It came down to the last event, but the Newton North girls’ track team left Reggie Lewis Track Center Saturday afternoon with what it came looking for — its fourth consecutive James Kalperis MSTCA State Relays title.
Except this year it was without the help of senior Carla Forbes, the triple jump national champion, who is injured.
“With this win tonight, it was important to establish our identity without Carla competing,” said Newton North coach Joe Tranchita. “It just shows these kids, they are real.”
But Forbes’s injury — patellar tendinitis — wasn’t the only hurdle the Tigers had to overcome. Sickness had two runners unavailable and a false start in the 4 x 50-yard shuttle hurdles put them behind early.
“Like Bill Belichick says, ‘If someone goes down, you just have to keep moving.’ That’s the attitude we’ve taken this season,” Tranchita said.
Going into the 4 x 400 relay, the last girls’ event of the meet, Newton North was deadlocked with Andover at 40 points. And both teams were seeded in the event’s sixth and final heat.
Through the first two laps on the 200-meter oval, the race was neck and neck, with Andover and Newton North pulling ahead as they raced for the relay title.
Andover took the lead at the first handoff, but the Tigers’ Shannon Fitzgerald quickly caught up and grabbed a sizable lead that her teammates held through the finish.
“I kept on thinking someone was going to pass me, so it made me pick up the pace,” Fitzgerald said. “We knew we had a lot of pressure on our hands, but I think we handled it really well.”
By the final lap, Andover had dropped back to finish seventh, while the Tigers beat Lexington across the line, winning in 4 minutes 0.05 seconds, just missing the Division 1 meet record by .76 seconds.
The Tigers (50 points) grabbed additional 10-point wins in the 4 x 800 (9:38.14) and 4 x 200 (1:46.86).
A second-place finish in shot put and third-place finishes in the high jump and long jump sealed the victory.
“The long jump was huge and we really didn’t expect to get those points in the high jump,” Tranchita said.
Andover finished second with 40 points, with Acton-Boxboro third (34½ points).
In the boys’ races, last year’s champion also repeated, with a different sort of added pressure.
Lowell was in first place throughout the meet, but couldn’t get away from the reminders during score updates after each event.
“When they keep announcing that your team is in the lead, it puts a little bit of pressure on the kids,” Lowell coach Phil Maia said.
Led by Jack Galvin and Musa Mansaray, Lowell claimed first place in the second event, the 4 x 50 shuttle hurdles, after taking sixth in the 4 x 50 relay.
“Winning the hurdles was a great momentum for us. It sort of carried us, as well as the momentum from last year,” Maia said.
“These are some of the better hurdlers in the league, so we knew right out of the gate we’d have a little bit of momentum.”
That momentum led to a second-place finish in the 4 x 800, fifth in the 1,600 sprint medley, and fifth and sixth in the distance medley.
In the field events, the Red Raiders earned third in shot put and tied for fifth in the high jump to finish the day with 31½ points.
Second place was a tie between Newton North and Cambridge (28 points).