NHIAA Girls' Track Preview: McCabe, Parker lead way
By season's end, however, the discussion could get quite lengthy.
Bedford coach Noah Pion cites his school's Johanna Celli, Exeter multi-event scorer Shannon Murdock and Londonderry's Kristin Bourque as other athletes to watch in Division I. Sophomore Dominique Twombley of Durham's Oyster River High should be a standout in Division II.
Any Most Valuable Player discussion in girls' spring track begins with defending New England champion Hannah Parker of Coe-Brown of Northwood. But by season's end, Bedford girls' head coach Noah Pion said many more standout athletes will be in that discussion.
"In Division I alone you've got Shannon Murdock, who will bring lots of points for Exeter," said Pion. "Then there's Johanna Celli (Bedford), Molly McCabe (Bishop Guertin), and Kristin Bourque (Londonderry) in our division. Statewide you have to add Dominique Twombley (Oyster River) in that discussion. They're all outstanding athletes."
Parker won the New England 800-meter title in 2 minutes 10.62 seconds last season.
"She's a hard worker who has shown everyone she's the best 800-meter runner in the state and region," said Pion. "She's only a junior, and the sky is the limit for her."
In Division I, defending champion Bedford, with a veteran team returning, will be tough to dethrone. Sprinter Johanna Celli, long- and triple-jumper Brenna Williams, and 800-meter specialists Bailey Marshall and Brittany McDonough provide senior leadership for the Bulldogs.
"Johanna just set indoor school records in the 55 meters and 300 meters," Pion said. "Behind Johanna and Brenna, we've been state champs every year in the 4-by-100-meter relay. Overall we have about 12 girls back who played a big role in helping us win it all last year.
"But it's a new year, and well-rounded teams like Londonderry and Winnacunnet will be tough. You also can't forget about Bishop Guertin, which just won the indoor team title."
Many talented sprinters, long distance runners and throwers who gained valuable experience at last spring's New England Interscholastic Championships are back this season.
Sophomore Twombley and juniors Jelesa Nelson of Coe-Brown and Jess Hackett of Dover are the top sprinters in the 100-meter dash. Twombley, along with seniors Bourque and Celli are among the best in the 200 meters. The top three returnees in the 400-meter dash are senior Sydney Petersen of Exeter, junior Meredith Ramsey of Concord's Merrimack Valley High and sophomore Savannah Spencer of Winnacunnet .
In the 800, Parker will be challenged by sophomore Maegan Doody of Oyster River and McCabe, coming off a winter season in which she won the indoor 600-meter championship at the New Englands.
Murdock, a second-place finisher in the New England 1,600 meters last season, will be tested this season by sophomores Mercedes McCoy of Hampton's Winnacunnet High and Sarah Nadeau of Hopkinton.
Sophomores Morgan Sansing of Derry's Pinkerton Academy and Elisabeth Danis of Coe-Brown will battle for top honors in the 3,200 meters.
Standout hurdler Betsy Garnick of Bishop Guertin has graduated, but seniors Nancy Taban of Merrimack Valley and Rebecca Massah of Concord figure to be the state's top two seeds this season in the 100-meter hurdles.
The battle for 300-meter hurdles supremacy will feature three juniors from the Seacoast: Anna Noble of Rochester's Spaulding High, Ann Sheehy of Winnacunnet and Elise Leavitt of Exeter.
Competing for the state's top spot in the high jump will be seniors Marykate Melanson of Plymouth Regional and Olivia Burke of Salem, and sophomore Courtney O'Connell of Bedford.
Concord senior Megan Reese returns to defend her state title in the pole vault, with senior Jamie Briggs of Keene likely to be her top rival.
Garnick's departure also leaves a void in the long jump. Junior Ariel Clachar of Coe-Brown and senior Emma Checovich of Winnacunnet, who finished third and fourth, respectively, in last year's Meet of Champions, are the top returnees in that event, while seniors Lauren MacGregor of Salem and Heather King of Lebanon are the top returnees in the triple jump.
The shot put battle for supremacy will be staged by seniors Alley Savioli of Coe-Brown, Camryn Johnson of Milford and Patty Driscoll of Londonderry. Fall Mountain of Langdon junior Morgan Ferland is the clear-cut favorite back in the discus. Two girls who have the talent to reign in the javelin are Manchester Central senior Dominique Pascoal and senior Olivia Conway of White Mountains of Whitefield.