Amherst’s Moriah Luetjen, Logan Alfandari each win 2 titles, Northampton girls dominate en route to team title at Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships (PHOTOS)

Northampton’s Ella Hoogendyk flies through the air en route to a victory in the triple jump during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam.

Northampton’s Ella Hoogendyk flies through the air en route to a victory in the triple jump during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Northampton’s Mairead O’Neil competes in the 2-mile during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam.

Northampton’s Mairead O’Neil competes in the 2-mile during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Northampton’s Teddy King-Pollet runs the 2-mile en route to a victory during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam.

Northampton’s Teddy King-Pollet runs the 2-mile en route to a victory during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Holyoke’s Yasani Thompson heads toward the finish line en route to a second-place finish in the 200 meters during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam.

Holyoke’s Yasani Thompson heads toward the finish line en route to a second-place finish in the 200 meters during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Northampton’s Camilla Brewer competes in the triple jump during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam.

Northampton’s Camilla Brewer competes in the triple jump during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Northampton’s Maeve O’Neil, left, battles Westfield’s Megan Moran around the final turn in the 1-mile during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. O’Neil won the event by 0.08 seconds.

Northampton’s Maeve O’Neil, left, battles Westfield’s Megan Moran around the final turn in the 1-mile during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. O’Neil won the event by 0.08 seconds. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Holyoke’s Leilany Figueroa competes in the triple jump during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam.

Holyoke’s Leilany Figueroa competes in the triple jump during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Amherst’s Moriah Luetjen, left, runs to a first-place finish in the 200 meters during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. At right is teammate Ololara Baptiste, who finished fourth.

Amherst’s Moriah Luetjen, left, runs to a first-place finish in the 200 meters during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. At right is teammate Ololara Baptiste, who finished fourth. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Amherst’s Logan Alfandari throws the discus en route to an individual title during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam.

Amherst’s Logan Alfandari throws the discus en route to an individual title during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Amherst’s Elizabeth Sawicki competes in the 400-meter hurdles during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. Sawicki won the event by 0.01 seconds.

Amherst’s Elizabeth Sawicki competes in the 400-meter hurdles during the Western Mass. Division 1 Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Agawam. Sawicki won the event by 0.01 seconds. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

By CONNOR PIGNATELLO

Staff Writer

Published: 05-18-2024 7:39 PM

Modified: 05-18-2024 11:38 PM


AGAWAM – Moriah Luetjen’s best race is the 400 meters. Two years ago as a freshman, she won it at the MIAA Division 4 Outdoor Track & Field Championships and followed it up with a first-place finish in the Freshman 400 at New Balance Outdoor Nationals.

But on Saturday afternoon at the Western Mass. Division 1 Outdoor Track & Field Championships, she had a commitment later in the afternoon and had to leave early, before the 400 was due to start.

Instead, she ran the 200 and the 800 at Agawam High School. And she cruised to wins in both, an extremely rare double that may be unprecedented in Western Mass. history.

“It’s almost impossible to do because you need two different skillsets,” Amherst long sprint and middle distance coach Bob Rosen said of the double. “One is sprinting, because in the 200 you’re sprinting all-out, and an 800 is really a middle distance race. So you almost never have one person do both.”

In the 200, she beat out Holyoke’s Yasani Thompson by 0.85 seconds – the same amount of time between the second and sixth place finishers – to claim the first of her two sectional titles. She PR’d with a time of 24.95 seconds.

“I honestly felt pretty calm,” Luetjen said. “My goal was to get out fast because I’m not the best at block starts, and I did, and then the rest of the way I was just cruising.”

Then Luetjen shifted her focus to the 800, which she had only run once before. She was substituting it in for the 400 – where she was the top seed by almost two full seconds. She wasn’t quite sure how to run the 800, so she stayed with the front of the pack over the first lap.

“The last lap, for sure, I ran it just like I do the 400,” Luetjen said. “It was a little more difficult because we’re not in lanes, but the same (concept).”

