Amherst sweeps PVIAC indoor track championships

Last modified: Wednesday, March 05, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — The PVIAC indoor track championship is the epitome of a team track meet. Each race and field event adds valuable points to earn top prize — a sectional title.

In Friday’s championship at Smith College, individual results weren’t the focus, which Amherst Regional took to heart and earned a sweep of the meet.

“The goal (today) is just to win,” Amherst distance runner Anna Kaplan said. “I just wanted to get as many points as I could for the team. That’s the whole point of today, for the team.”

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A day after committing to run for the University of Vermont, the senior earned 30 points to lead the girls to the win with 72 points. On the boys side, Taj-Amir Torres also won three events as the Hurricanes completed their preseason goal of a three-peat, scoring 95 points.

“It feels good. We wanted the three-peat really bad and we got it done,” Amherst boys coach David Thompson said. “I don’t think our girls thought they would pull it out. I think they shocked themselves because they worked really hard. We all worked hard. We pushed people to the limit. I told my boys that at the end of this race you are going to be dead tired, but at the end, it’ll be worth it.”

The Minnechaug boys finished second with 62 points. The Northampton girls tied East Longmeadow for second with 56 points.

As the final results of the 4x400 relay came in, the Hurricanes shushed each other to hear the final tally after not scoreboard watching throughout the event.

“I thought we didn’t win, this is so exciting,” Kaplan said.

Amherst opened the meet by sweeping the 55-meter dash and mile run. From there on out, neither side slowed. Both teams placed in nine of 10 events on the track as their quick feet made up for not placing in the field events.

“I’m excited, part of it is surreal, but I’m so proud,” Amherst girls coach AyAnna Hickman said. “They worked hard for it. I always teach them to believe in themselves and expect greatness.”

Torres won the dash in 6.56 seconds, while classmate Kanya Brown won the girls 55-meter dash in 7.49 seconds.

Kaplan held pace through the mile to move from the middle of the pack and into a comfortable lead for the win in 5:21.23. Mariel Lutz (5:24.79) took second for Northampton.

Ryan Stender (4:31.22) won the boys mile to cap an early 20 points for Amherst on both sides.

The Hurricanes picked up extra points with double third-place finishes in the mile. Connor Evans followed Northampton’s Aidan Gilson (second, 4:31.47) for third in 4:31.86. Emma Gonzalez took third for the girls in 5:33.13.

Torres returned to win the 300 in 36.42 seconds for another quick 10 points.

“I couldn’t do it without the help of my team, they give me hype and push me so much,” Torres said. “In the 55, I knew I couldn’t go out as fast as I wanted to because I was running two more events.”

Kaplan won the 2-mile by a full lap in 11:39.70, ahead of Gonzalez in second (12:02.68) for a 1-2 Amherst finish. South Hadley’s Serena Sarage finished third in 12:10.92.

The boys 2-mile ended in a photo finish as Stender almost caught Westfield’s Benjamin Doiron at the finish line, sending the results to the camera. Stender took second in 10:00.24 to Doiron’s 10:00.23.

Amherst swept the 4x800 relays. The boys opened strong with Connor Evans building a strong lead on the second leg. Amherst finished in 8:36.09.

With Kaplan as the anchor and the Hurricanes behind, she took her time closing the gap, pulling ahead of South Hadley at the beginning of the final lap to win in 8:36.09. The Tigers finished second in 10:22.27.

“I couldn’t go after her right away,” Kaplan said. “She went out a little faster, but I knew if i just went slowly I could catch her by the end.”

In the final event of the night, Torres anchored his team to a win in the 4x400. Northampton (second, 3:35.28) took the lead at the third handoff, leaving Torres to come from behind for the Hurricanes. He caught the Blue Devils on the final back curve for the win in 3:34.61.

“It was a together effort,” Torres said. “I knew I was going to be able to get him at the curve so I just kept pushing. My team was getting me hyped up so I just kept going.”

Northampton’s Liam Sullivan was second in the boys 1,000 in 2:38.75.

South Hadley’s Rachel Harrington won the girls 1,000 in 3:10.43, ahead of Amherst’s Frances Duncan (3:15.47) in second.

South Hadley’s 4x200 girls relay team took second in 1:52.47, while Northampton took third in 1:53.01. The Blue Devils followed by winning the 4x400 in 4:18.71.