We’re ready for another exciting indoor track & field season. To get you pumped up for the winter campaign, Bay State Running will preview some of the top athletes that we expect will make an impact over the next few months.
When the Meet of Champions roll around on Feb. 24, be prepared for a plethora of new faces occupying that No. 1 spot on the podium. At last year’s meet, seniors were prevalent in the winners’ circle. Only one returning champion is coming back this season on the boys’ side and two for the girls. But overall, as always, the talent is through the roof this year. We believe several of our Bay Staters will not only prosper at the state level, but regionally and nationally, too.
Here we preview the boys’ middle and long distance events, which includes the 600-meter run, 1,000m, mile and two mile.
Okay, this is technically not a middle distance event, but it certainly isn’t a sprinting event. Thus we found a place for it here. This is an event that has been one of MA’s signature races each year. It doesn’t appear that will change this winter. Already we have six runners that have broken 1:25 and the season is just a few weeks old. Greater New Bedford’s Daniel Ward (1 minute, 22.41 seconds) and Acton-Boxborough’s Ajay Raina (1:22.46) occupy the top two spots right now, followed by Newton North’s Theo Teszier (1:23.04), Bromfield’s Jack Sathl (1:23.90). St. John’s Prep’s Nick MacDonald (1:23.91), and Ayer Shirley’s Cole New (1:24.75). Ward was primarily a 1K runner last year with a PR of 2:37.10. With a best of 49.53 for the 400m, which he did to win the Division 3 title last spring, he appears more suited for the three-lapper. That’s something he proved at the Winter Festival Small School meet on Dec. 10 with his fast, early-season time. Raina is the top returnee from 2023. He was third at the Meet of Champions (MOC) and clocked a previous best of 1:22.97 to capture the Div. 1 crown in mid February. He’s got sub 50-second speed, too, for the 400m and went 1:55 for the 800m last spring. Gloucester’s Colby Rochford is also returning. He was sixth at the MOC with a PR of 1:24.07. With the level of talent that we’re already seen this season, along with our key returnees, this event should once again prove exciting during championship time with a few capable of getting in that low 1:20 range.
Take your pick. We’e not really sure who we could list as a favorite in this event. The top returnees are Dover Sherborn’s Matt Rooney (PR, 2:31.93) and Wachusett Regional’s Dylan Brenn (PR, 2:32.23), who went 4-5 at the New England’s with their current bests. Both made the podium at the MOC with Brenn finishing fifth and Rooney seventh. Also returning from that meet is Cambridge Rindge & Latin’s Jacob Bromstein, who was sixth overall. He has a best of 2:32.40. Boston College High’s Chris Lanard, who was fourth in the mile at the MOC last winter, is currently No. 1 in this event with a PR of 2:34.38 for a Catholic Conference meet on Dec. 15. Will this be an event that the Eagles’ senior will compete in more this year, and at the championship level or will he focus on the mile where he owns a 4:16.99 best from last year’s Div. 1 meet? Guess will find out in the next few months.
The state has a few top milers, including two we anticipate will perform well at the national level but will not be at the MOC. The No. 1 runner is Marcus Reilly, the Northbridge senior, who also competes for Edge Elite Track Club. Reilly, who has yet to participate in the MIAA and MSTCA indoor season, has a best of 4:06.90. Among returnees, that ranks. No. 2 in the nation behind Wichita Trinity Academy (AK) senior Clay Schivley, who ran a best of 4:04.95 at the Arkansas HS Invitational. There’s also Philips Academy junior Tamrat Gavenas, who finished third at the Foot Locker Nationals a couple of weeks ago. Gavenas, who competes in the New England Preparatory School Athlete Council (NEPSTA), has a best of 4:15.67, which he ran to win the USATF-NE Indoor Track & Field Championships. He recently ran a PR of 8:21.11 for the 3K, proving that a big-time PR in the shorter race will more than likely happen this winter. From the MOC last year, we have three runners returning that earned a spot on the podium, including Larnard (third, 4:19.42), Westford Academy’s Jack Graffeo (fifth, 4.19.66 PR) and Oliver Ames’ Brendan Thomas (eighth, 4:20.66). Thomas owns a best of 4:19.34, which he did to place sixth at the New England’s. We have several more that we’re expecting to make some noise in this event. led by Westford Academy’s Paul Bergeron. Bergeron ran an all-time best of 4:10.62 at the BSR Elite Scholastic Mile on May 5. On the indoor surface, he has a best of 4:19.10 from the MSTCA Coaches Invitational in late January. The Stanford-bound senior will likely focus on the two mile That’s an event he boast an all-time best of 8:51 from the outdoor season and was third at the MOC last winter to graduating seniors Sam Burgess and Nathan Lopez. But don’t be surprised to see Bergeron competing in a few mile races along the way where he’s capable of improving on his indoor best significantly. Other top runners in this event are Billerica’s Ryan Leslie, Brookline’s Kailas Ciatto, Littleton’s Timothy Rank, and Nashoba’s Adam Balewicz, to name a few.
The clear-cut favorite here is Bergeron. The Westford Academy standout nearly broke a longstanding outdoor mark for the deuce by clocking 8:51.88 at the Division 1 Championship. He ran an indoor best of 9:04.07 to take the bronze the MOC. There’s no doubt one of the goals for Bergeron is to break the state record of 8:49.60, set back in 1999 by Lynn Vocational alum Franklin Sanchez. We believe he has a chance, a very good one. Despite a few setbacks this fall, Bergeron still managed to capture his second straight title at the MOC this past cross-country season and was also seventh at the Foot Locker Nationals. Leslie (PR, 9:12.34) and Balewicz (PR, 9:22.60), who were fourth and eighth, respectively, at the MOC in 2023, are among several that should shine in this event this season. Both are coming off successful cross-country seasons. Leslie claimed the Div. 1C crown and Balewicz was the Div. 2 titlist at the MOC. In terms of improvement, look for a big jump from Balewicz on his current best. Other runners like Wellesley’s Eli Merritt, Greater Lowell Tech’s Devin Moreau, Lowell’s Jack Courtney and Rank should also be making a difference this year.
We can’t forget Gavenas, who will once again compete in the NEPSTA and several open meets. Based on what he did last year and his success lately, the Philips Academy standout should be a member of the sub-9 club this winter. That could happen the next time he races the two mile. His recent effort for the 3K at BU converts to a 9:01.