It was never really close. Both the Ursuline girls and Newburyport boys came into Wednesday’s MIAA Division 5 indoor track championships as defending champions at the Division 4 level. Now competing in a different tier, both had aspirations of a repeat title.
By the end of the night at the Reggie Lewis Center, the Clippers (54 points) earned their fourth straight boys’ title with a runaway 19¼-point win over second-place Old Rochester (34¾), while the Lady Bears (51) held off a comeback bid from Norwell (43) to win back-to-back crowns.
The Norwell girls never gave up despite trailing nearly the entire meet. The Bears just put too much pressure on and staved off a rabid comeback attempt. The Lady Clippers’ last hope came in the 4 x 800 relays, the final event of the evening. Though their fourth-place finish was respectable and well ahead of Ursuline’s eighth-place finish, it wasn’t enough to take the top spot.
Ursuline was coming off a third-place performance at the state relays, but a bold strategy with star junior Amy Piccolo gave first-year coach Dave Swanson the result he was hoping for.
“My strategy — and I just barely got away with this — I took Amy off the 4 x 400 and put another athlete on who is pretty good but she had fresh legs,” Swanson explained. “My feeling was to put Amy into a third event in the long jump and take her points there, plus what the 4 x 400 team could do without her, that would exceed 10 [points]. I won my gamble.”
Piccolo won the 300- and 600-meter races, as well as placing fifth in the long jump. While Norwell won the 4 x 400, Ursuline finished just 2 seconds behind to take second.
On the boys’ side, Newburyport earned points in seven of the 13 events, including five first- or second-place finishes. The Clippers were coming off a win at the state relays, so for coach Tom Foley and his three-time defending state champions, it was all about a calm team effort.
“Our 4 x 400 has been running well all year, and the 4-x-800 team we thought would be in good shape with [junior] Nick [Carleo] running in it, so it all worked out great,” said Foley.
Carleo took home first place in two events — the mile and 4 x 800 — but it was sophomore Alex Reduker who was the biggest surprise of the day. Reduker, a high jumper whose previous high was 6-feet, came out of nowhere, jumping 6-4 to finish second.
“We picked up 8 big points there,” Foley said.
The 4-x-400 quartet of Brendan Byron, James Nutter, Tom Graham, and Jared Healy delivered a win, Healy and Nutter placed in the 300 and 600, respectively, and Graham finished second in the 600.
“Jared Healy and James Nutter keep the team focused and on the right track,” Foley said.