Monday, April 23, 2012

Merrimack Valley Invitational - Event Recap

By: DC
On a pleasant, sunny Saturday in mid-April the NH Notebook traveled to Penacook and Merrimack Valley High School to cover the 12th Annual Merrimack Valley Invitational. This is a little different coverage for the NH Notebook and I want to thank Jeremy for giving me the opportunity to cover the number one most participated sport in New Hampshire high school athletics - track and field.

The Merrimack Valley Invitational is run by Bob Mullen, the head track coach at MV. It is a mid-season competition featuring 25 teams and close to 1,500 competitors with a mixture of Division II and Division III track teams attending. This is a non team scoring event, which gives the opportunity to take a look at some of the top individual athletes that will compete later in the season at the Meet of Champions.

What makes track and field interesting is that it offers all the best qualities of a team sport and it also rewards the best individual performers with the opportunity to show their stuff against the other top performers from all the other divisions.

In the division championships which are held Memorial Day weekend the best athletes from the individual teams end up performing in a maximum of 4 events with the goal of trying to score the most points for their team. By competing in 4 events the athlete may sacrifice winning their specialty event for the benefit of the team. They are rewarded the following week at the meet of champions were they can focus on their specialty and hopefully win an individual state championship. We definitely saw some performances on Saturday that will make competitors from all around the state take notice.

Before I get into some of the individual performances I want to compliment Bob Mullen and his staff for a track meet that was run with precision and professionalism. Bob has been doing this for a long time and he has put together a stuff of volunteers that is second to done. The day flowed like a well oil machine. The track was in great condition and produced some electric performances. I am sure Bob would like to thank mother nature for holding off on the rain and giving the athletes a bright, sunny day.

Saturday's conditions were ideal for sprinters, and we had 2 great races in the finals of the boys and girls 100 meter dash. In the girls race out of lane 3 we had last year's Division II champion from Oyster River, senior Natalie Bilynsky and in lane 4 we had last year's Division III runner-up from Conant, junior Kathareeya Tonyai. These two put on a show with Bilynsky having a slim lead all the way down the track and holding off Tonyai for the victory with a blistering time of 12.51.

Bilynsky's time broke the meet record held by Anna Cioffredi from Lebanon who went on to star at Boston College. Bilynsky who was 4th at last years meet of champions has to be one of this year's favorites after this performance. Tonyai's time of 12.60 also puts her on the list of sprinters to keep your eye on. Last year Tonyai carried her Conant team in the D-III championships with 20 of the team's 33 points. She finished 2nd in the 100/200 and 4th in the 400.

Bilynsky put the finishing touches on her record breaking day by winning the 200 with a time of 26.73. She was a meter ahead of two up and coming freshman stars, Meredith Ramsey of Merrimack Valley who ran 26.81 and Taylor Morrison from Bow who ran a time of 27.44.

As good as the girls race was the boys race was even better. Again the match up was lane 3 and 4. Lane 3 was senior Ethan Druskat from Oyster River and lane 4 was junior Romario Bailey from Stevens. Technology had to decide the winner in this one, a photo finish. In the trails Druskat broke the meet record with a time of 10.92. Romario prevailed in the finals with both runners beating the meet record with Romario timing in at 10.87 and Druskat at 10.88 - it doesn't get any better than that! Bailey finished 3rd in the state last year. With the #1 sprinter from last year Parker Hansen of Kearsarge and #2 Emmit Smith of Pinkerton both back as seniors, this year's 100 meter final should be a classic. Dominique Worsely's state record of 10.8 could be in jeopardy.

Another athlete to have a big day was Julianah Adejuyigbe of Merrimack Valley. Julianah took part in two meet records. This young lady is a very gifted athlete with a mixture of power and speed. She broke the shot put record with a throw of 37' 2" and she was the first leg for the MV 4x100 team that broke the school and meet record with a time of 50.79. Julianah (only a junior) broke onto the New Hampshire track scene last year by finishing 4th in Division II and matching that performance the next week with a 4th place finish at the meet of champions. She has already broken the school record by going over 40 feet earlier this season. She will definitely be one of the favorites to win gold at the meet of champions.

