Mohawk, Mahar still strong; Red Hawks, too

  • Mohawk’s sophomore two-miler Meghan Davis will be tough to beat in Intercounty League meets and perhaps at WMass, too, where she placed second a year ago. recorder file photo/Matt Burkhartt

  • Frontier’s precocious sophomore Marisela Ackerman was a point-producer last season in the tough 400-meter sprint. That trend only figures to continue this spring. recorder file photo/Matt Burkhartt

  • Athol junior Crista Jillson is a consistent point-producer in the long and triple jumps while giving the Red Raiders a chance in each meet to win or score in the 400-meter sprint as well. recorder file photo/Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/1/2017 3:00:42 PM

Quite a few new faces will be doing the scoring around the Intercounty League this spring.

The local girls’ track & field programs graduated a number of outstanding performers from last year’s squads, making way for a new guard to take the reins.

What that means for scoring come postseason time will take some time to sort out, though defending western Massachusetts Division II-champion Mohawk Trail Regional High School should once again figure into the discussion. The 2016 Warriors captured the title by a wide margin, holding off runner-up Lenox Memorial High School by 27 points on their home track last May.

Mohawk returns as the defending IL champions after a perfect 7-0 overall mark (6-0 IL). The Warriors held off runner-up Mahar Regional School (5-1), handing the Senators their only loss of the dual-meet season in the process. This year’s highly-anticipated meeting is set for May 1 in Orange.

“Mahar’s got a lot of young kids back from last year. It should be one hell of a meet with them,” offered Mohawk veteran head coach Joe Chadwick.

The lone local school not competing in the IL, Frontier Regional School, enters this spring looking to reclaim the Suburban League title after finishing second to South Hadley High School (6-0) in 2016. The Red Hawks wound up 5-1 last spring.

Here’s a breakdown of the local teams (with last year’s records in parentheses) as they prepare to open the 2017 season next week:

Athol (2-5)

The Red Raiders lost their top scorer and best overall performer from a year ago, as Emily Casella graduated after a standout postseason run. Casella won the shot put and the discus at the Western Massachusetts D-II Championships, and she added a runner-up showing in the javelin as arguably the area’s top thrower.

Casella was the lone individual scorer for Athol (2-5, 0-5 IL) in the D-II meet, meaning the Raiders will most certainly be relying on some new contributors this spring.

New head coach Kelly Kaczmarczyk takes over a program that’s very young, with just one senior and five juniors on the roster.

Senior Kirsten Newell is the lone member of her class and will compete in the throws, as will junior Krystina Barber. Fellow junior Crista Jillson is slated to run the 400 meters along with the long and triple jumps, while classmates Autumn McKnight (200, throws), Payton Parker (100, shot put, jumps), and Mercedez Young (distance, javelin) round out the grade.

Athol has no sophomore. Freshmen Bella Cooke (100, javelin, long jump), Grace Dufour (mile, sprints) and Kayden Mousseau (hurdles, long jump) will look to contribute, as will eighth-graders Emily England (sprints, jumps), Lily King (400, jumps), Kaitlyn Santiago (sprints, jumps) and Mariah Valliere (200, jumps).

Seventh-graders Skyleigh D’Ambrosio (100, throws), Sarah Jaillet (sprints, javelin, long jump), Sarah Moura (high jump, throws), Alexandra Phelps (hurdles, high jump), Breanna O’Donnell (100, javelin), Ashley Rouleau (hurdles, 400, high jump), Kassidy Swan, and Avah York (mile, high jump) round out the squad.

Greenfield (1-5)

Count Greenfield High School among the teams looking to make a move this spring.

Every individual Green Wave qualifier at last year’s WMass meet is back for a team that finished just 1-5 overall (1-4 IL). Veteran coach Pete Conway is in charge this spring for Greenfield.

Senior captain Sarah O’Sullivan joins a crowded but talented local pole-vault contingent, as she was fourth overall at last year’s WMass meet in the event before nabbing seventh at the Central/West meet. O’Sullivan will also compete in either the 400 or 800 along with the long jump.

A pair of juniors also return after fine showings at last year’s WMass meet. Amy O’Sullivan cracked the top 10 in the mile, finishing ninth overall, to qualify for the Central/West meet. She followed that up with a sixth-place performance in the 2-mile at the PVIAC Championship during the indoor track season this winter. Classmate Courtney Danielson (javelin) was also in the top 15.

Junior Jamie Day was solid on the cross-country team in the fall and will run the 2-mile this spring, while freshman Dina Samake should be a top option for the Wave in the throwing events.

