MSTCA Small Schools track: Meet kicks off season

The top indoor track stars in Massachusetts have had a lot of time to train, but not an opportunity to showcase their talents on a grand stage in a few months.

That finally changed Sunday morning, when hundreds packed the Reggie Lewis Center for the MSTCA’s annual Winter (Small School) Festival to officially open the winter campaign.

“There’s a lot of teammates, lot of rookies,” said Littleton girls track coach April Liles. “The goal today is to have a lot of fun, get the experience, but we’re going to bring the heat in February when it counts.”

Liles’ group at Littleton was just one of a handful of programs that stood out during the day’s competitions. Along with teammates Amelia Taylor, Savannah Liles and Chabenta Bradshaw, Emma Fellows anchored her squad to a victory in the girls 4×200-meter relay with a combined time of 1:52.94, while placing second in the 300-meter run with a personal record time of 42.85 seconds.

“I think we’re starting off really strong,” Fellows said afterward. “It’s a great first step for us, and I’m really excited for (the winter).”

Many of the Central Mass. schools saw sustained success as the races progressed. Nashoba swept both the boys and the girls 1000-meter runs, as Connor Acierno placed first with a mark of 2:43.11, while Lailee Joyce captured the ensuing event at 3:21.26. After shaking off the early rust, the Wolves excelled, particularly in the longer races.

“Our distance guys, like everybody else, are transitioning over from the rhythm of cross country,” chuckled Nashoba track coach Steve Beckworth. “Trying to get the tempo up in their legs. So, I’m actually pretty pleased with (how we performed).”

Lunenburg’s girls track team also put on a clinic for fans in attendance, helmed by Carli Stanford. The junior placed first in the 300 (41.79 seconds), and anchored the Blue Knights to a win in the 4×400 (4:22.50) to cap the day’s proceedings. Lauren Long also registered a first place time for the school in the two-mile (13:13.24), besting the field by just under 10 full seconds.

“We have a lot of really strong runners,” Long said afterward. “(This year’s) going to be about the newer kids to be our depth, and really (helping) us win those bigger meets as a team.”

Other impressive individual performances included Worcester Tech’s Michael Gyimah. The UMass-Lowell commit finished second in the boys 55-meter dash (7.63 seconds) while aiding his grouping to a win in the 4×200 (1:36.09).

Daniel Ward took first place honors in the boys’ 600 (1:22.41), and also served as the anchor for Greater New Bedford during a win in the 4×400 (3:38.98).

As Ward crossed the finish line at the end of the afternoon, he felt like he was at peace, back in a familiar spot where so many of his prior career memories came to fruition.

“It’s amazing,” said Ward. “I’ve honestly missed it here. Kind of sad that it’s my last (high school) season, but hopefully next year, I will be back here with bigger meets, bigger teams.”

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