Paul Bergeron had only one thing on his mind at Saturday’s Marathon Sports/HOKA Ocean State Invitational.
“Coming into this, I just wanted to get the win,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about time.”
On a wet and cool afternoon at the Goddard Memorial State Park, the Westford Academy senior got his wish in the featured Championship race. The Stanford-bound Bergeron stuck with the lead pack throughout the race and pulled away with about a quarter of a mile remaining en route to a triumphant 15 minutes, 6.4 seconds on the fast five-kilometer course. Finishing second was Jimmy Wischusen of Union Catholic (NJ) with a time of 15:12. Westford’s Jack Graffeo was third at 15:27.9.
Bergeron’s effort was four seconds faster than last year when he placed second to St. Raphael Academy (RI) grad Devan Kipyego, who broke the course record with a time of 14:57.7.
The Westford Academy standout admitted Kipyego’s record was on his mind at the start. But he realized in the later stages when he was leading the race, that securing a victory was more important.
“A little after mile 2, I heard Jimmy pulling up on me,” he said. “It was kind of a decision whether or not maybe just let him reel me in because I knew that was his goal or just try and push it more. I felt if I made that push in the last mile and died out, he would have caught me. So I just decided to kind of focus on staying comfortable. Even going through mile 2.5, I just felt like I wasn’t breathing super hard like I should be in a race. I also haven’t raced. so I don’t know what it feels like.”
While he’s competed in a few league meets, Ocean State was Bergeron’s first hard effort since the late spring when he nearly broke the state record in the mile by winning the Division 1 Championships in 8:51.88 on May 25 and the following week clocking 9:05.68 at the Meet of Champions.
“A course record would have been nice, but that’s not really the focus right now. I was kind of training through this race and looking at nationals,” he said. “A big takeaway from this race is I felt confident the way I closed. Me and Jimmy were together with about 400- 500 (meters) to go. I was able to out-kick him, which I haven’t been able to do in the past. I was feeling really good the last 400 (meters). It was good. I got the win. That was the goal.”
The top 22 in the race broke 16 minutes, including several from the Bay State. Littleton’s Timothy Rank was fifth (15:39). BC High’s Chris Lanard (sixth, 15:39.9)Oliver Ames’ Brendan Thomas (seventh, 15:41), Billerica’s Ryan Leslie (tenth, 15:46), Lincoln’Sudbury’s Ethan Sholk (11th, 15:48.7), Belmont’s Jared Rife (12th, 15:49, Newton South’s Ilan Sherman-Kadish (14th, 15:53.2), Lexington’s Patrick Noonan (15th, 15:58.6) and BC HIgh’s John Wilson (18th, 15:58.7) also finished strong.
MA squads populated the podium in the team standings. Union Catholic earned the plaque with 100 points. With an average time of 16:11.8, Newton South finished second overall with 123 points. BC High (135 points) and last year’s champion Westford Academy (167 points) placed third and fourth, respectively. For the runner-up Lions, it was all about pack mentality. Just 27 seconds separated the top five and 10 ticks was the different between its No. 2 through No. 5 harriers – Nathan Hamilton (33rd, 16:10.0), Liam Sakakeeny (16:16.7), Thomas Flaig (90th, 16:18.3) and Alex Friedman (123rd, 16:20.7).
In the girls’ Championship race, Holliston’s Carmen Luisi was the top MA finisher. placing 11th overall in 18:32. The two-time defending Division 2 titlist was four ticks ahead of Oliver Ames’ Kate Sobieraj, who was 13th in 18:36. Nashoba Regional’s Caroline Collins (17th, 18:56) and Plymouth North’s Macey Shriner (19th, 19:13) were also among the top 20.
Emily Bush of Saratoga Springs (NY) won the race in 17:32. Union Catholic (NJ) freshman Paige Sheppard was second with a time of 17:35.
Melrose’s Caleb Barnes captured the Varsity 1 race. Barnes ran with the lead pack for about a mile before putting in a surge that would prove decisive.
“I felt the pace start to lag, so I took it,” he said. “I definitely wanted the win. Pretty much the goal was to come out here in the first big one of the season and see what I could do, and go from there.”
Whitinsville-Christian ninth-grader Emily Flagg earned a big victory in the Varsity 2 race. Flagg won comfortably with a PR of 19:07. Hazel Delucia of Lyman (CT) took runner-up honors in 19:18.
Flagg was upfront with the leaders from the beginning. She battled with twin sister Abby Flagg and Delucia until about the midway point.
“I was right behind (Abby) and (Delucia),” she said. “We kind of just stayed together until about halfway when Abby dropped out. I was kind of back-and-forth with (Delucia) until maybe the last mile.”
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