This morning I was thinking about the upcoming New England Championships. The seeds weren't out yet because Tuesday's Connecticut State Championship was moved to Wednesday due to thunderstorms. Connecticut got perfect weather Wednesday – more about that later.
With two North Attleboro State Championships (Nick Wade –800M, Julianne Cappadona, Kristen McLoughlin, Katy Flannery, Carolyn Udall – 4X100M) my mind wandered to the possibility of grabbing a New England Championship. It occurred to me just how much more rare for NA the latter has been. For example, despite numerous 4X1 state tiltles, we've never won the New Englands. A few times we maybe coulda/shoulda, especially in 1986 when we lost to Lexington, a team we'd beaten twice earlier. That year we licked our wounds by traveling to Hoftra to win the Eastern Championships against the best teams from New York and New Jersey.
North has only won New England titles four times. Strangely, it was twice in shot put and twice in the 800M, each gender being represented. The shot puts were fairly predictable. In 1986 Melody Johnson placed 2nd in the indoor nationals only because she had a mediocre day. That year she had the longest throw in the nation, one that still stands as the state record at 48'9”. So the New England shot put title was a little bit of a ho-hummer for Mel. Then in 1991 Chris Sullivan entered the meet as undefeated state champion. His effort got him a pat on the back – but no one expected anything different.
Not so for the 800M. Both were juniors at the time and neither was favored.
Back in 1981 when Len Harmon made the seeded heat of the 800M he not only wasn't the favorite, he wasn't even the favorite from Massachusetts. Len hadn't won the state title and was against some runners he had never beaten. But there was a little destiny involved. Coach Charlie Ayotte relayed to me the story of how Len – Lenny back then – went to the meet to watch as a freshman and predicted that some day he would win the New England 800. Lenny was only being true to his word.
The other instance I recounted in a different story earlier this year. In 1996, Emily Estey entered the race seed fifth after coming in third in the state meet. In the New England race she took off with 300M to go and no one could reel her in. Since 1996, the total of New England champions has remained at 4.
There have been some other close ones. The 4X1 has a few third place finishes over the years and NA just missed back-to-back shot put champions when Marc Lefebvre placed 2 nd in 1992 - the year after Sullivan's win. Ty Lynn Graham grabbed a third place in the 100MH back in 2005.
Which brings us back to this year. Until this morning I thought the chances were good – until I scanned the Connecticut results. Ouch. Both the boys' 800M (1:50+) and girls' 4X100M (46.+) winners set impressive state records. Of course, anything is possible as has been proven many times.