WESTBROOK—It’s that time again, that between-seasons stretch where a look back at local teams’ ups and downs seems appropriate. For their part, the Blazes turned in a number of impressive achievements this winter.
Dan Legage’s boys posted a banner year, reaching the Regional Final. The Gentlemen Blazes went 12-6 through the regular season, picking up vim after a sleepy, 2-4 start. Over the course of the remainder of their schedule, Westbrook tallied some key Ws vs. opponents like Falmouth (fourth in A South), Biddeford (second), York (fifth) and Kennebunk (sixth). Their Heal Points take ultimately landed them the three-seed as the bracketing dawned.
Led by a starting five who rarely left the court – Jeremiah Alado, Landon Sjoberg, Kyle Champagne, Abier Manyiel, and (especially) force of nature Zac Manoogian – the Blazes kicked their efforts into still-higher gears as the playoffs unfolded. Following a prelims bye, they offed Kennebunk 53-32 in the quarters, then turned in one of the tournament’s most jaw-dropping bouts vs. Biddeford in the semis. Westbrook fell deeply behind in that faceoff, but clawed back for a 52-44 victory.
In the Regional Final, however, the Blazes finally met their match: the No. 1 Rangers of Greely, who not only ousted Westbrook from contention, but went on to win the State Championship, and are undefeated in 44 straight outings.
Four Blazes seniors say goodbye this year: Manoogian, who’ll be playing at St. Joseph’s, Sjoberg, Corey McKone and Jacob Connolly, who served as Westbrook’s primary sub all season.
“The program has made great strides over the past three seasons,” Legage said. “The players came together as a group and peaked at the right time of the season. Our hope for the future is that Westbrook continues to be in the conversation as a top team in the conference each year.”
Diana Manduca’s girls struggled in 2017-2018, finishing 2-16 and 12th in A South – well outside the postseason. The Lady Blazes picked up their biggest W over Morse (eighth in A South; final tally: 44-24). They also bested Fryeburg (13th). Similarly, Westbrook logged close calls against other opponents – namely, Falmouth (ninth), Leavitt (seventh) and Cape Elizabeth (11th in B South).
Manduca is brand-new to Westbrook, though – in fact, she’s the third coach in three years for the program, meaning her girls have faced turmoil at the ground-level for a long time now. Each recent season has been a rebuilding season for them, so it’s no surprise they’ve had trouble getting ahead. Hopefully, they can move forward with some stability.
“The girls approached each game with a positive attitude and laid the foundation for upcoming seasons,” Manduca said, “and are headed in the right direction to get more wins next season. Mikayla Van Zandt is a Class A standout, as she averaged 10 ppg and 10 rpg this season and made the SMAA Class A First Team. Young, talented players gained much exposure to the varsity level this year.”
Van Zandt, a junior, returns next winter, as do Abigail Symbol and Michaela Russell, also juniors, and a long list of sophomores. The lone senior departing the team his year is Captain Logan Tibbetts.
Greg Leclair’s boys faced some challenges this winter – they’re quite young, for instance. They emerged from their schedule 3-14-1 and ranked eighth in A North, well outside the bracketing. The team picked up an early-season win over friendly rivals Massabesic/Bonny Eagle/Old Orchard Beach (ninth in A South), went to 2-2 with a win over Lawrence/Skowhegan/MCI (ninth in A North), and defeated Lawrence/Skowhegan/MCI later in the year as well.
Notably, the team battled hard against some other outfits, too, including Marshwood/Traip/Sanford (eighth in A South), who beam them 4-3 in OT; Gorham, who beat them 3-1; Portland/Deering, who topped them 4-2; and South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete, whom they tied 3-3 in OT.
Five seniors leave the team behind come June: Aidan Drew, Keegan Pock, Cam Morrison, Ethan Cobb-McCoubrey and Logan Heckman (as well as manager Alyssa Vokey). W/W retains, however, a bumper crop of juniors – including standout goalie Sean White – a single sophomore, and a large, talented freshman contingent. In short: The program’s future looks bright.
Dana Barrow’s group repped well for the school at States. Gentlemen Blazes Brad Wallace, Cam Reece, Jakob Lynahm and Jack Shibles all made the trip to the season’s climactic meet – and all earned points, propelling the team into 15th of 25. As a foursome, the boys finished 13th in the 200 Medley Relay and 18th in the 200 Free Relay. Individually, Wallace took 12th in the 200 Free and seventh in the 500 Free, Reece ninth in the 500 Free and 13th in the 100 Breast, Lynham fifth off the diving board, and Shibles 27th in the 100 Backstroke.