“There’s still a getting-to-know-them process for the younger kids,” explained Conway.

Senior Anna Jackowski, juniors Ashley Hubbard, Amy Muniz, Chloe Lunt, Mikaylah Rhayne, Tannin Costa and Myka Wotton pace things from the upper classes, while sophomores Kaity Moore and Zahri Smith, freshmen Mariam Brenes-Obando and Kacia Kinsmith, and eighth-graders Kylah Coke, Evangeline Heath, and Victoria Marin are all on the squad.

Mahar (5-1)

After an outstanding career, Mahar’s Ally Parker graduated last spring, but not before posting a memorable farewell. Parker won the 100 meters and the long jump at the WMass meet and took third in the pole vault before ultimately reaching the All-State meet in the long jump.

Although Parker was a scoring machine for the Senators, they still have plenty of returning talent back to set up another potential battle with Mohawk for an IL title.

Junior Kianna Reilly had the best finish of any returning Mahar athlete at last year’s WMass meet, where she was second in the high jump, behind only Frontier’s Miner. Reilly also competed in the triple jump and 200 meters, and she will look to step into a huge role for the Senators this spring.

Fellow junior Maeve Powell returns after taking fifth in the shot at last year’s WMass meet.

Freshman Kamryn Reilly was a top postseason performer a year ago and returns with big expectations this spring. Reilly nabbed top-13 finishes in the 100, long jump and triple jump at the WMass championships to earn invitations to the Central/West meet.

Sophomores Anna Wetherbee (400) and Ava Santana (400 hurdles) both competed in the WMass meet a year ago, as did eighth-graders Delaney Parker (100) and Siobhan Davis (400).

Juniors Hannah Paul (sprints/jumps/hurdles) and Katie Cleveland (sprints/jumps) are new to the squad but should immediately figure into the mix, while sophomore Emma Currier should be a threat in the distance events after a solid winter on the indoor scene saw her finish in the top 12 in both the mile and 1,000 meters at the PVIAC Championships.

Sophomores Abby Bonk (sprints/jumps/hurdles), Danielle Ellis (distance), Katie Galvin (sprints/jumps/hurdles) and Elina Gordon-Halpern (throws) return, while classmates Carissa Johnson (sprints) and Chloe Taddeo (throws) are new to the squad.

Freshmen Natalie Lyman (throws), Emily Paluk (throws), Mary-Anne Prescott (throws) and Charlotte Torres (throws) all return with experience, while eighth-graders Quincey Drew (throws), Aileen Fitzgerald (distance/jumps), Madison Harrington (throws/middle distance), Brooke Jenks (middle distance/sprints), Jeni Millogo (sprints/jumps), Marlena Niedzwiecki (middle distance/sprints) and Holly Smith (throws) are all on the squad. Seventh-graders Natalie Apteker (middle distance/jumps), Sienna Moore (middle distance/jumps), Grace Rice (distance) and Sophia Whitman (sprints/jumps) round out the Mahar roster.

Mohawk (7-0)

There’s a lot to like about the Warriors, who graduated top scorer Sally Slowinski and Kayla Baus among others but still return a huge chunk of their points from a year ago.

Slowinski is a big loss for Mohawk. The WMass champion in the triple jump, she also added top-5 finishes in the shot and long jump. But the Warriors are built for big meets, and will look to repeat as WMass champions this season with a variety of athletes leading the charge.

“We’re coming off an undefeated season but lost a lot to graduation,” admitted Chadwick. “We lost 13 kids two years ago and we lost 12 more last year, so that’s 25 kids who were big-time scorers. I’m looking for a little leadership, and actually a lot of that from the underclassmen, because we have so many kids from those grades. It’s really early but some of them look like they have the talent. They just have to find the right events.”

Sophomore Meghan Davis is fresh off a huge indoor season, and she’s back after a runner-up performance at last year’s WMass outdoor meet in the 2-mile. Davis made it all the way to the 2016 All-State meet, where she ultimately took 13th overall after nabbing third in the Central/West meet.

Eighth-grader Jackie Wells is another runner who immediately made an impact a year ago as a seventh-grader. Wells was fourth in the mile at last year’s WMass meet to go with a sixth-place finish in the 800, and she’ll pair nicely with Davis in the distance events.

“Jackie Wells can do anything she wants to do. She’s just got it,” lauded Chadwick. “Very seldom do you see a distance runner with the speed of a sprinter but that’s what she’s got.”

Sophomores Lucy Carr and Lily Shearer also return after WMass qualification times as freshmen. Carr wound up fifth in the 400 meters a year ago while Shearer was 13th in the 100 hurdles and also cracked the top 20 in the long jump.

