The Reggie Lewis Center was at full capacity over the weekend, hosting the inaugural Northeast Invitational. It was the largest track meet the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association has ever held at the Reggie Lewis Center, with approximately 4,000 athletes from 278 state teams competing over three days.
“We used to run a freshman-sophomore meet, then two relay meets and then we went into our coach’s invitational, but there was such a demand for more opportunities to get in [the Reggie Lewis Center] we created this to get them in,” said MSTCA executive director Rick Kates.
There was no entry limit for the Northeast Invitational, so any athlete could qualify to run, allowing some who might not otherwise get the chance to race at the historic Reggie Lewis Center.
“My athletes came in mesmerized,” said Assabet Valley Tech coach Jenni Graffeo, who’s indoor track program is in its first year. “Their jaws dropped. They were super happy. It was fantastic.”
No entry limit also meant there were as many as 40 heats in some events. Despite the large number of athletes, MSTCA officials kept everything on schedule, even finishing early on Saturday.
“It’s nonstop. It’s like a three-ring circus,” joked Kates. “It’s all organized. One of our biggest things is to make sure there is no dead time.”
The Northeast Invitational was also unique because it held non-traditional events for Massachusetts high school indoor track, such as the pole vault and triple jump. This gave athletes a chance to qualify for US Nationals. In the past, if Massachusetts athletes wanted to qualify for nationals in one of these events they would have to attend a meet out of state. In addition to nationals, athletes also had the chance to qualify for the state meet in February.
On Sunday, one of the non-traditional events was the 4 x 400 coed relay. Milford’s relay team of sophomore Sarah Flanagan, junior Kerry O’Connor, senior Anthony Ghalbouni and senior Rafaell Feliciano won its heat with a time of 3:41.51, which qualified the quartet for nationals.
“We were really excited for it,” said Flanagan.
“We’ve been asking our coach to do this for the past three years,” added Ghalbouni. . . . “We have a lot of talent in the 400, so might as well put both sides together.”
Overall, the first Northeast Invitational was a success and will be held again next year.
“The growth just keeps going and going,” Kates said. “What else can we do? I don’t think there is any more room at the inn.”
John Hand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.