NHIAA Track Preview: Souhegan looks tough in Division II ranks
Souhegan of Amherst head coach John Eastman won't say it, but he and the rest of the spring track world in New Hampshire know the defending champion Sabers will be tough to beat again in Division II this season.
"We've got some talented athletes on our team, but you can't forget about teams like Portsmouth, Merrimack Valley, Milford, Lebanon and many others," said Eastman. "They're all good."
Souhegan will be led by 400-meter senior dasher Tanner Kent and junior 110-meter hurdler Ben DeForest. Kent scored a remarkable time of 49.48 seconds in the 400 meters last spring in the Division II championship and topped it in the Meet of Champions at 48.66.
"He would have been the top seed in the New England meet last year, but he opted not to run in it," said Eastman. "He's going to the University of New Hampshire next fall and I know (head coach) Jim Boulanger is happy to have him. Tanner is very versatile, not just in the 400 alone."?Eastman said DeForest has been unbeaten in the high hurdles over the last two winter seasons and during last spring. "He's going to compete this spring in the 110-meter high hurdles, high jump, 300 intermediate hurdles and the (4 x 100) meter relay," said Eastman. "He's an outstanding high jumper."
Last season, Mike Lynch of Nashua North reigned supreme in the shot put and discus. In the Meet of Champions, he posted a 52-1 heave in the shot put and a 151-4 mark in the discus throw.
"Nashua North is going to be tough with both Lynch and (senior) Deric Wagner in the shot put and discus. They also have two very good sprinters, Zakari Jenkins and William Goulding," said Exeter head coach Jeff Holmes. "I really don't think there's a clear-cut favorite in Division I this season. Bedford, which moved up this season, Pinkerton, Nashua North and Concord could all win it."?Exeter will be formidable with senior 800-meter runner Peter Winslow, junior Brendan Keach in the discus and Alex Peck in the long jump. Concord also has weapons in senior Tolbert Nemo, a legitimate threat in the 100 and 200 meter dashes along with 3,200-meter runner B.J. Smith.
Manchester West will have an athlete to watch in long jumper Promise Kpee. "Promise was the New Hampshire indoor track champion in the long jump," said West coach Leo Ducharme. "He works hard in practice and leads by example. He's one of our leaders on our team."
Pinkerton, the defending state champion, will return junior Connor Kwiecien in the 400-meter dash and senior Chris Poggi in the 800-meter run. Bedford will return senior Dylan York, a standout in the 100- and 200-meter dash and in the long jump. Joseph Thibeault, a senior in the shot put, will also rack up points for the Bulldogs this spring.
Bow is the defending state champion in Division III and Stevens of Claremont was the runner-up. The Falcons will be strong in the 100- and 200-meter dash behind sophomore Taylor Morrison.
Romario Bailey of Stevens High of Claremont, a senior standout in the 300-meter hurdles, returns after being named the Gatorade New Hampshire Track and Field Athlete of the Year last season. In the triple jump, senior Gabe Carter of Kearsarge of Sutton is one of the best in the state. He won the Division III triple jump with a 43-foot leap and the Meet of Champions with a 45-2 mark.
Athletes to watch: 100-meter dash: Romario Bailey, senior, Stevens; Dylan York, senior, Bedford; 200-meter dash: Zakari Jenkins, sophomore, Nashua North; William Goulding, junior, Nashua North; 400-meter dash: Tanner Kent, senior, Souhegan; Rob Mills, senior, Plymouth Regional; 800-meter run: Chris Poggi, senior, Pinkerton; Jacob Kittredge, senior, Souhegan; 1600-meter run: Jeremy Brassard, junior, Coe-Brown; Aaron Bellomo, senior, Alvirne; 3200-meter run: B.J. Smith, senior, Concord; Andrew Weckstein, junior, Bow; 110-meter hurdles: Ben DeForest, junior, Souhegan; Kevin Cheam, senior, Pelham; 300-meter hurdles: Shawn Swist, senior, Portsmouth; Brendan Adair, senior, Newfound; High Jump: Jarad Asselin, senior, Milford; John Cioffredi, junior, Lebanon; Pole Vault: Alex Tamulonis, junior, Milford; Aaron Beckwith, senior, Hopkinton; Long Jump: Gabe Carter, senior, Kearsarge; Patrick Fitzgerald, senior, Windham; Triple Jump: Jack Chace, senior, Portsmouth; Jarad Asselin, senior, Milford; Shot Put: Mike Lynch, senior, Nashua North; Joseph Thibeault, senior, Bedford.
Defending state champions: Division I, Pinkerton Academy; Division II, Souhegan of Amherst; Division III, Bow.
Noteworthy: The Meet of Champions will be held this season at Londonderry High on Saturday, June 1.
The New Englands will be hosted at Willowbrook Park, Saturday, June 9 at New Britain, Conn.