Happily, the boys contingent loses no seniors to graduation in June. “The boys team will return all of its members,” Barrows said, “and hopes to add more depth with the incoming freshman class.
The Lady Blazes, meanwhile, performed especially well as the season wore on. Asa a collective, Barrows’s girls took 12th (of 28) at States, with Sophie Sweet, Emma Sperry and Phoebe Adame raking in the points. Sophie Sweet finished seventh in the 50 Free and sixth in the 100 Back; Emma Sperry ninth in the 100 Breast and 27th in the 50 Free; and Adame sixth in the dives and 38th in the 100 Free.
Madison Damon, Kallie Cyr, Paige Sperry and Camryn LaPierre combined for 19th in the 200 Medley Relay, while Adame, LaPierre, Sophie Sweet and Emma Sperry tag-teamed for seventh in the 200 Free Relay and 14th in the 400 Free Relay.
Cyr finished 39th in the 200 Free and 29th in the 500 Free, LaPierre 32nd in the 50 Free, Damon 31st in the 100 Fly and 30th in the 100 Back, Luci Sweet 38th in the 100 Fly and 47th in the 100 Back, Morgan Cooledge 47th in the 200 Free, Caroline Mooney 53rd in the 200 Free and 37th in the 200 IM, and Paige Sperry 59th in the 200 Free.
Sadly, seniors LaPierre, Damon, Cyr and Emma Sperry bid their squad farewell this year. “Although they’re moving onto college, we have a strong group of juniors stepping forward, as well as a promising incoming freshman class,” Barrows said.
Boys Indoor Track
Claton Conrad guided a substantial squad to States, where they collectively finished fifth, led by Dom Creenan with first-place finishes in the 55 Hurdles and Long Jump. Creenan, alongside Mahamed Sharif, then went on to compete at New Englands. There, Creenan fell a bit short of his best work in both events, taking 12th overall in the Long Jump and 10th in the Hurdles prelims. Sharif took 16th (of 29) in the 600.
Creenan and Floric Missamou are Conrad’s lone seniors. The Gentlemen Blazes feature three juniors, as well as huge sophomore and freshman lineups.
Girls Indoor Track
Angie Lally’s girls, like their gentlemen counterparts, looked strong on the track and in the field. Nyagoa Bayak competed for the team at States in the Long Jump, Triple Jump and High Jump – winning the latter two events with jumps of 36-05.50 and 5-08.00 respectively. Hope Higgins competed in the shot put, taking seventh; Higgins, Carolyn Dibiase, Meghan Horner and Chadda Chhoeun teamed up for the 4×200; and Sandy Cao, Zoe Popovic, Jasmine Aguirre and Vanessa Nunez combined in the 4×800.
Bayak, it’s (eminently) worth noting, set new SMAA records in the Triple Jump and High Jump at the conference meet, where she leapt 37-10.00 in the former and 5-09.00 in the latter. Those, however, aren’t even her best marks: She hit 5-10.00 in the High Jump at New Englands, taking the title. That height ties the record for the region. Furthermore, she reached 39-01.00 in the Triple Jump at New Balance Nationals, claiming that crown as well.
Bayak has one more year of high school remaining; no doubt she will continue to dominate in 2018-2019 as well. Happily, the majority of her teammates will also return: The Blazes’ only seniors this winter were Sammy Gummoe, Sandy Cao and Kim Ha.
John Nicholas took a pair of athletes – Jared Grant and Henri Kuntz – to States this winter. There, Grant dropped a pair of matches, one to Isaiah Cogswell of Morse and the other to Jakob Arbour of Cony; Kuntz, meanwhile, went 1-2, losing to David Wilson (Nokomis), defeating Elijah Holbrook (Scarborough), and, finally, losing to Hil Keisker (Noble).
Westbrook says goodbye to five senior wrestlers this time around: Dantevious Edgerly, Jared Grant, Marcus Lawson, Ryan Shackley and Tyson Smith. Luckily, the team’s remaining 12 are equally split between juniors, sophomores and freshmen.
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
Michaela Russell ascends toward the net for Westbrook.
Abiery Manyiel volleys a ball underneath for Westbrook.