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Luetjen finished in 2 minutes, 25.16 seconds, more than two seconds ahead of the next-best finisher.

She has the speed of a sprinter, but her long, efficient strides closely resemble that of a middle distance runner, Rosen said.

“In my opinion,” Rosen said, “she’s probably the most talented long sprinter middle distance runner in the history of Western Mass.”

More ‘Canes win Western Mass. titles

Amherst’s Logan Alfandari continued his domination of Western Mass. shot put and discus with two more sectional titles on Saturday. And he put distance between his own scores and the second-place finishers.

In the shot put, his mark of 54 feet, 6.5 inches blew past second-place (43-3). In the discus, he scored a toss of 164-11, compared to teammate Moniha Krouch’s second-place throw of 148-7.

But Saturday’s result almost didn't happen.

Two weeks ago, Alfandari pulled a pectoral muscle in practice and thought he might be in danger of missing the postseason. He had the same injury last year, and it forced him to miss New Englands and Nationals. That time, he hadn’t brought the injury to his trainer’s attention immediately, and the pulled pec got worse. This time, he alerted them immediately, and was constantly treating it with heat to make sure he’d be healthy for Western Mass.

Despite the knock, he still set a new PR.

“[The discus] was scary,” Alfandari said. “The openers were not what I wanted. Fourth throw, I managed to get one in, it’s a small PR. Fifth one, I fouled a nice one, I really wish I could have kept it in…. Shot [put] was surprising. I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was.”

With states, New Englands and Nationals to follow, Alfandari said he is looking for more PRs.

“I’m glad that I’m still on the up,” Alfandari said. “I don’t have to break through a wall, it’s exciting. There’s more, better stuff to come.”

Amherst’s Elizabeth Sawicki also won a Western Mass. title, in the 400-meter hurdles. She hit three hurdles on her way around and took advantage of some ice bags after the race, but secured the win by just 0.01 seconds over Holyoke’s Leilany Figueroa, with a time of 1:07.96.

“At the end of the race, I didn’t think I’d won,” Sawicki said. “It was pretty much the worst hurdle race I’ve had, but I PR’d and still won, so I don’t know how.”

’Hamp takes home 6 titles and girls team championship

Teddy King-Pollet started off Saturday morning with the first boys event of the day, the two mile. And he was ready for it to be over as soon as it started.

“The plan was kill them, break them as soon as I can,” King-Pollet said of the field. “So, 400 meters in, I was like alright, it’s go time, this is too slow. If someone is going to run fast it’s going to be me.”

King-Pollet entered the race with a qualifying time 24 seconds faster than his next-closest competitor, and he took the win by 20 seconds, with a time of 9:57.92. He knew his greatest advantage was his strength, not his closing speed, and made sure early on there was a hefty gap between him and the rest of the field. No one came close to catching him.

In the girls mile, Northampton’s Maeve O’Neil had a much closer race. She stayed in the front pack, trailing leader Megan Moran of Westfield for much of the race. Moran won the two mile earlier in the morning and held the top qualifying time. 

O’Neil’s plan was to hang with her for the first couple laps, and see how she felt. Four laps in, with just she and Moran at the front of the race, she started to think she might be able to challenge for the win. While Moran’s strength is consistency, O’Neil’s is her kick.

On the final turn, she made her move.

“I was right with her,” O’Neil said. “And I was sort of going around the corner and I was still with her and I was kind of like, ‘OK, maybe I can do this if I put on the high gears.’ So I took off and we were going neck-and-neck the whole time.”

O’Neil edged Moran by 0.08 seconds to claim the title.

In just her second year in the sport, Ella Hoogendyk beat out teammate Camilla Brewer to take home the triple jump title (34-8). The two Blue Devils have been going back-and-forth all year and were one-two in the seedings, with Brewer holding the top spot. They finished one-two in the final standings, with Hoogendyk taking first place.

