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Adrienne Pascucci, Blue Devils confident about title meet

  • BOB GARDNER<br/>Adrienne Pascucci and the Northampton girls track & field team will look to bring home a title Monday from the Western/Central Division 1 Championships.

    BOB GARDNER
    Adrienne Pascucci and the Northampton girls track & field team will look to bring home a title Monday from the Western/Central Division 1 Championships. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Adrienne Pascucci of Northampton long jumps during a meet against Ludlow Thursday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Adrienne Pascucci of Northampton long jumps during a meet against Ludlow Thursday in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • JIM SHARP<br/>Adrienne Pascucci, right, and the Northampton girls track & field team will look to bring home a title Monday from the Western/Central Division 1 Championships.

    JIM SHARP
    Adrienne Pascucci, right, and the Northampton girls track & field team will look to bring home a title Monday from the Western/Central Division 1 Championships. Purchase photo reprints »

  • BOB GARDNER<br/>Adrienne Pascucci and the Northampton girls track & field team will look to bring home a title Monday from the Western/Central Division 1 Championships.
  • Adrienne Pascucci of Northampton long jumps during a meet against Ludlow Thursday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • JIM SHARP<br/>Adrienne Pascucci, right, and the Northampton girls track & field team will look to bring home a title Monday from the Western/Central Division 1 Championships.

NORTHAMPTON — Adrienne Pascucci was training along the back stretch at the Northampton High School track.

During one of the final practices before the inaugural Western/Central Division 1 championship, Pascucci was working on her form for the 400-meter hurdles.

Coach Brandon Palmer, who specializes in hurdles and jumps, and sophomore Kate Sector were there. Teammates, who working out with coach Brian Frodema, would repeatedly run by, as would members of the boys team.

Other than Monday’s championship, there was little to distinguish this practice from one in April.

Northampton’s top athletes were there, but they are always there come postseason.

“It feels different because we have so many talented and dedicated underclassman that are still here with us,” Pascucci said. “I don’t feel like we’ve lost a lot of the team. We’re still here and we’ve been practicing like we have all season.”

Pascucci was on the other side of that equation before. Three years ago, she was completing her first outdoor track season. She was six months into a new sport but the signs of future success were there.

At the 2010 all-Western Massachusetts championship meet, Pascucci placed second to teammate and then junior Phoebe Hopkins in the 400 hurdles.

That season was critical to her development as a leader and athlete. Former coaches Nate Kraft and Kathleen Ralls fostered a family-type atmosphere and upperclassmen like Natalia Paine and Hopkins led the team on and off the field.

“I’ve always wanted to have the leadership presence they had,” Pascucci said. “If I could have people look up to the hard work that the upperclassmen do, like we used to look up to Natalia, that’s what I’ve strived for. ... I think the underclassmen look up to the work we do and how we perform and they try to do the same.”

Hence Tuesday’s practice. Pascucci is the top seed in the 400 hurdles Monday. Sector is the 20th of 22 seeds.

Running around the track were upperclassmen Mia Toffoli, Khaila Ramirez and Anna Moore and underclassmen Alexandra Dibrindisi, Erica Dean and Mariel Lutz among others.

“The attitude is contagious,” Frodema said. “The girls have the passion for the sport and the desire to improve every day, and I think to have not just one individual out there setting the tone but a group of 20 girls all with that same attitude with something to prove and something to work for everyday, nothing is taken for granted any day when they are out here.”

The Blue Devils have a great chance to bring home a trophy because of their depth and experience. It was a major reason the team won the District F&G Division 1 meet last weekend. The upperclassmen did what was expected while the underclassman performed like veterans.

“I have a lot of confidence in our team,” Pascucci said. “A lot of points came from underclassman. We know we have our talented senior class and our juniors, but now we have freshmen and sophomores who can perform at a level for (Monday) even with it being Western/Central.”

Pascucci’s confidence comes from the work she has put in with Palmer, who starred at Mohawk Trail before competing for Westfield State University.

“He can do it with me and show me what I’m doing wrong,” Pascucci said. “It helps seeing someone do it the correct way and the wrong way I’m doing it.”

Along with her top seed in the 400 hurdles (66.11 seconds), Pascucci is No. 2 (16.18) in the 100 hurdles behind Aly Comeau (15.34) of Gardner, and second (5 foot, 21∕2 inches) in the high jump behind Amy Collins (5-6) of Wachusett.

“Hurdles is a pretty technical event,” Palmer said. “Starting with the blocks and the time she was spending getting over the top of the hurdle, coming down off the hurdle, approaching the next hurdle. Just being aggressive in the race. It’s all part of the strategy. You can’t run a good race if you’re not being aggressive.”

Pascucci has been a eager student, whether it be in learning her signature events or new ones. During her career, she has competed in almost every event. She has not run the mile or 2-mile and is unsure how she would do. “I don’t know. I’ve never trained for it. I’ve only done a mile for field hockey tryouts.”

She has never thrown a discus nor run the 100 dash.

“One thing with coaching is explaining it simply and relating different motions from event to event,” Frodema said. “With her, a multi-event athlete like that, we almost don’t even have to go into a meet with a plan if entries aren’t due before. We can say pick an event.”

The easiest event she learned how to do was the 100 hurdles because of how quickly she learned the three-step technique. The long jump was the hardest because she used to not reach the pit.

She can run an 800 under 2 minutes, 30 seconds, a 400 under 60 seconds and a 400 hurdles in under 70.

Her ability to do multiple events has made her a successful heptathlete and pentathlete. She will attend Boston University and run track because of it.

“I take more pride in being able to help the team in all the ways I can,” Pascucci said. “If I long jump it’s nice to know I can help there or if someone’s gone I can step in for them, but I think we have such a diverse team that hasn’t been as necessary this year. I didn’t have to pole vault this year because we have underclassman who can step up and pole vault.”

School ended Wednesday for Pascucci and the other seniors. Prom isn’t until Tuesday so there is plenty of time to focus on the championship meet.

“I’m really excited. It’s the last meet that we’ll have this big group together so I’m excited but it’s also kind of sad,” Pascucci said. “It’s a bittersweet kind of thing because my high school career is coming to an end and that’s when I started track, learned track from Kraft and now from Palmer. To know that next step is college track is just as exciting.”

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com.

Western/Central Championships

Monday

Division 1 at Fitchburg State University

Field events – 1 p.m.

Track – 1:30 p.m.

Division 2 at Westfield State University

Field events – 1 p.m.

Track – 1:30 p.m.

Notes: Top four athletes in each event advance to the All-State Meet, June 1, at Westfield State. … Western Mass. championship records can be set during each meet. … The championship format is in the first of a three-year trial run.

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