NORWELL, Mass. — The outdoor track season doesn’t come to a full close with the State Championship meet each June. Rather, top performers from around Maine venture on to the next level – New Englands – where they vie with standouts from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and beyond for bigger and badder titles and bragging rights.
Local schools, including Westbrook and Bonny Eagle, have repped consistently and proudly at New Englands in recent years. Scheduling conflicts and health considerations kept a number of kids from attending this go-round, but a small contingent of Blazes boys, as well as a handful of Scots boys and girls, did attend the meet, held at Norwell High School in Massachusetts on Saturday, June 10.
Westbrook’s Shammah Gahomera – who took second in both the 110 and 300 Hurdles at States – and Josh Lombardo, newly minted State Champ in the 1600, competed in those same events at New Englands.
For his part, Gahomera finished near the back of the pack in the 110, missing the finals by running 17.40 in the prelims. That time is hardly indicative of Gahomera’s speed, though; he posted 15.18 at States. Billy Powers of Winnacunnet, New Hampshire, ultimately won the event in 14.09. Messalonskee’s Tanner Burton, who edged Gahomera in both the 110 and the 300 at States, was Maine’s top finisher on the larger stage as well, taking third in 14.81.
In the 300, Gahomera looked much better, finishing 12th overall, in a time of 39.96 – better even than his States number, 40.39, and a personal best. Connor Blodgett of William Hall, in Connecticut, placed first, in 38.19, and Evan Porter, of Traip, was Maine’s top man, taking fourth in 38.41.
Lombardo finished 29th of 33 in a time of 4:36.37. (Ryan Oosting of Arlington, Massachusetts, won in 4:11.93. Maine’s top performer was Luke Laverdiere of Yarmouth, who took sixth at 4:17.18.) A determined competitor, Lombardo was unsatisfied with his performance. “I was not so pleased with my race,” he said.
A bit of context helps explain Lombardo’s frustration. “It was 85-90 degrees down there and I don’t race well in the heat,” he said. “Not only that, we had graduation at 6 p.m., later on Saturday, at Merrill Auditorium, and my worry the whole day was to make sure we were back in time. On top of that, I was giving my valedictorian speech at graduation, so all week I was stressing quite a bit about writing it.”
Focused first and foremost – as any student athlete should be – on his academics, Lombardo’s head and heart weren’t really in his New Englands 1600. Moreover, he, like many participants in the meet, viewed it more as a happy-go-lucky cap to the season, and less as a competitive free-for-all.
“New England’s was something fun,” he said, “so I was not really in a racing mindset. For me, the highlight of the season was the state meet, where I won my first state title in a super exciting, down-to-the-wire 1600. I think I just thought of that as my end to the season, knowing graduation was June 10 and the trek to New Englands was not mandatory.”
Still, Lombardo doesn’t seem to regret making the trip, however optional it might’ve been. “Overall,” he says, “it was a super fun and eventful day, a memorable last day of calling myself a Blue Blaze.”
Bonny Eagle boys head coach Mike Burleson echoed Lombardo’s assessment of the weather. “It was a hot day down at New Englands,” he said, before adding that, nevertheless, “the kids competed well.”
In Scots boys action, senior Ben Steeves – in his first season of outdoor track, believe it or not – finished 14th in the 800, in a time of 1:55.89. Steeves, in fact, was the top Maine finisher at the meet. (Hardly a surprise; he won the event at States by almost 2½ seconds.) Tyler Gleen of Trumbull, Connecticut, finished first, in 1:51.34.
Meanwhile, Caleb Pendleton took 19th in the 1600, in a time of 4:30.05. Pendleton finished second to Lombardo in a nailbiter of a race at States. (That competition was good-natured, though, as the two are close friends.)
Michael O’Clair finished 13th in the 300 Hurdles in 40.10, just a half-step back from Gahomera. At States, O’Clair actually won the event by sixth tenths of a second over Gahomera.
Finally, the Scots’ 4×800 outfit – comprising Trevor Neal, Jordan Fournier, Aiden Willey and Jacob Sirois – finished in 8:49.18, at the back of the pack. The foursome from Danbury, Connecticut, took first, in 7:46.97.
Over on the Lady Scots’ side of things, Kayla Raymond finished 15th (of 29) in the 800, needing 2:19.42 to do so. (Raymond took third at States, in just under 2:23.) Kristie Schoffield of Merrimack Valley, New Hampshire, won the event, in 2:06.90, and Tia Tardy of Mount Desert Island was Maine’s top finisher, taking fourth in 2:09.64.
Ami Beaumier, in the 3200, likewise finished in the middle of the standings, running an 11:25.26, good enough for 14th and Maine’s best time. (Beaumier took the event at States.) Jacqueline Gaughan of Exeter, New Hampshire, claimed first, in 10:38.60.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME
Blue Blazes Teammates Shammah Gahomera, left, and Josh Lombardo pose together at New Englands.
Westbrooker Josh Lombardo runs the 1600 at New Englands. Lombardo was not happy with his performance, which left him near the bottom of the standings.