full of athletes not yet in high school. The eighth-grade class is led by Seamus Garland, who was a top cross-country runner. Ethan Foster is a sprinter and jumper and Justin Hubbard sprints. Jacob Kelton and Alyks Kostecki will both pole vault, while Andrew Pratt, A.J. Wilson and Alex Wahlstrom are each throwers. Gavin Curtis (pole vault) and Evan Momaney (throws) round out the seventh grade class.

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