WESTBROOK – With the winter season freshly behind us, we find ourselves at an opportune crossroads. Now is the time to look back on the Blazes’ many athletic accomplishments in recent months.
The Gentlemen Blazes, Dan Legage’s crew, compiled an excellent, 13-5 record through the regular season, even winning three games against solid Class AA teams – namely, Bonny Eagle, Gorham and Sanford.
Westbrook entered the postseason ranked fifth, good enough for a bye through the prelims round. Their first matchup, then, came in the quarters, vs. No. 4 York. Alas, that’s where the Blazes checked out for the season; the Wildcats emerged victorious and advanced to the semis.
Four seniors depart the team: Bailey Sawyer, Hamza Hanifi, Miece Loureiro and Jack Haggerty. The Blazes return a healthy contingent of talent next year, and should prove themselves fighters all over again.
Todd Day’s Lady Blazes struggled this season, missing the playoffs after picking up just four wins: over Mt. Ararat, 44-30; Cape Elizabeth, 52-34; Biddeford, 50-41; and Leavitt, 54-50.
It’s important to consider, though, that this team was relatively green, featuring just two seniors, and that this winter was Day’s first at the helm. As the squad matures and learns Day’s styles and strategies, no doubt they’ll pile up additional victories.
Morgan Rice and Julia Symbol are the aforementioned seniors; just one junior appears on the varsity roster, alongside five sophomores and three freshmen.
Amber Direnzo’s cheerleading squad featured two seniors this winter: Julianne Cook and Autumn Direnzo, both Captains. Those girls close the door on their High School careers, leaving the program in the hands of a large group of juniors.
Greg Leclair’s crew, a co-op with Windham, also struggled this season. They began the season on a three-game skid, before finally getting their first taste of victory with pair of 3-2 triumphs – the second in OT – over Lawrence/Skowhegan. In the end, they tallied six Ws total, also Mt. Ararat/Lisbon/Morse, Noble/Wells (twice) and Marshwood/Traip/Sanford. Unfortunately, they dropped their other 12 bouts, a result that left them in eighth come tourney time. Since only the top six squads move on, the team hung up their skates.
“I think we finished about where we expected,” Leclair said. “We knew, coming into the season, that there were very big holes to fill throughout the lineup – and we were able to do that, to an extent. We knew our margin of error for making the playoffs was thin, and in the end, there were a couple of close losses that kept us out.”
“I was pleased to see that we got scoring from almost everyone on the roster,” Leclair said. “Only three players failed to register a goal during the season. We got some big goals out of our third line over the course of the season that really helped turn a couple games in our favor.
Sean White did a nice job in his first year of varsity action between the pipes. Most nights, he gave us a chance to win, and that’s exactly what you need out of your goaltender.”
Seven seniors depart the team: Captain Anthony Morrison, Assistant Captains Chris Lekousi and Matt Kelley, and Dylan Francoeur, Jack Gresh, David Redmond and Manager Savannah Rice.
“Looking forward to next season,” Leclair said, “we graduate three defensemen and three forwards off of this year’s team, and with them, a ton of experience. But we return some decent pieces and a couple of players that we will be able to lean on for leadership and scoring while a large contingent of incoming freshmen is brought up to speed.”
Dana Barrows’s squad repped well at States. On the boys’ side of the action, Paul Wallace took seventh in the Diving competition, while Brad Wallace and Cam Reece scored in the 500 Free; Reece and Josh Wescott also pulled down points in the 100 Breast.
As foursomes go, Reece, Wescott, Brandon Labbe and Jared Clark scored in the 200 Medley Relay; Labbe, Sidney Bartlett, Henry Crosby, and Brad Wallace scored in the 200 Free Relay; and Bartlett, Crosby, Reece and Brad Wallace scored in the 400 Free Relay.
As a team, the Gentlemen Blazes finished 14th.
On the girls’ side of things, McKenzie Dougherty took third in the Diving, Molly Sweet fourth in the 200 Free and fifth in the 100 Fly, Sophie Sweet sixth in the 100 Back, Emma Sperry 16th in the 100 Back.
Molly Sweet, Sophie Sweet, Emma Sperry and Camryn LaPierre combined to take third in the 200 Free Relay; that same contingent took eighth in the 400 Free Relay.
The Lady Blazes claimed eighth overall.
Bartlett, Clark, Crosby, Labbe, Wescott, Doughtery, Molly Sweet, Maria Kolovskaya, Catherine Nutter and Alexandra Simatovic are all seniors; they put their High School swim careers behind them this year.
