Amherst Regional boys win West/Central track title
TAJ-AMIR TORRES, AMHERST REGIONAL Purchase photo reprints »
The Amherst Regionall boys track and field team celebrates after winning Monday's Western/Central Division 1 championship meet at Fitchburg State. Purchase photo reprints »
FITCHBURG — Gabe Fishman watched through social media as his Amherst Regional boys track & field team fell short of a championship last week.
On Monday, Fishman made sure that didn’t happen again.
The senior anchored the Hurricanes to a win in the 4x800-meter relay, then classmate Michael Stender stamped a third-place finish in the 4x400 as Amherst held off Wachusett to win the West/Central Division 1 championship at Fitchburg State University.
The Hurricanes won with 92 points. Wachusett was second with 79. St. John’s was third (53) followed by Chicopee Comp (46), which beat Amherst in the Western Mass. Division 1 meet on May 18.
Northampton was 23rd with six points Monday.
“Going out as a senior and winning the West/Central meet is huge,” Fishman said. “It means a lot because it’s a huge team win.”
Amherst led for most of Monday’s meet but Wachusett pulled within four late.
A second-place finish in the long jump by Taj-Amir Torres gave the ‘Canes some space, but Wachusett edged Amherst by 0.30 seconds to place second in the 4x100.
That’s as close as it got.
Kelzy Rodrigues, Ryan Stender, Connor Evans and Fishman won the 4x800 in 8 minutes, 15.77 seconds, while the Mountaineers were third.
“When I got the baton, I think Wachusett was in third and we were second,” Fishman said. “I knew I had to pull away. Coming in second and coming in third doesn’t create a big point differential.”
Joseph Tavares, Larenz Harris, Allen Vance and Michael Stender then capped the title in the 4x400. Stender took the baton and rallied the Hurricanes from seventh place to third with a 49.88 closing split. He passed Wachusett (3:33.15) in the process to finish in 3:33.04.
“I ran with pure adrenaline and anger,” Stender said. “I didn’t want to lose this meet. I saw the team ahead of us and made it my personal goal to at least pass them.”
Torres was the highlight prior to the relays. The sophomore sprinter won the 100 and 200 dashes in addition to his second place (20-10.75) long jump effort. He just made the long jump final and went from ninth to second with his final mark.
“No one’s beating Alex” Niemiec of Chicopee Comp, Torres said. Niemiec won the long jump in 23-4. “He’s like the best in the state, but I always jump to win.”
In the 200, Torres blew past the field on the home stretch to win in 22.30. Colin Kraft of Algonquin was second (22.90) with Amherst’s Dylan Owens third (22.91).
“I felt real good,” Torres said. I wasn’t too tired and I didn’t break down in the end.”
In the 100, Torres was stuck in lane seven after a lackluster preliminary heat. Nashoba’s John Ojukwu jumped out the blocks to a quick lead but Torres caught the senior in the final 50 meters to win in 11.02 second. Ojukwu finished in 11.08.
“He got out of the blocks before everyone and was in front of everyone at the 50,” Torres said of Ojukwu. “I felt like I could catch him. He started breaking down a little in the end and just had to hold it. I just had to lean a little.”
Amherst had a number of strong performances that aided its championship effort.
Placing second were Michael Stender in the 400 (51.76), Gary Burnett in the 400 hurdles (56.41) and Aybars Gungor in the javelin (175-0).
Fishman picked up a third in a fast 800 (1:57.54). Six of the top eight broke 2 minutes.
Ryan Stender took a fourth in the 2-mile 9:38.31), while Vance was eighth in the 400 (52.95).
“Today we put everything together and we had to because of Wachusett,” Amherst coach Chris Gould said. “I watched several heroic races by our guys. I saw some jumps and some throws that were pretty remarkable.”
Northampton’s points came from a fifth-place finish in the triple jump by Aiden Gilson (42-3.5) and a seventh-place 4x400 relay (3:37.55).
The top four finishers in each event advance to the All-State meet, which is Saturday at Westfield State University.
Mike Moran can be reached at email@example.com.