The green light went off early for Paul Bergeron on Thursday night. Once it did, there was no turning back for the Westford Academy junior.
An expected duel with Nathan Lopez of St. John’s Prep in the late stages of the two-mile run at the MIAA Division 1 Championships, turned into a convincing victory for Bergeron and a near state record. The WA standout broke the tape with a winning time and nation No. 2 of 8 minutes, 51.88 seconds. Lopez was second at 9:00.93
Bergeron came a second shy of 19-year-old state mark of 8:50.82 by former Newton North great Chris Barnicle from the now-defunct Hartford Invitational. .The race was minus Framingham’s Sam Burgess, who captured the indoor title at the Meet of Champions with Lopez and Bergeron taking the next two spots.
But on this day it seemed even if Burgess was on the line, no one was going to catch Bergeron.
“I just felt amazing,” he said, who ran 4:21 for his final mile. “(Lopez) took the first (1,400 meters) and I came through the 1,200 feeling really, really smooth. It was a pretty even race and I just felt good. I have been stacking some good workouts and I knew I was going to be hard to beat. I was close to the state record. That was my goal.”
After falling just short of Barnicle’s 2004 record, Bergeron is hoping for another crack at the mark next Thursday when he’ll match up with Lopez again in the 2M at the Meet of Champions.
“I am going to try and do as little work as possible,” he admitted. “But if the pace is (slow) I’m going to take it. I think it’s definitely possible if the weather holds up. I just got to go all out.”
In the girls’ two mile, Lexington’s Ava Criniti ran a similar style race to win with a nearly 20-second PR of 10:34.82. Finishing second was Cambridge Rindge & Latin’s Aoife Shovlin at 10:40.01. Brookline’s Jordan Liss-Riordan was third in 10:46.31,
“This week I felt pretty good with my training and everything,” she said. “My coach was confident ( I could win) and I felt that, too. I haven’t really done the two mile that much this year so I was trying to just go for it and see what I had and ended up feeling good.”
Acton-Boxborough’s Alex Landry held off a flurry of sprinters down the stretch to capture the boys’ 200m with a season best of 21.66. Three more in the field broke 22 seconds with Malden’s Johnny Emmanuel (second, 21.69), Newton North’s Myles Scott (third, 21.88) and Methuen’s Darwin Jimenez (fourth, 21.90) taking the next three spots.
“I have been practicing all year for this,” he said. “I’m going for sub 21.18 (at Meet of Champions). That’s my goal. It’s a school record so that’s what I’m going for. My sister made me a really good peanut butter and jelly sandwich this morning. That really fueled me for this race, set me up for greatness.”
Cambridge Rindge & Latin’s Kylee Bernard raced to a state-leading time of 24.79 to win the girls’ 200m. Framingham’s Abby Desmarais was second at 25.02.
Other winners in the meet, which was held at Merrimack College, included Acton Boxborough’s Noah Stegmeier (55.54) and Needham’s Alex Bold (1:04.33) in the respective boys’ and girls’ 400m hurdles, Acton-Boxborough’s Ajay Raina (1:55.69) and Newton South’s Amelia Everett (2:08.27) in the 800m, Lexington’s Kaden Cassidy (157 feet, 10 inches) and Franklin’s Lily Deforge (116-0) in the discus, Attleboro’s Zyeem Charles (44-9.75) and Durfee’s Shakira Cadet (37-9) in the triple jump, St. John’s Prep’s Althan Benanson (3,329 points) and Franklin’s Sarah Dumas (3,335 points) in the pentathlon and Andover’s Ryan Swenson (14-0) in the boys’ pole vault.