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The ST Awards* are here! Although the season is still in progress for a few elite runners, the rest are enjoying some down time. Athletes are also looking for some renewed motivation for the spring. The indoor ST’s are just what they needed! Motivation is provided in two forms. Some of the best, the most venerable, the newest, and the brightest stars in the Hockomock will be overjoyed to receive the most elite award in the league. Unfortunately, there are many deserving athletes who will be left out. Either the categories didn’t quite fit their characteristics, they were bumped by even more elite athletes or showed total ignorance. Whatever the reason, these athletes have now received the added incentive of proving me wrong.

*disclaimer: takes a semi-serious but often light-hearted look at track and field. It is not the goal of nr.c to besmirch athletes. Therefor, if any runner, jumper or thrower feels unjustly portrayed, northrunning will be happy to accept blame. Contact me for an official apology certificate. If, on the other hand, northrunning made a judgement that is in opposition to your own opinion, the track is the place to make your point.

Before I start, there are four indoor track seniors that stand out among the rest. They are Marcus Vaughn, Drew Harrington, Katy O’Brien and Meredith Leenhouts. They are the finest group of athletes any league would want to have. I originally thought I would skip over Drew and Katy because they were honored in the fall. But they have had such outstanding seasons that they will make it again. Marcus and Meredith were named in the spring. They also have to be recognized. At the risk of being redundant, when you see them receive their second ST Awards realize that they are just too special to ignore. They could easily be interchanged between the three awards of Fiercest, Best Hockomock Role Model and Long Haul Award.

Fiercest Competitor - Marcus Vaughn
A trip to Webster’s New World Dictionary has provided me with a new outlook on this award. Definitions of fierce hold a mostly negative connotation. But it need not be so. Intense and ardent are part of the definition and two of the positive qualities held by this year’s winner. Marcus Vaughn is ardent. He is intensely enthusiastic and devoted to the sport. Marcus is track and field. His passion for the sport and especially his events has brought him to the highest level of his craft. I’m not sure athletes are afraid of him – they just don’t want to compete against him because it isn’t a fair contest. The outcome of any hurdle race is certain and so is the winner of this award. Marcus Vaughn is officially the fiercest.
Long Haul Award - Meredith Leenhouts
It seems like she’s been at Franklin forever, and the Franklin coaches wish she would be. They can heap any responsibility on her shoulders. It is tough enough to compete at her level, but it seems that she’s also looked to as the first answer to Franklin's team success. She hasn’t let them down. Meredith would carry her team across the country and back if they asked her to. In fact, you don't even have to ask – she just senses what the team needs. She’s been doing it for four years and to the rest of the league it seems like fourty. Next year she’ll attempt to do the same at Yale. Guess what Meredith – there you’ll only have to do your share. Northrunning will also be there to watch!
Hockomock League Role Models - Drew Harrington and Katy O'Brien

Who can dispute giving it to Katy O’Brien and Drew Harrington. Would anyone not want these two on their team? At the end of a race they show the ultimate in humility, you’d almost forget that they just ground the opposition into submission. They have talent, composure and likeable personalities. What more would you ask of someone to represent the league. They are this year’s poster children of Hockomock League excellence.

Most Surprising Performer at the Hockomock Championship - Jen McNamara

This was a hard one. There were a lot of surprising performances at the Hockomock League Championships. I admit that I was swayed by the response of coaches and athletes.

Walking into the meet Jen McNamara’s mother asked me how I felt the hurdles would go. I said “Interesting!” I thought ‘probably third with a chance at second’. But the slightest let down could have meant 5th. Coach Espinosa was also walking in with us and he remarked about the good week of practice she’d had. Jen shocked nearly everybody by winning the league. Who knew? The best part of it is that she used this success as a springboard to even better things, placing in the Class B meet and grabbing 8th in the state finals with a PR 8.88 in the semis and a 9:01 in the finals. This is an award no one can win twice. Jen – nothing you do will surprise us anymore.
Most Surprising Performer at the Hockomock Championship - Brian Dundon
I owe Brian Dundon this one. Sitting on the cusp of placing 6th in the league meet, I felt Brian was one of the most likely athletes to get bumped. I pictured him gamely placing 7th. Instead he roared to second place and nearly pulled off the upset. One more meter and the race would be his. If my prediction of 7th had held Oliver Ames would have been team champion. So Brian grabbed this award because it was not only unanticipated, but it also helped Mansfield secure the team championship.
Most Talented New Athlete - Shanika Pitts