Frank Lynham and Angela Lally’s tracksters turned in some of Westbrook’s most impressive feats this winter, with the boys team finishing second at States and the girls team fourth.
Dominic Creenan spearheaded the Gentlemen Blazes’ efforts, claiming the Long Jump title outright and finishing third in the 55 Hurdles. Captain Josh Lombardo, meanwhile, took second in the Mile (Lombardo lead for the majority of the race, and was only overtaken by Cam Meier of Mt. Ararat in the late going) and third in the 800. Lombardo’s Co-Captain Shammah Gahomera finished second in the 55 Hurdles.
Nyagoa Bayak led the Lady Blazes, taking the crown in both the High Jump and the Triple Jump. Quincey Lyden, meanwhile, took fourth in the 800.
From there, Creenan, Lombardo, Gahomera, Bayak and Lyden all continued on to New Englands, held at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Boston on March 4.
There, Creenan finished ninth in the Long Jump, clearing 21-04.00 – close to his personal best of 21-06.75. Charles Smith of Milton, Mass. took first at 23-02.00. Lombardo took 17th in the Mile (in 4:35.08), which Tristan Shelgren of St. John’s Prep in Massachusetts won (in 4:17.55). Gahomera finished 19th (1:27.24) in the 600, won by Rodney Agyare-May of Burncoat, Mass. (1:18.31).
Bayak, topping out at an unusually low 5-03.00, took fifth in the High Jump – an event she won last year with a leap of 5-07.00. Zoe Dainton of Hingham, Mass won the event at 5-07.00. Lyden finished 23rd (in 3:22.13) in the 1000, won by Leya Salis of Bedford, N.H. (in 2:48.25).
Bayak then ventured to the New Balance Indoor National Championship, held from March 10-12 at the New Balance Armory in New York City. Bayak cleared 5-05.00 at the competition in the High Jump, good for ninth place (Carlie Queen of Pleasant Hill, Mo. won the event at 5-10.75); she also set a new personal best in the Triple Jump, leaping 37-02.50, good for 13th in a narrow battle – Bonvie Fosam of Robbinsville, N.J., who won the event, did so at 38-11.75.
Lombardo, Gahomera, Leif Graffam, Ytbarek Hailegiorgis, Derek Higgins, JD Ndayishimiye, Plamedi Tona Khonde, Brandon Whitlock, Kelsey Cavanaugh (Captain), Britney Crocker, Kelly Dyer, Hannah Griffin, Kiersten Hilton, Kayla Horner, Kyle Langella, Linnaea Miller, Samantha Thompson and Sophia Williams (Captain) comprise Westbrook’s long list of seniors.
John Nicholas and Ryan Hutchins’s mat-men came together this season to secure the program’s 500th all-time win. Moreover, four of them, in the end, qualified for States: Ryan Shackley, Connor Kerwin, Brandon Lebourdais and Stephen Foster. There, Lebourdais took fourth and Foster third; Foster went on to finish fourth at the New England Qualifiers tournament, making him an alternate for that competition.
“Going into this season, I thought we were in for a bit of rebuilding,” said Westbrook co-coach John Nicholas. “We had graduated seven seniors who had been the core of the program. Luckily, we had a strong group of five seniors this year who stepped up big time. Connor Kerwin, Hunter Sprague-Nason and John Gilson provided leadership and strong wrestling throughout the season. The biggest surprises came from Stephen Foster and Brandon Lebourdais. Neither had wrestled in high school before and they improved so much during the season that both placed at the State tournament! Foster went on to place at the All-State tournament. We also had some underclassmen step up and wrestle big for us. Ryan Shackley qualified for States, Nicco Pappalardo won over 25 matches, and Dante Edgerly and Jared Grant both made big contributions.”
“Next year we are looking for these kids and some of the younger kids like Max Kimmel, Gabby Taylor, Henri Kuntz, and Sam Kerwin to step up and contribute,” Nicholas said. “Overall it was a good year and something to build on for the future.”
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME
Westbrook senior (and one of two boys team captains) Josh Lombardo finished second in the Mile at States. Here, JoLo’s in the lead; Mt. Ararat’s Cam Meier would scoot past him in the waning seconds of the race.
Julia Symbol battles for a ball in a mid-season home matchup vs. Scarborough.
Jack Haggerty reels in a rebound for the Blazes in a mid-season bout with Bonny Eagle.