The throwing events are in good hands as well for Mohawk. Junior Violet Rawlings was discus runner-up in last year’s WMass meet, eventually taking seventh at the Central/West meet. Sophomore Gabby Shean also stood out at WMass, taking fourth in the javelin to earn an invite to the Central/West meet, where she also slid into the top 10. Senior Hannah Poplawski is another top thrower to watch for this spring.

Davis and Shean are fresh off lengthy indoor-track seasons this winter. Davis ran to a fourth-place finish in the 2-mile at the MIAA Division V state meet in Boston, while Shean also qualified and nabbed 12th in the shot put.

“(Shean) had a really good winter and actually kind of snuck under the radar,” Chadwick said. “She went from throwing 24 to 31 feet in the shot, and she’s our best javelin thrower as well.”

In addition to Poplawski, Mohawk has a pair of seniors seeking to provide leadership, as Ada Jacobson-Carroll and Tyler Rice will all look to make their marks. Juniors Chloe Doyle, Heidi Kmetz, Emma Poplawski, Haley Rode, and Lilly Wells are also on the squad, as are sophomores Sarah Cole, Erin Laffond, Julia Massey, Jordan Rice, Mae Rice-Lesure and Taylor Williams.

The numbers are great in the underclassmen ranks, with freshmen Carli Cusimano, Barrett Liebermann, Zia Meyer, Grace Poplawski, Natalie Szewczyk, Jada Yuryan, eighth-graders Kaitlyn Bisnette, Hailey Buchanan, Courtney Churchill, Bailey Cousineau, Lily Gibson, Ashley Lacross, Taylor Loomis, Alexis Parent, Olivia Parent, Kaitlin Randall, Kassidy Weber and Ella Wilda, and seventh-graders Octavia Crawford, Lily Deviolet, Hollin Keyser-Parker, Katie Martin, Catie Silvia, Erica Szewczyk, and Caitlin Upton rounding out the roster.

Chadwick pointed to Lacross and Loomis as potential immediate sprint contributors, as the pair of alpine skiers look very fast during the early part of the season. The Warriors will need several newcomers to aid the cause in those short disciplines.

“You want to put the newcomers in places where they can help the team and also help themselves with confidence because that’s such a big thing in any high school sport,” Chadwick explained. “If there is a weak spot for us, it’s what we lost to graduation and in the sprints and jumps.”

Pioneer (5-4)

After a third-place Intercounty League finish a year ago, Pioneer Valley Regional School (5-4, 3-2) graduated one of the top individuals in Franklin County last spring. Danielle Devine moved on after a season in which she gained recognition as a top WMass jumper. She was the WMass runner-up in both the long and triple jumps, while adding a third-place finish in the high jump for good measure. The Panthers also lost key scorer Devon Roy to graduation, meaning a number of athletes will be called upon to contribute in a variety of events this spring.

The lone returnee from last year’s postseason run is sophomore Avery Kelton, who qualified for WMass in the high jump. Kelton will again compete in the event as well as sprints.

“This is a very young team,” said Pioneer head coach Gina Johnson. “Without being out on the track and having the ability to do any field-events work, it is very difficult to see where we will put athletes. But they are working really hard.”

Seniors Abigale Buedinger (throws), Karissa Perkins (hurdles, long jump) and Elizabeth Sweeney (javelin) are the lone members of their class, while sophomores Leah Fuess (throws, sprints) and Bridget Kenney are also on the roster.

The young roster is loaded with underclassmen and middle-school athletes. Freshmen McKayla Glazier (distance), Esther Hoisington (sprints), Ella Potee (sprints, throws), Sydney Unaitis and Katie Wheeler will look to contribute, as will eighth-graders Skyler Cohen, Sarah Johnson, Liesel Nygard (hurdles, distance), Emaline Relyea-Strawn (sprints, jumps), Lily Van Baaren (distance) and Kaylin Voudren (distance).

Newcomers from the seventh grade include Alina Cecunjanin, Kassidy DiGeorge, Amanda Kennedy, Marin Klein, Lucy Koester, Sydney May, Jane Potee, Gracie Mae Rosenberg (sprints), Natalie Rowan, and Allyson Unaitis.

Turners Falls (1-6)

Just one member of the Turners Falls/Franklin County Technical School co-op team qualified for last year’s WMass Championships. That would be Emily Giguere, who took 17th in the javelin before graduation.

