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Peabody’s Christensen geared up to go the distance at national indoor championships

Peabody’s Christensen to return from injury at national meet

Nick Christensen (inset) is back on the big stage, in New York City, geared up to challenge the other top high school milers in the country.

The Peabody High senior injured his Achilles’ tendon competing in the Northeastern Conference meet Feb. 3, forcing him to skip the Division 1, All-State, and New England championship meets last month.

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However, after running through a hard workout that included a blistering series of 18 200-yard sprints last week at Harvard’s Gordon Track, Christensen will toe the starting line Sunday in the New Balance National Indoor Championships at the Armory in New York City.

The Achilles’ injury put a temporary damper on what was a fantastic start to the season. Christensen ran a 4:12.56 mile at an open meet at Boston University Jan. 1, the fastest high school indoor mile in the state this winter and the ninth-fastest in the nation.

He also finished third in the US Open high school mile Jan. 28 at Madison Square Garden with a 4.20.23 clocking, less than a second behind the winner despite trying to close on a slow pace.

“Right now, he’s a go and he’s absolutely thrilled at the chance to compete against the best in the country,’’ said Peabody High coach Fernando Braz.

“But he’s not going to do anything to endanger his chance to compete outdoors this spring or for Merrimack [College] in the future.’’

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Christensen signed a letter of intent on March 1 to attend Merrimack in the fall.

At the New Balance meet, athletes compete for individual track clubs instead of schools.

Initially, Christensen was planning to run the 5,000 on Friday night, along with the 800-yard leg Saturday with the Peabody Track Club’s sprint medley team. But he and Braz decided it would be best to skip the 5,000.

“The workout gave me a lot of confidence, and I think we’ve moved beyond the point where running would be a game-time decision,’’ said Christensen. “There was no soreness after the workout. The only thing I’m lacking right now is not having run a race for a month.’’

Christensen said his experience running at the Garden a few weeks ago should serve him well.

“I prepared hard for my senior year and was hoping to make it to a big stage like this,’’ he said.

The field will include Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict’s (N.J.) High (4:02.21 personal best), bidding to become just the sixth high school runner to break the 4-minute barrier.

Christensen won the Division I cross-country title last fall and has been very strong all along in both the 2-mile and 5,000 meters.

His success in the mile has been more recent.

“Yeah, I never thought I’d get this far [4:12] in the mile,’’ he said. “I knew where my level of training was. Coach Braz wanted me to compete hard and if the time comes, the time comes.’’

Christensen said he believes he has the same competitiveness as his coach, who starred at both Peabody High and Boston College.

His recent commitment to Merrimack has also allowed Christensen to focus on the present.

“When I visited, I asked myself, ‘Where do I fit in here?’ ’’ said Christensen. “ I came away thinking Merrimack is the perfect program for me.’’

He’s not thinking about what he has missed in the last month, just what is in front of him right now.

“Those same guys he missed racing against in the states will be waiting for him outdoors,’’ said Braz.

Beverly’s Landmark School sets wrestling, basketball marks

The Landmark School in Beverly has won the recent Eastern Independent League wrestling tournament, as well as the regular season title, for the second straight year.

Coach Rick Simula was named co-Coach of the Year, the third time he has won the honor. Sophomore Jake LaRoche was named the tourney’s outstanding wrestler, and Landmark won six individual titles.

The Landmark middle school boys’ basketball team, coached by Kim Davis and Tara Joly-Lowdermilk, finished 15-0 this season playing against independent schools from the area.

Campus corner

Defending national champion Amherst knocked Babson out of the NCAA Division 3 women’s basketball tournament for the fourth straight time last weekend, ending the career of Rowley’s Nicki Wurdeman. The 6-1 forward/center finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,042 points, fourth overall with 1,017 career rebounds, and sixth with 191 steals. . . . The Northeastern women’s hockey team was shut out by Providence, 2-0, in the Hockey East semifinals last weekend in Hyannis, but junior forward Casey Pickett of Wilmington was tabbed the conference’s best defensive forward. Pickett was the second-leading scorer (18 goals, 23 assists) for NU this season. . . . BU goalie Kerrin Sperry, a sophomore from North Reading (Lawrence Academy), helped the Terriers clinch an NCAA bid by making 31 saves in a 2-1 double-overtime win over Providence in the final. . . . Westfield State junior Tom Gauger of Billerica earned all-ECAC honors and set a school record with a second-place finish in the pole vault (5.01 meters) for the Owls at the ECAC Division 3 championships. In the same meet, Fitchburg State sophomore Zach Desrochers of Dracut earned all-ECAC honors with a third-place finish in the weight throw (18.24 meters) for the Falcons. In the women’s meet, freshman Amanda Caldarone of Danvers and Worcester State earned all-ECAC honors with a seventh-place finish in the long jump (5.26 meters) for the Lancers.

Rich Fahey can be reached at fahey.rich2@gmail.com.

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