FITCHBURG — For the final time, the best group of boys’ distance runners in state history lined up side-by-side for the highly-anticipated 2-mile at Thursday’s MIAA Meet of Champions.
The runners said they felt the pressure. The buzzing crowd at Fitchburg State rose to their feet before the opening gun went off.
The final result did not disappoint.
In sweltering 90-degree heat, St. John’s Prep senior Nathan Lopez won in 8 minutes, 59.29 seconds to break a 48-year meet record held by former Wayland great and Olympian Alberto Salazar, setting a personal best and the country’s fifth-best mark this season.
After a tightly-packed race, Lopez gained some separation on the final lap from Framingham senior Sam Burgess (9:03.45), Uxbridge senior Aidan Ross (9:03.82), and Westford Academy junior Paul Bergeron (9:05.68) and pumped his arms in jubilation down the home stretch.
“Salazar is obviously one of the best the state has ever seen,” said Lopez, who will run at Michigan next year. “To get one of his records here is pretty special to me.”
The race’s top five finishers were among the top 15 in the US, though no one touched Bergeron’s remarkable 8:51.88 at last week’s Division 1 championship. Still, the years of competition between Lopez, Bergeron, and Burgess — who topped the other two at February’s indoor Meet of Champions in a meet-record 8:59.27 — has pushed all three runners.
“They feed off each other,” said St. John’s Prep coach Zach Lankow. “The three of them have been racing against each other for a while, and they bring out the best in each other. It steps up their training individually, because they know whatever’s going on that day — the other two are probably working hard.”
While the Harvard-bound Burgess was unable to live up to his lofty standards in Thursday’s heat, he cherished the opportunity to push himself against the familiar foes.
“I definitely was feeling the pressure a bit going into this one,” Burgess said. “But I’d say every time I get to step on the line with them, I’m pumped.”
In one of the afternoon’s biggest upsets, Tewksbury senior Jayani Santos set a half-second personal best in a winning the girls’ 200 (24.62) after she finished third at last week’s Division 4 championships (25.33).
The looming presence of Cambridge Rindge & Latin senior Kylee Bernard, who won the Division 1 championship last week (24.79) and entered as the event’s favorite, helped Santos remain focused.
“Kylee Bernard is so good, so I was really scared,” Santos said. “She was in the lane behind me, and I knew she was going to come out strong and really hard. So I just had to not think about that and literally just keep running.”
Franklin junior Sarah Dumas won the girls’ pentathlon behind a personal-best score (3,341) and first-place finishes in the 100 hurdles (14.58), high jump (5 feet, 2½ inches), and 800 (2:33.21).
After finishing a disappointing second at the MSTCA indoor pentathlon (3,244) in March, Dumas improved her personal best in each of her three ensuing tries — in a fourth-place effort at indoor New Balance Nationals (3,275), last week’s Division 1 championship (3,335), and again in the Meet of Champions.
“At New Balance, I came back from not my best long jump to still do really well, and that’s kind of gotten me back on track and showed me I can do hard things and come back,” Dumas said. “I’ve really tried to keep that on my mind throughout outdoor [season].”
Meet of Champions
at Fitchburg State University
200m — 1. Christopher Brooks, Wellesley, 21.42 seconds; 2. Alex Landry, Acton-Boxborough, 21.45; 3. Dan Killian, Winchester, 22.06.
400m hurdles — 1. Sean Golembiewski, Hopkinton, 52.82; 2. Noah Stegmeier, Acton-Boxborough, 54.94; 3. McKenna O’Hara Gibson, Lexington, 56.37.
800m — 1. Ryan Connolly, North Andover, 1:54.11; 2. Dennis Satchek, Boston Latin, 1:55.19; 3. Colin Kirn, Andover, 1:55.42.
2-mile — 1. Nathan Lopez, St. John’s Prep, 8:59.29; 2. Sam Burgess, Framingham, 9:03.45; 3. Aidan Ross, Uxbridge, 9:03.82.
Pole vault — 1. Ryan Swenson, Andover, 14 feet 0 inches; 2. Alan Nguyen, Westborough, 13-6; 3. Sawyer O’Riorden, Nashoba, 13-6.
Triple jump — 1. Zyeem Charles, Attleboro, 45 feet 5¾ inches; 2. Parker Burns, Triton, 44-1; 3. Jalen Wise, Newburyport, 43-7.
Discus — 1. Kaden Cassidy, Lexington, 161 feet 10 inches; 2. Theo Puterbaugh, Parker Charter, 159-11; 3. Mark Etienvre, North Attleborough, 153-8.
Pentathlon — 1. Brandon Riley, Weymouth, 3,402 points; 2. Aithan Benanson, St. John’s Prep, 3,313; 3. Antonio Wiafe, St. John’s (Shrewsbury), 3,231.
200m — 1. Jayani Santos, Tewksbury, 24.62 seconds; 2. Abigail Scott, Mansfield, 24.85; 3. Breanna Braham, Dennis-Yarmouth, 24.87.
400m hurdles — 1. Giuliana Ligor, North Reading, 1:02.69; 2. Nicole Gangi, Woburn, 1:03.38; 3. Avery Glidden, Whitinsville Christian, 1:03.62.
800m — 1. Amelia Everett, Newton South, 2:11.62; 2. Charlotte Tuxbury, Wellesley, 2:15.45; 3. Sasha Lamakina, Framingham, 2:16.34.
2-mile — 1. Anna McElhinney, Billerica, 11:05.55; 2. Ava Criniti, Lexington, 11:10.05; 3. Aoife Shovlin, Cambridge, 11:16.3.
Triple jump — 1. Nethica Auguste, Bridgewater-Raynham, 38 feet 3¼ inches; 2. Lily MacDonald, Norwell, 38-1½; 3. Anya Neira, Central Catholic, 37-8¼.
Discus — 1. Catherine Sargent, Dedham, 128 feet 3 inches; 2. Lauren Morales, Seekonk, 119-7; 3. Abigail Lilley, North Reading, 115-4.
Pentathlon — 1. Sarah Dumas, Franklin, 3,341 points; 2. Emma Sanford, South Hadley, 3,141; 3. Nyrah Joseph, Billerica, 3,113.