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Walpole’s Amy Piccolo on fast track at Ursuline Academy

Ursuline Academy sophomore Amy Piccolo holds some of the awards and medals she has won.

Debee Tlumacki for the Boston Globe

Ursuline Academy sophomore Amy Piccolo holds some of the awards and medals she has won.

DEDHAM — Thus far, it has been a wondrous indoor season for Ursuline Academy’s Amy Piccolo. The next chapter will be Friday at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston.  

A sophomore from Walpole, Piccolo has qualified to compete in seven events — four individual and three relays — at the MIAA Division 4 indoor track and field championship, but meet rules limit her to competing in two running events and one field event.  

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Still, anything she does from now on this winter will almost be icing on the cake.

The 5-foot-3 Piccolo set a meet record in the 600 meters and was second in the long jump at the Auerbach Small Schools Freshman-Sophomore Meet; she helped propel Ursuline to two meet records in the MSTCA Division 4 Relays;  and she won both the 300 and the 600 at the MSTCA Elite 24 Invitational Meet, setting the fastest time in the state this winter in both events.

Her 1:34.06 time in the 600 meters is ranked sixth in the country, according to the website Milesplit.com.  

“She was really tested in both races at the Elite meet and had to post [personal records] to win both events,” said Thomas Shaw, track coach at Ursuline, a small girls’ private school in Dedham. “It just showed who she is as a competitor.”

All this has happened despite Piccolo and her teammates beings orphans, of sorts, during the indoor track season. They don’t have a league to compete in, so they run as “guests” at Tri-County League meets, with their efforts qualifying them for various meets and the MIAA championships.

“It’s a mixed bag,” said Shaw. “The other schools treat us well, but the adrenaline doesn’t flow for the girls the same way it does during a dual meet when you’re competing for your school.”

Piccolo said: “It’s not the same as a dual meet, but we get to test ourselves against the other girls and see where we rank.”

She was unsure whether she will attempt to repeat the 300-600 double in the Division 4 meet. The Elite meet races were about a half-hour apart, and as of late last week, she and Shaw had yet to determine which events she will run Friday.

Piccolo, who also plays basketball and soccer, still harbored hoop dreams even after she started showing promise on the track in eighth grade, when she won the Division 4 200 outdoors and ran 59.0 flat in the 400.  

“In the outdoor season that year, we experimented with what she liked or was good at,” said Shaw.

Piccolo sat down with her parents, Lisa and Don, and made the decision to focus on track in high school, although she still plays soccer in the fall.

There has been no looking back or second-guessing.

“I’m elated with my decision,” she said, “and here I am.”

In the spring, Ursuline competes in the girls’ Catholic Conference against perennial powerhouse Notre Dame Academy. Piccolo has competed outdoors at distances from the 55 to the mile, as well as the long jump, high jump, and even the discus. Her rapidly improving long jump — she had a recent leap of 17 feet, 1 inch in the Elite 24 meet — will make her a major factor in that event going forward.

“We put her in wherever we need to put her in,” said Shaw.

“I don’t mind, if it helps the team,” Piccolo said.

The Bears accomplished the relay records this winter minus injured senior Meghan Grela, a Globe All-Scholastic outdoors last spring, who set the Division 4 record in the 800 with a 2:13.53 and finished second at the All-States in 2:15.80. Grela may compete in the relays Friday.

“The relays are one of my favorite parts of track,” said Piccolo. “My teammates push me to go faster, and it’s great to celebrate with each other after a win.”

Both Shaw and Piccolo believe that her best distances in the future will be the 800 and the 1,000.

Piccolo and Shaw, in his third season at Ursuline, have teamed up to make the program a strong contender in Division 4; Shaw was the Globe’s Division 4 Coach of the Year for the 2012 outdoor season. 

Ursuline’s athletic director, Mike O’Connor, credits Shaw with increasing the number of girls participating in the track program from 47 to 91, an impressive number in a school with a girls’ enrollment of 409 in grades 7 through 12. O’Connor said about 73 percent of the school’s students participate in at least one sport.

Piccolo knows reputation and past success will not mean anything when she toes the starting line Friday.

“I get nervous before a big race, but when I talk to the other girls, it’s comforting to find out they get nervous, too.”

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