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Jaywalking: Headline gripes

A couple weeks back, Greenfield High School girls’ track & field athlete Claire Abelson asked through her father and Recorder editorial page editor Justin Abelson why her team never got a headline.

I responded half-jokingly that you need to win or do something special to get headlines. Truth be told, the stories that get the headlines are generally the best games of the day, whether it be because the game features two of the best teams, or because the game was what you might call an instant classic. A walk-off hit, buzzer-beating hoop, or late goal or touchdown gets headlines. Obviously championships get headlines, as do record-breaking feats or memorable performances. Plus, we try to lead with the game from which we have photos, although sometimes that changes when something breaks elsewhere.

I knew what Claire was getting at. She wanted the Greenfield girls’ track team to get its due after it picked up its third win of the season about a week back. She was not like the many adults who complain that we are biased, or that because the newspaper is based in Greenfield that GHS gets all the ink. I hear it all the time. “You hate Mohawk,” or “Frontier gets all the headlines,” or “There you go again, giving Greenfield all the headlines and not Turners Falls.” People love to complain. And it’s their right. It once upon a time bothered me a bit at first and sometimes still does, especially when attacks turn personal.

But that was not Claire’s intent. I knew that right away, and that is why I gave a snarky response in return. The best part of this job is the interaction I get to have with the players, so I made a deal with her. If Greenfield could finish above .500 this season, I would write a story about the team. At the time, Greenfield had a record of 3-2 with two meets to go. One of those meets is today’s tilt against Mahar Regional School. The Senators have roughly three times more athletes on the team than Greenfield, so that could be chalked up as a loss beforehand. And that’s not being mean. Claire said it herself. Small teams, no matter how talented, can’t compete with large teams. That meant our deal really came down to last Friday’s meet against Athol High School. Greenfield needed a win to ensure it would finish 4-3 overall.

It wasn’t meant to be. While the Athol boys’ team has shrunken, the girls’ team is large enough to win meets and did just that with a 92-44 victory over the Green Wave. It’s looking like Greenfield will finish 3-4 in fifth place in the six-team Franklin County League — not really fitting into the aforementioned headline criteria.

But wait a minute. Greenfield girls’ track may have something worthy of headlines. Those three wins are the most the team has had since 2007. Last season, the team earned its first victory since 2008. This season, it won three times, which was the most since the team won five times in the spring of 2007. So I called Claire on Sunday, which happened to be her 16th birthday. If you see her today, wish her a belated one.

Abelson, a sophomore who has been on the track & field team since she was in seventh grade, said that winning three meets this season has been great. Part of the reason for the victories is the fact that Greenfield had 22 girls on the team, seven more than last year. The extra bodies mean more possible points. And yes, Greenfield did schedule some teams from the Springfield area (Commerce) that also have small teams, but that’s how you build a program. You need to win. Nobody wants to play for a perennial loser. I asked Claire about what it’s like to go into every meet knowing your team is going to lose.

“When you have no chance of winning, the morale is down,” she said. “You think, ‘Well, here we are with our team of 15 against your team of 70.’ At that point, you stop worrying about the team and start thinking about yourself. It’s not that fun when you have no chance. The team is a lot more excited this year.”

Greenfield also has a first-year coach in Luke Martin, whom it can hopefully keep around to build stability that the program has not seen since Steve Jakub retired in 2010 following his 32 years at the helm. Heath Churchill had been coach of the program the last couple years, and got things started in the right direction. Now Martin will try to build on it.

“He really pushes us, which is good,” Abelson said. “And it’s paying off.”

It remains to be seen where the program winds up in the near future, but there is hope, namely that when the new high school in Greenfield is completed, the town will have it’s very own track. Abelson said she hopes her senior year will see a real home course.

“Half the reason why people don’t want to do track is because we don’t have a track,” Abelson said. “We run on grass. And it would be really nice to have home meets. People can come out and support us. Having a track will make us better.”

And who knows, maybe then Greenfield girls’ track & field will have a monopoly on headlines.

And of note, Friday’s meet did get a headline in the paper. Although it was because Athol’s Emily Casella broke a school record in the shot put. Probably not what Abelson was looking for.

I can’t end this without touching upon the Montreal Canadiens and namely P.K. Subban.

Let me start by saying that after what Subban endured on social media following his Game 1 overtime-winner (being subjected to racist remarks), I gained a lot of respect for him off the ice. He came out and essentially defended the rest of Bruins fans, telling the media that a few morons don’t speak for all Bruins fans. He didn’t have to do that. Classy move and something I will always associate with the man.

Subban is also a super-talented defenseman. The fact that the Bruins have to shadow him when Montreal is on the power play speaks to how good his shot is, and if you pay attention to him when he’s carrying the puck, it’s impossible to miss what a talented skater he is.

But his on-ice antics are annoying. Maybe it’s the same way opposing fans feel about the B’s Brad Marchand, but Marchand does not possess the same talent as Subban, and he is not nearly the complainer and diver that Subban is. Saturday night was the perfect display of nearly all of this. Late in the third period of the Bruins’ 4-2 win, Subban showed his penchant for taking a dive by completely selling a penalty against Matt Bartkowski (who, by the way, should be playing over Meszaros but needs to stop taking so many penalties). He then displayed his skill when he unloaded a bullet of a shot on the ensuing power play to score his fourth goal of the series. And finally, the cry-baby side of him came out following the now-infamous water-bottle squirt he received from Shawn Thornton. Was Thornton in the wrong? Sure. But it’s tough to watch Subban complain about something when he displays antics three or four times a game that make you want to smash the television. That being said, I’d take him on my blueline any day, just minus the diving.

Hopefully as you read this we can put Subban and the rest of the Habs in the back of our minds and Boston has wrapped up the series after a win on Monday night and is awaiting the Game 7 winner in the Pittsburgh/New York Rangers series.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com.

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