NORTH ANDOVER –– Wellesley sophomore Annie Comella did not need a motivational speech prior to competing in the Division 2 long jump championship. Wellesley coach John Griffith looked her in the eyes, gave her a fist pump, and knew from her aura of confidence that she was locked in on breaking the meet record.
After posting an 18-foot-5-inch jump on her first attempt, the talented sophomore recorded a 19-2 leap, just an inch shy of her personal best, to shatter the 18-1.25 mark set by Milford’s Kiyanni Simas last year. Comella added another first place medal, running on the winning 4x100-meter relay team.
Championing all three relay events, Wellesley repeated as the Division 2 Track and Field girls’ state champions for the fourth time in five years. With 84 points, the Raiders beat out Peabody (80.5 points) and Central Catholic (70 points).
“Every workout, she’s the one leading everyone,” said Griffith. “All the girls look up to her and they want to be like her or near her. Everyone else on the team gravitates towards her.”
A unique blend of speed, strength, athleticism, and an unrelenting commitment put Comella at the top of the pack.
“It shows me how far I’ve come from the beginning of the season,” said Comella. “I’m super happy and feel accomplished that I am where I’m at. I can only go bigger from here.”
Wellesley athletic director John Brown pulled Griffith off the football field after practice 16 years ago and tapped him to be the girls’ track and field coach. Under Griffith’s guidance, the program has gone from 40 athletes to 294 and has achieved consistent success.
“I’m so proud of all of these girls,” said Griffith. “It’s an amazing feeling. I’ve never been so excited in my life.”
On the boys’ side, North Andover ran away with the team title, scoring in 15 events to post 124 points and win the Division 2 state championship for the second consecutive year and third time in program history. Hopkinton finished second with 79 points and Wellesley (51 points) claimed third.
“They were laser focused on winning and not only making sure that they did the best they could, but they were looking at the teams that were around us and making sure that they out-pointed them,” said North Andover coach Steve Nugent. “It’s something that you dream about as a coach.”
Brimming with depth and talent in every event, the Scarlet Knights were led by senior Ryan Connolly, who followed up his record-setting 1:53.58 in an 800 victory by claiming victory in the 1-mile (4:21.37).
“He’s going to be sorely missed because he’s not just one of the best distance runners in the state on the track, off the track he’s one of the nicest human beings,” said a visibility emotional Nugent. “He’s a leader.”
Freshman John Bianchi, junior Nick Bianchi, junior Liam O’Neill, and senior Ben Feldman combined to win the boys’ 4x800 for Natick with a time of 7:56.87, breaking the record set by Westford Academy in 2002 (8:00.30).
Cam Kerry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.