NHIAA Girls' Indoor Track preview: Bishop Guertin favored again
Led by speedster Betsy Garnick who bolted to gold in a pair of events last year, the Cardinals return seeded athletes in five running events and one field event to make them the division's preseason envy.
As a junior last winter, Garnick won the 55-meter dash and the 55-meter hurdles. Her short sprint time of 7.37 was just 0.06 seconds off the 2006 D-I record of 7.31 held by Manchester West's Shaniece Benson.
During the spring season, Garnick shared the New Hampshire Union Leader's Athlete of the Year award as she set the state record in the 100-meter hurdles in three consecutive championship meets, blurring from a New Hampshire best 14.48 to 14.27 to 14.09.
Her indoor 8.21 in the 55-meter hurdles is the state standard, and she is the top-seed in the long jump after finishing second last season.
Complementing Garnick's individual efforts will be returning indoor champions Sarah Burke in the 600-meter run and Molly McCabe in the 1,000. Burke's 1:35.17 makes her the D-I 600 record holder, and McCabe added a bronze medal to BG's swag in the 1,500.
All three athletes are seniors.
Newcomer Bedford, which steps up to D-I this season, will stage the best challenge for gold. Among its athletes are high jumper Jenny Mara who tied the D-II record at 5-feet, 4-inches last winter, and fleet Johanna Celli who raced to podium finishes in both the 55- and 300-meter dashes.
Teammate Anika Hibbard was two inches lower in the high jump than champion Mara in 2011-12, and Brenna Williams' bronze in the long jump was less than two inches shy of gold.
Defending 300-meter dash champion Julia Perry of Merrimack, a sophomore, will be tested by juniors Sydney Peterson of Exeter and Margaret Barrie of Derry's Pinketon. Both joined Perry on the podium last winter.
In the long distance events, a pair of seniors from Plaistow's Timberlane Regional return as defending champions. Hannah Kimball won the 1,500 in 4:53.06, nearly 10 full seconds ahead of her closest rival, while Katherine Estep outkicked Nashua North's Mia Eisenhandler, 10:49.80-10:51.93 in the 3,000.
Sophomore Adaeze Obinelo of Nashua South tops the shot put lineup.
A number of cross country stalwarts headline the list of athletes gearing to win laurels in the 1,000-, 1,500- and 3,000-meter runs.
Laconia's Sami Hicks won the Division III cross country meet several weeks ago, and she is the defending D-II indoor champion in the 1,000-meter run. Meghan Philpot and Emma Newton of Hollis/Brookline run the track and the trails equally well and make this a camera finish.
Last winter the trio posted podium times of 3:08.50, 3:08.85 and 3:09.98 respectively.
Courtney Hawkins, a former cross country Meet of Champions winner, brings the best times to the 3,000, where she is the defending champion, and the 1,500, but Newton was less than a second behind in the 1,500 last year.
Sisters Michaela and Jenna Athanasopoulos of Swanzey's Monadnock have a hold on the long jump. Michaela is the top seed, entering with a mark of 16-feet, 3.75 inches, while Jenna is less than two inches back at 16-2.
The 55 hurdles is a rematch of last year's finals, pitting gold medalist Kelly Ludew of Lebanon (8.55), silver medalist Jenna Athanasopoulos (8.61) and bronze medalist Nancy Taban of Penacook's Merrimack Valley (8.86).
Conant of Jaffrey senior Kathareeya Tonyai is the top seed in the 55 and 300 dashes, but Hanover's Melanie Subbiah could upset in the short race (7.51-7.54) and Milford's Jessica Krafft seeks the top step in the long dash (42.13-42.76).
The 600 is a close contest between defending champ Aidan Bardos of Hanover and Cindy Fanny of Merrimack Valley. The two sported times of 1:39.81 and 1:40.24 at this meet last year.
Merrimack Valley's Julianah Adejuyigbe is headed to her first division crown in the shot put, and Brooke Simmons of Goffstown brings a 5-2 high jump into the season.