All-State Track: Frontier’s Jack Vecellio (pole vault), South Hadley’s Jonas Clarke (100 meters) set new state records (PHOTOS)

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  • South Hadley’s Jonas Clarke smiles next to his 100-meter dash time at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Frontier Regional senior Jack Vecellio won his second straight All-State pole vault title at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. He eventually set a state record at 17 feet, 1.5 inches. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Frontier Regional’s Jack Vecellio embraces his father Andy Vecellio after setting a state record in the pole vault at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Frontier Regional’s Jack Vecellio looks up at the bar after clearing 17 feet, 1.5 inches at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Frontier Regional senior Jack Vecellio won his second straight All-State pole vault title at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. He eventually set a state record at 17 feet, 1.5 inches. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Frontier Regional’s Jack Vecellio embraces his father Andy Vecellio after setting a state record in the pole vault at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Frontier Regional’s Jack Vecellio, right, hugs South Hadley’s Jonas Clarke after Clarke’s victory in the 100-meter dash at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. Vecellio captured the pole vault state record and championship. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • South Hadley’s Jonas Clarke, right, hugs coach Nick Davis at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • South Hadley’s Jonas Clarke sprints to a victory in the 100-meter dash at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Northampton senior Riley Cole races in the mile at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Northampton’s Riley Cole, left, leads a chase group during the boys mile at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Amherst freshman Moriah Luetjen races to third in the girls 400 at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • South Hadley’s Jonas Clarke sprints to a victory in the 100-meter dash at the Massachusetts Track & Field Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer
Published: 6/4/2022 11:51:10 PM

WESTFIELD – Jack Vecellio stared at the bar as he descended.

The Frontier Regional senior clipped it with his right knee on his way over attempting to break the state pole vault record he’s chased since seventh grade.

“I touched it a little bit, so I was scared on my way down,” Vecellio said.

That fear transformed to ecstasy when he hit the mat and it remained suspended at the MIAA Meet of Champions on Saturday at Westfield State University. He opened his arms wide, celebrating a 17-foot, 1.5-inch vault. No one in Massachusetts had ever jumped higher. Vecellio had won the meet several attempts earlier, but he entered Saturday’s event with only one goal: that state record. That previous mark was 17-1, set by North Andover’s Eric Duffy at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in 2017.

“That was my target. I couldn’t even sleep last night thinking about it,” Vecellio said. “I knew it was gonna happen.”

The Clemson commit turned immediately to his father Andy Vecellio, who dropped everything he was holding and ran to the pit, tackling his son to the foam. Jack Vecellio rolled him over and held his father’s hands, a smile as wide as his face.

“That’s always the best moments of any track meet is being with him in that moment of overjoyed excitement,” Jack Vecellio said.

He also set a meet record and captured the pole vault All-State championship for the second year in a row.

“It was a monster accomplishment. Every year there’s only a handful of kids in the United States that make that bar,” Andy Vecellio said. “This is the time of the season these things are supposed to happen.”

His top-six placement also qualified him for the New England Interscholastic Track and Field Championship next weekend in New Britain, Conn. After Vecellio let his father off the mat, South Hadley senior Jonas Clarke wrapped him in a hug. The pair met at the New Balance Freshman Nationals three years ago and have been friends since. 

Vecellio texted Clarke “State record for both of us” Saturday morning. Clarke left their embrace for the 100-meter dash final starting line. The Harvard commit has been chasing the hand-timed mark of 10.36 seconds by Ayer High School’s Mike Morris (1981) for two years.

He crossed the line in 10.395 seconds thinking he’d set the meet record but missed on the state history. Clarke won the 100 at last year’s All-State meet, and he captured the 200 championship during Day 1 action on Thursday.

“I’m just getting my race together as a whole. I always have really good individual parts of that race,” Clarke said. “I always see myself having potential to go farther.”

After he changed out of his track spikes and into comfortable clothes, Tigers coach Nick Davis informed Clarke that the 10.36 mark was hand timed and 10.4 was the fastest automatically clocked 100 in state history prior to Saturday. He did it.

“No way, you’re serious, right?” Clarke said.

Then the realization washed over him. He covered his mouth with his hand and said “Let’s go” before Davis hugged him.

“I have this thing where I always think I can do better, so I never believe it until it’s shown in front of my face,” Clarke said. “I need someone to literally confirm it to me that it is true. I will not believe it until I’m told again.”

Though Clarke qualified for the New England Championships, he said he likely won’t run next weekend. He’s either going to focus on national meets over the summer, including the U-20 World Trials, or take a break and recover with his college career waiting in Cambridge.

“My family and my coach helped me get this mindset of always wanting to be better, no matter what,” Clarke said. “Being as fast as I am, I can’t always just settle for being the best. I want to be faster.”

Northampton senior Riley Cole found his speed down the home stretch of the mile. He spent most of the race in a trailing group before finding the hip of Nashoba’s Freddy Collins. 

“I got pretty boxed in the first 600 meters of the race then waited for my spot to get by and then take it from there,” Cole said.

Collins kicked and exploded from third to first, passing everyone to win in 4 minutes, 13.25 seconds. Cole went with him and landed third overall in a school-record 4:14.77. Cole lowered his own mark of 4:18.47.

“I saw everyone else dying besides Freddy,” Cole said. “I was just trying to stick with him. We have a similar fitness and similar race plans, it seems like.”

Cole doesn’t think he’ll attend the New England Championships but will save his legs for nationals. He’ll have to compete there as a club athlete, technically, so if he does then Saturday was his last run for Northampton wearing “Hamp” on his chest.

“It’s definitely a good way to go out,” he said.

Amherst Regional freshman Moriah Luetjen continued her torrid postseason by taking third in the girls 400 meters (55.76 seconds).

“[The 400 is] terrible, it’s not my favorite thing to run. I like to keep a good pace then explode near the end,” she said. “It really flies by so quickly that I don’t even have time to think about it.”

Frontier’s Erich Brown tied for ninth in the boys high jump (6-0).

South Hadley junior Emma Sanford placed 10th in the girls high jump, clearing 5-2, while Frontier’s Abigail Howard was 12th (5-0). Sanford was also 11th in the girls 100 hurdles (15.62). Frontier junior Caroline Crocker took 14th (15.71).

Amherst’s girls 4x400-meter relay squad of Ruby Austin, Maya Tkachenko, Tamar Byl-Brann, and Luetjen – all freshmen except for Byl-Brann – took 11th (4:07.83)

Amherst’s boys 4x400 relay team of Patrick Staudenmayer, Tafari Proctor, David Pinero-Jacome and Miguel Pinero-Jacome placed 15th (3:29.99). The Hurricanes’ 4x800 squad (Miguel and David Pinero-Jacome, Aidan Bergeron and Kyle Yanko) was 18th (8:7.74).

Amherst sophomore The Savior Robinson was 22nd in the boys long jump (18-8.5).

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk @gmail.com.

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