Boys indoor track: Northampton wins fourth straight PVIAC title; South Hadley first in Division 2

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  • Jonas Clarke, of South Hadley, runs a preliminary heat in the 55-meter dash during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jonas Clarke, of South Hadley, runs to a first place in the 55-meter dash final during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tobias L'Esperance, of Northampton, runs the mile during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Benjamin Howe, of Northampton, runs the mile during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lars Sippel, of Northampton, runs the 600-meter during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jonas Clarke, of South Hadley, crosses the finish line in a preliminary heat in the 55-meter dash during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Justin Kennedy, of South Hadley, runs the 600-meter during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jonas Clarke, of South Hadley, reacts to his time of 6.44 seconds in a preliminary heat in the 55-meter dash during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jacob Revelo, of Northampton, runs the 600-meter during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jonathan Lischetti, of Northampton, runs the 1000-meter during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Patrik Cooper, of Amherst Regional, runs the 1000-meter during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bodhi Cantor, of Northampton, runs the 300-meter dash during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Simon LaClair, of Northampton, pumps his fist as he crosses the finish line to earn a first place in the 1000-meter run during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Simon LaClair, of Northampton, pumps his fist as he crosses the finish line to earn a first place in the 1000-meter run during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday at Smith College. Visit gazettenet.com for more photos. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tobias L'Esperance, of Northampton, crosses the finish line to earn a first place in the two mile during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Junior Pontes da veiga, of Amherst Regional, runs the 300-meter dash during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton runners Tim Jacques, left, and Tobias L'Esperance, right, run beside Walter Tebbetts, of Amherst Regional, during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Julian Greve, right, of Hampshire Regional, hands off to Will Delgado in the 4x200-meter relay during the PVIAC indoor track championships, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 at Smith College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/7/2020 11:52:07 PM

NORTHAMPTON — When Tobias L’Esperance, Simon LaClair, Benjamin Howe and Tim Jacques push each other at practice, Northampton boys indoor track coach Brandon Palmer likens it to “iron sharpening iron.”

“Those are four bad dudes,” Palmer said. “They rub off on each other.

The four seniors led the Blue Devils to a fourth straight PVIAC Boys Indoor Track and Field Championship at Smith College on Friday with 93 points. Longmeadow was second with 68.2.

Amherst Regional placed third overall with 59 points. Hamp was also first in Division 1.

The South Hadley boys team won the Division 2 crown with 48 points, which was also fourth overall. Hampshire Regional placed 14th overall with 12 points.

“My core group of seniors have been through it for four years,” Palmer said. “They came in winning, and they are going to leave winning.”

Northampton was led by two first-place finishes from L’Esperance. The senior placed first in the mile (4 minutes, 26.17 seconds) and the 2-mile (10:08.57). LaClair placed first in the 1,000-meter run (2:38.63). Howe took second (4:27.42) in the mile. Jacques placed third (10:10.60) in the 2-mile.

Junior Pontes da Veiga, of Amherst, placed first in the 300 (36.75). The Hurricanes’ 4x400 relay team of Pontes de Veiga, Willem Goff, Ethan Howard and Darius Robinson took first in 3:39.85.

A big piece of Northampton’s success the last few years has come from its depth and inter-squad competition, but the familiarity with this year’s group has helped push the team even further.

“These guys, we have been training together since we were freshmen,” Jacques said. “I’ve watched them grow so much. We’ve had the experience. We’ve been lucky to have talented older kids to run with. This year it was an awesome experience to be those guys finally. We worked really hard to get here.

L’Esperance and Howe’s 1-2 finish in the mile was a key moment in the meet.

Longmeadow’s Tommy Li led for most of the race while LaClair stayed close behind. Around the final turn, LaClair broke into his kick and overtook Li. With less than 250 meters to go, L’Esperance broke into his kick and overtook Howe to give the Blue Devils first and second place.

“I just knew that Ben and I would be out there together,” L’Esperance said.

Quick decision-making from Howe early in the race helped keep him and L’Esperance up front.

“In the beginning I saw the gap widening with (L’Esperance) and Tommy (Li), so I moved in to make sure we stayed on him,” Howe said. “From there Tobi could just take it.”

LaClair, Howe, Jacques and Lars Sippel pushed the Blue Devils to victory in the 4x800 relay in 8:39.81.

Coming off this championship victory, Northampton feels confident moving forward toward the state championships.

“I think we feel really strong,” Jacques said. “Obviously we are going to go for the win. We don’t have as big of a team as we are used to, so we will probably be looking for first place finishes at states, looking to run some fast miles.”

South Hadley was led by a victory from Jonas Clarke in the 55 dash (6.42) and a first-place finish from Justin Kennedy in the 600 (1:24.33). South Hadley also finished second in the 4x400, an event that Clarke served as the anchor. Ryan Levrault took third in the shot put (46 feet, 9 inches).

Clarke ran a time of 6.44 in the preliminary round of the 55 dash, breaking his personal best of 6.51. He then re-set his PR in the finals, finishing in 6.42.

“I’ve been hitting a wall at 6.56 the last three weeks,” Clarke said. “I hit 6.44 in the prelim and was like, ‘Whoa.’

Clarke found that tweaking how he comes off the blocks has helped him get better times.

“I tend to pick up my feet higher, which gives me less steps, but makes me go further slower,” Clarke said. “I have a lot more power in my start now than I have in a while, which is crazy.”

The Tigers’ only loss in the regular season came against Greenfield. The Green Wave placed second in Division 2.

“Greenfield have been a huge motivator,” South Hadley coach Tim Laroche said. “They almost deserve as much credit as the guys that are here.”

South Hadley placed ninth overall at last year’s PVIAC Championships. The team had high hopes coming into Friday’s championships, but winning a trophy exceeded the program’s expectations.

“It’s crazy. We weren’t expecting this,” Clarke said. “Our coach said we could have done it, but I wasn’t thinking we actually would.”

The team has found that inter-squad competition has made everyone on the team better.

“This year is a lot more competitive for practice in general,” Clarke said. “There is no consistent winner of every rep. Sometimes I’ll lead off and I’ll end up second to last because I’m dying. I like it a lot more. It helps you get better. I never would have ran the times I did without the people that are on this team.”




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