“We both want each other to succeed, so it’s cool when one of us jumps farther than our season best,” Hoogendyk said. “So I’m always excited for her… we’ve just been cheering each other on.”

Elsewhere in the field events, Northampton’s Allie Sullivan won the long jump (16-9) and Eleanor Lewis won the high jump (5-3).

The Northampton girls closed out a team championship with a win in the 4x800 relay. Odessa Gianesin, Mairead O’Neil, Brewer and Tess Geis-Benton ran a 10:35.44 to win by almost 20 seconds.

Minnechaug jumped out to a lead over the first two legs, but Brewer turned a 20-meter deficit into a 20-meter lead over the course of her third leg.

“I saw the race start off and there was a gap and Mairead made it a little closer, and I was like ‘OK, I have to be the one to pass,’” Brewer said. “I slowly edged in on her – I was timing it – and then I waited until I was close enough, passed her and had to keep going from there to make sure she wasn’t behind me and just drive it home for Tess.”

Geis-Benton held Brewer’s lead to close out the relay win.

Overall, the Northampton girls’ 129.5 points (49 ahead of second-place Longmeadow) blew head coach Moira McDonald’s goals “out of the water.” The Blue Devils set up their training to peak this week, and they’ll head into states next weekend with a large contingent of athletes.

“We’re so proud of them and I think the biggest thing is they’re proud of each other,” McDonald said. “I think that’s part of the reason that probably helped us get here – they have so much camaraderie towards each other and will cheer and support no matter the time, the distance somebody threw and jumped. They’re just there to lift each other up off the ground or put them up high on the pedestal if they did well. We’re stoked.”

Hampshire County top-five finishers

Holyoke’s girls 4x100 relay took home the Western Mass. title and improved on a time that already has them qualified for Nike Nationals, held in Oregon June 12-15. Yasani Thompson finished second in the girls 200 (25.80) and the girls 100 (12.64). Figueroa placed second in the girls 400 hurdles (1:07.97). 

Northampton placed the top two athletes in both the girls triple jump and the girls high jump. Brewer finished second to Hoogendyk with a 34-3 in the triple jump and Sullivan finished second to Lewis with a 4-10 mark in the high jump. Hoogendyk followed up Sullivan’s win in the long jump with a third-place finish of her own (16-0.5). Brewer and Lewis also finished in second and fifth, respectively, in the girls 100 hurdles. Brewer finished in 16.66 and Lewis in 16.83.

In the girls two mile, Northampton’s Mairead O’Neil placed fourth (12:22.77). In the girls mile, Malia Silver followed Maeve O’Neil’s win with a fourth-place finish (5:30.30). In the girls 800, Maeve O’Neil also nabbed second place (2:27.42) and Tess Geis-Benton got fourth place. Maddalena Figueroa-Starr continued the Blue Devils’ run of success in the 400, where she placed second (1:00.75). In the girls 4x400 relay, Northampton took fourth place (4:19.35).

JJ Moore placed best of all Blue Devils boys in field events with a third-place finish in the boys high jump (5-10). Liam Ewers placed fifth in the 800 (2:02.46). Davis Wheat placed fourth in the boys 400 (52.47).

Amherst’s boys 4x800 squad held the lead until the final lap, but East Longmeadow’s Charlie Klatka ran a lightning-quick anchor leg to catch the ‘Canes, which finished in second place (8:27.37). The girls 4x100 squad also grabbed second place (50.89) and the girls 4x400 relay took third place (4:17.79). The boys 4x400 squad followed that up with a fourth place finish of their own (3:35.47). 

In the boys discus, Amherst’s Moniha Krouch finished in second place (148-7) behind Alfandari. Ololara Baptiste placed fourth in the girls 200 (26.05). In the boys mile, Calvin Miller scored a fourth-place spot (4:35.78). Miguel Pinero-Jacome placed third in the boys 800 (1:59.21). Ella Austin placed fifth in the girls 400 (1:02.31).