Undefeated, state silver medalists return 3.19
Published March 12, 2021
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE—The state silver medalists and reigning league champ MHS girls indoor track team returns to glory next week when they kick off their 2021 “Fall2” season on Friday, March 19 at Stoneham High. Last year, they went undefeated and there is a strong chance history could repeat itself this spring.
Such is the case with the boy’s team (see accompanying story) things are a bit unconventional this year. Melrose will also not be hosting any home meets, due to limited weekend availability at Pine Banks, where they will practice mid week. Melrose and all Freedom League teams will compete in-person meets while the Middlesex Liberty teams will compete in virtual meets. Additionally, athlete start and arrival times may be staggered. But it’s a small price to pay in order to compete in one of the most unusual of seasons: an outdoor version of indoor track. Pretty cool, and if Mother Natures cooperates, it could be seamless.
“Coming back as 2 year league champs and state silver medalists really motivates us,” says Melrose head coach Shannon Kane. “These girls have a lot of adrenaline out there. They are pumped to be practicing right now.”
One thing is for certain: they have a team loaded with talent that will make them a Middlesex League favorite. There will be no post season for this team but they will be sure to make every minute count during their meets. They return senior captains Alyssa Champagne, Ella DeCecca, Grace Donohue and Ella Flemming, a group that helped Melrose finish their 2020 season last winter as state silver medalists. Look for Donahue to excel in the 55 hurdles, DeCecca in the 300 and Champagne and state medalist Flemming in the 600, 300 and relay teams. Additionally, three members of their state silver medalist relay team return thanks to Hailey Keegan, Alyssa Champagne and Grace Donohue. State champ Anna Mackey also returns in the 1000 and as part of Melrose’s relay teams. Last year she earned a state title as a member of the 4×800 relay and earned a bronze medal in the 1000.
The depth of the team is pretty impressive in sprinting, field events and distance events. Look for long distance runners such as state medalist Charlotte Tysall, Chloe Orcutt and Jillian Bakey to go to the distance in the 1-2 mile events, while the experienced Marissa Zelten will also see time in the 2 mile. New players showing promise are Meghan Radzik and Adrianna Centrella, who normally compete in other winter sports. Sophia Weissman, a gymnast, may transfer her leaping skills to the long jump. Julia McAree returns to the high jump, an event she earned at silver medal for at the prestigious Aurebach meet last season.
Kane is especially excited about her “queens of hurdle”: Grace Donohue, Meg Bidgood and Kaiya Thompson. “I want to see these girls sweep their events. At least that’s the plan,” she chuckles. And she points to the off season work of Maeve Fogarty as “inspiring” while adding, “She’s so ready. I could see her in the 55 hurdles.”
Overall, this depth among the near 40 girls competing might be hard to top in the ML. Says coach Kane, “We also have some new players who otherwise play winter sports: gymnasts, basketball and hockey players so it’s great.”
This is also a precursor to their upcoming outdoor spring season. By the time spring track comes around it will have been a shocking two years since the girls competed in outdoor track, and that’s something Kane is keenly aware of. “Last year’s seniors didn’t get a chance to compete. Last year’s juniors missed out on a key development and recruiting year. I guess this winter season is sort of a primer for our outdoor season. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
Win or lose, these girls know what is at stake. Says the coach, “Last fall during cross country season we were one of the only teams to complete a full schedule. That’s something we’d like to replicate. The girls know how to make good decisions and stay healthy. We want to have fun and win.”
Fri Mar 19 @ Stoneham, 3:30
Sat Mar 27 @ Watertown, 10
Sat Apr 3 @ Watertown, 9
Sat Apr 10 @ Burlington, 1
Sat April 17 TBA