Hamp sprint medley relay second at New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, qualifies for nationals

  • Northampton runners, from left, Tucker Quinlan, Cole Lavalle, Benjamin Gordon Sniffen and Ethan Cooper after placing second in the sprint medley relay at Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston. The Blue Devils qualified for the New Balance Indoor Nationals in March. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Greenfield graduate Dan Smith runs with the pack at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in the men’s masters indoor mile Saturday at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston. He placed fourth. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Northampton High School students Cole Lavalle, from left, Ben Gordon Sniffen, Tucker Quinlan and Ethan Cooper pose with Gabby Thomas, center, at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, Saturday in Boston. COURTESY MICHAEL QUINLAN

Staff Writer
Published: 1/26/2019 10:17:17 PM

BOSTON — Northampton senior Benjamin Gordon Sniffen waited in a bathroom line with Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy before Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. Murphy later placed second in the men’s 800-meter run, while Gordon Sniffen led off the Blue Devils’ sprint medley relay.

The annual event puts world class athletes and top-level high school talent on the same track at the Reggie Lewis Center.

“Being in an environment with thousands of people intently watching, it’s an experience you can’t learn,” Gordon Sniffen said. “It really makes a difference when you go to other big meets.”

Northampton, competing as the club team “Northampton Hamp,” finished second in the high school boys sprint medley relay in 3 minutes, 33.93 seconds. Newton North won at 3:33.32.

Gordon Sniffen started the team off strong in the 800-meter leg. He hung back until the last couple laps and struck to establish Northampton’s early position.

“I think I put us in a position to perform well,” he said.

Cole Lavalle and Tucker Quinlan kept pace with Newton North during their 200 legs and handed Ethan Cooper an opportunity for the closing 400.

“When I saw Tucker coming through, I knew that was a position I could flourish in,” Cooper said.

He nearly caught the Newton North runner down the back stretch but fell fractions of a second short. Not winning the race didn’t bother the Blue Devils, though.

“Winning, that’s not everything for us,” Cooper said. “It was really the qualification that mattered for us.”

The 2019 New Balance Nationals Indoor are March 8-10 at The Armory in New York.

“I was impressed. They put on a spectacular show for that race,” Northampton coach Brandon Palmer said. “When they’re ready to rock and roll these kids are going to be lights out. This is a bunch that can do big things at nationals.”

The Blue Devils will have another shot at Newton North at the All-State meet back at the Reggie Lewis Center in late February.

Amherst Regional also ran a sprint medley relay team. Jack Yanko, Junior Pontes da veiga, Ben Fang and Kai Ballin finished sixth in 3:46.98. Yanko led off with the 800 but lagged behind the pack. He’s recovering from the flu, Amherst coach David Thompson said. The Hurricanes sprinters worked to put them back in a competitive position.

Smith shows patience

Shelburne Falls native Dan Smith waited near the back of the pack for the perfect opportunity in the men’s masters mile. When other runners made their moves, he followed suit and secured a fourth-place finish in 4:32.26.

“This was my first indoor race of the year, so I hesitate to go out too hard and fade, so I tried to stay smooth in the first half,” he said. “I kept looking at the leaders like ‘they’re not too far off.’ When they went, I went. I just didn’t close it out.”

Mark O’Shea, of Ireland, won in 4:28.35, just edging Sweden’s Stefan Lingmerth by .6 seconds with a kick of his own

“You went to early,” O’Shea said to Lingmerth after the race.

Smith graduated from Greenfield in 1998 then competed at Salem State until 2002. He stopped running for six years until he was 28 and 30 pounds overweight. It took him a year to lose the weight, and the 40-year-old has been working at it ever since.

He lives in Shelburne Falls but works in sales for a company based in Miami.

Smith will race at the Boston University David Hemery Valentine Indoor Invitational before heading to Ireland for a 6-kilometer international cross country race in late February.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follo

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