Julianah's MV teammates on the 4x100 were freshman Meredith Ramsey, sophomore Cindy Fanny, and sophomore Nancy Taban. This was the first time this group has ran together this year. A time of 50.79 should turn some heads. When I interviewed the quartet after their victory Fanny felt so good about their potential that she was already thinking about the New England's!

The first record broken at today's meet came early, with a group of Coe-Brown boys winning the 4x800 with a meet record of 8:31.99. Sophomore Jeremy Brassard, freshman Josh Conrad, junior Nathaniel Hendrickson and junior Kyle Noel led the way. There were many individual accomplishments on Saturday but one thing that stood out was the depth and quality of the Coe-Brown runners. They had many winners including freshman Hannah Parker winning the 800 meters in a very fast time of 2:20:86. On both the boys side and the girls they are loaded with talent and if this was a team scoring event they would have fared quite well.

Today's meet also produced a breakout performer, someone that was totally unheard of and now she has to be someone to look at come Meet of Champions. Sahara Brown from Prospect Mountain hasn't done track since the 8th grade. She is now a senior and plays catcher for the softball team at PMHS. Sahara showed up today and threw the javelin 125-07 to come in first place. That throw would have gotten her 2nd last year at the Meet of Champions. It would be a great story if she continues to improve and is a favorite at the end. One thing I can tell you is that with arm like Sahara's no one steals second base vs. the Prospect Mt. softball team!

On the girls side the other winners were Conant's Kathareeya Tonyai (400 meters), Coe- Brown's Alex Archambault (1600 meters), Coe-Brown's Jessie Carney (3200 meters), Oyster River's Mandi Lathrop (100 meter hurdles), Laconia's Michaela Rice (300 meter hurdles), Prospect Mountain's Anna Jortikka (high jump), Coe-Brown's Kayla Roberts (pole vault), Coe-Brown's Samantha Toscano (long jump), Campbell's Olivia Planty (triple jump), MV Beeca Hashem (discus), MV's 4x400 team of Cindy Fanny, Meredith Ramsey, Mckensie Haney, and Erin Bresslin, and Coe-Brown's 4x800 team of Alex Archambault, Lexie Buiel, Mary Fowler, and Hannah Parker.

On the boys side you had 2 double winners. John Cialek of Campbell won both hurdles, the 110 and the 300. John finished 5th in the state last year in the 300 and he told me he is ready to make a run this year with all the competition ahead of him from last year graduated. The other double winner was Chris Bohi of MV, who won the javelin and the pole vault. Chris is knocking on the door this year after finishing 7th in the javelin and 6th in the pole vault at last year's Meet of Champions.

The other boys winners was Bishop Brady's Eric Hambleton (400 meters), Coe-Brown's Jeremy Brassard (800 meters), Thomas O'Leary (1600 meters), MV's Colton Ham (3200 meters), Plymouth's Keegan Rasmussen (high jump), Pembroke's Cody Steed (triple jump), Con-Val's Tommy Hughes (shot put) and Nawyn Meas (discus), Oyster River's Ethan Druskat, Alex Johnson, Billy Salmon, and Jan Bartos (4x100 meter relay), and Plymouth's Matt Sanborn, Zach Crane, Mike MacLean, and Rob Mills (4x400 meter relay).

Over all it was a great day for track and field. On Memorial Day weekend Divisions I, II and III will be competing for their team championships and a week later all the top performers will move on to the Meet of Champions. We hope to have more coverage of this event in the next few days. Respond with your comments on what you liked what you didn't and what we missed. Thanks again to Bob Mullen and Jeremy Leveille. These two are special guys that play a big part in New Hampshire high school sports and the futures of our kids.

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