I really didn’t need much help with this one. But I asked the audience anyway and they said “Shanika Pitts”. “So Regis, I’ll go with the audience – final answer!” Shanika came streaking out of nowhere and has blown by the competition. I became convinced when she shook off her false start DQ at the Hocks and came back to claim #2 in the state meet. How many times over the years have we seen an athlete that everyone wants to see run get bumped from the race with the “one false start rule”. Although I’m not sure that the “field false start” rule is perfect – it would help insure that the best athletes make it to the finish line.

The Appentice Award - Matt Gannon

 At the time of this award Matt was headed for the boardroom

and was not in the mood to have his picture taken.

The Apprentice Award needs clarification. The intent is to find someone who isn’t great yet, but will be someday. In other words – they have the tools but they’re not sure how to plug them in. Many of the nominations don’t really meet the criteria. There was a huge list of good recommendations and it would be hard to dispute them. I have to go with Matt Gannon on this one. A year ago he could barely walk and chew gum – certainly not both at the same time. The only thing that kept him from the Clark Kent Award is that when he goes into the phone booth he still has to call collect. Then, when he comes out he’s Jimmy Olsen. But a year’s worth of determination has brought him down to a 4:50 mile. Can he be one of the best in the league by the time he’s done? If not – he’s fired! Now if Lois Lane would only notice him . . .
Bookend Awards - Mary Shea and Holly Heinricker
Bookend Awards was not one of my original categories. But a coach wrote me with the suggestion and northrunning aims to please. The award caught on and based on the last three weeks it appears that Mary Shea and Holly Heinricker get the nod. When it comes to the 4X4 Foxboro is a good read cover-to-cover. Mary grabs your attention right away and Holly leaves you breathless at the end. They were a large volume of Foxboro’s 5th place 4:07 at the state finals. What more would you want from a best-seller? I'll post Mary's picture when available.
Rodney Dangerfield Award - Tricia Harrison
northrunning apologies to Tricia Harrison for not having her picture. If by the end of the New England Meet I haven't taken her picture, she has every right to put me in a headlock until I say "You're the best!"

The Rodney Dangerfield Event of the Hockomock is the shot put. It just don’t get the respect. Maybe because at the outdoor Hocks at Mansfield it was hidden far from the track. Then indoors over half the fans don’t even know where it’s held. Enough is enough! Good shot putters blend the power of a weight lifter, the speed of a sprinter and the footwork of a dancer – a smooth glide across the circle blended with an explosion that hurls a steel ball far out into the sector. The Hockomock League provided exactly half of the top 6 in the state. The best of the best is Tricia Harrison. One of only three girls in the Hockomock League that I know has eclipsed the 40’ mark. Tricia gets the RD-ST Award.

Clark Kent Award - Matt Hart
The Clark Kent Award has become one of my favorite to debate. For the most part, Hockomock League athletes don’t look like Olympians. They only perform like them. The one I have in mind is so inconspicuous that not one person nominated him. I would love to put him in a line-up with a bunch of freshman basketball players and see if anyone could pick out this track and field league champion. He is the one who not only is “faster than a speeding bullet” but can also “leap tall buildings in a single bound!” It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Matt Hart! Matt is too short to be a high jumper but is league champion after a duel with Terry Young. He doesn’t have the muscle definition of a sprinter but he is one of the top 55M runners in the league. At the league meet I was talking with one of the officials. I turned around and pointed to Matt and said “Watch this kid jump.” The height was 6’2 and when Matt went soaring over the bar the guy nearly swallowed his whistle. Matt sends the rest of the league looking for kryptonite.
Coach of the Season - John Finn and Julie Collins
The only picture northrunning had of Julie was during her recent training run in a blizzard. She appears in the bottom - right. If I get a more suitable picture it will be added here.
Now that the awards are done I’m sure there are many people out there shaking their heads. How about Guy, Oberlander, Graham, McCune, Young and Lyles? Surely there must be something for Cuozzo and Lancaster. Then there’s Clayman, Hopkins, Brague, Collins, Lyon, Dint etal. They all deserve something! So much talent – so few awards. Maybe in the spring.