Veteran coach Ron Hebert returns to the track scene after retiring back in 2010, and he’s blessed with solid numbers on the squad despite a relative inexperience.

“We’ve got 26 girls, which is a good amount more than last year,” Hebert offered. “But we’ve got a lot of seventh-graders and we’re still trying to figure out events for a lot of them.”

The Turners roster includes Kristin Slowinski, Chloie Sumner, Jordin Muniz, Madison Tirrell, Josy Hunter, Allison Wheeler, Dabney Rollins, Kirsten O’Brien, Juliet Keefe, Karissa Fleming, Amanda Cooke, Brynn Tela, Kate Boulanger, Paige Bonarrigo, Tessa Williams, Brynn Kruzlic, Autumn Sandberg, Cat Bezio, Alina Bocharvikova, Lucy Postera, Kaitlin Miner, Jenna Hackett, Abi Johnson and Amber Merritt.

Suburban League

Frontier (5-1)

It should be an interesting spring in South Deerfield.

The Hawks, ravaged by injuries a season ago, finished just sixth at the D-II meet after taking second in the Suburban League wars. High-flying Katt Miner, last year’s WMass and Central/West Division II champion in the high jump, now competes for the University of Michigan after scoring valuable points in her bread-and-butter event along with sprints.

The good news is that Frontier, once again led by veteran head coach Bob Smith in his 38th season, has an outstanding returning sophomore class, as several Hawks made huge impressions as freshmen a season ago. Jenna Martin is one sophomore who should impress, as she took fourth in the long jump at last year’s WMass meet and ninth in the 100 hurdles. She qualified for the Central/West Championship in the high jump and long jump.

Classmates Ivy Shattuck (discus), Fiona Ferry (100 hurdles), Marisela Ackerman (400), Paige Eddy (shot put) and Alicia Hancock (100) all finished in the top 25 at WMass a year ago, and they should all figure into Frontier’s scoring load throughout the course of the season.

Seniors Jaime Byrne and Lisa Portier provide some upperclass leadership for the young Hawks, as both finished in the top 10 at WMass, with Byrne taking sixth in the pole vault and Portier placing seventh in the triple jump. The pair qualified for the Central/West meet, with Byrne nabbing fourth place in the pole vault to catapult her into the All-State Championships, where she wound up 20th to cap a fine season. She’ll be one of WMass’ top returning pole vaulters, while Portier will also score points in the sprints and jumps. Classmate Olivia Warren rounds out the trio of seniors, and she’ll compete in the jumps and sprints.

Freshman Kimani Topolski-Burgess is another young Frontier athlete who burst onto the scene during her middle-school days. As an eighth-grader last spring, Topolski-Burgess had a pair of top-10 finishes at the WMass meet, taking seventh in the 200 and 10th in the long jump. She continued on to the Central/West meet in both disciplines, gaining valuable experience leading into her freshman campaign.

Juniors Greyson Young (distance), Lilli Powers (vaults, hurdles) and Maddie Braverman (sprints, throws) all return, as do sophomores Meghan Waldron (jumps, sprints), Paige Moriarty (vault), Emily Laus (distance, throws), Eleanor Klitzke (throws), Carleigh Clark (throws, hurdles) and Elizabeth Fuqua (throws, middle distances).

The freshman class is loaded with returning athletes, as Evelyn Boyden (distance, vaults), Coriann Delaney (middle distances), Kate Hickey (sprints, jumps), Adrienne Josephs (distance), Alexa Kassis (sprints, jumps), Sam Lamere (distance), Grace Lee (jumps, sprints), Claudia Rajballie (hurdles, vaults), Abby Sampson (throws, sprints), Chelsea Stoddard (sprints, throws, jumps) and Lia Vichi (distance) are all back.

The sizable roster continues with returning eighth-graders Alyson Barnes (middle distances, vaults), Skyler Dennie (middle distances, jumps), Reilly Isler (sprints, throws), Maddie Leone (sprints, throws), MacKenzie Pion (throws), Hannah Ravish (pole vault, sprints), Kayleigh Wissmann (distance), and Kensington Young (middle distances, hurdles) back after competing as seventh-graders.

The Hawks have plenty of newcomers on the roster looking to make immediate contributions. Junior Leah Pion, sophomore Aria Shields, freshman Olivia Vecellio, eighth-graders Lannashia Gnu, Claire Winston and Kenadie Kocot, and seventh-graders Emily Demaio, Lilah Evans, Chakri Gudimella, Lily Markey, Maddie Raymond, Blanche Reading, Lillionna Richards, Sierra Young, and Alena Maes-Polan round out the squad.

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