By JOE REARDON
Paige McInerney was still breathing hard when she explained the successful distance corp out of Acton-Boxboro at Friday’s MSTCA Distance Classic at the Reggie Lewis Center.
“It’s a super close group,” said McInerney. “We have five or six girls with close personal bests and it’s fun to train with the guys. They really push us.”
The tall, smooth-striding McInerney showed off some of that fitness in the seeded mile. She surged into the lead after the first 200 meters and never gave it up. Her finishing time of 5 minutes, 14.27 seconds was less than a second off the meet record and two seconds in front of teammate Elizabeth Latham (5:16.80). Walpole’s Ila Zollo ran well to clinch the bronze medal in 5:19.12.
McInerney didn’t want to lead early, but with the slowish pace she had no choice. “We went through the first 200 in 39 to 40 (seconds) and I didn’t want that so I was forced to make a move,” she said.
The Acton-Boxboro boys duplicated the girls finish in the mile.
Kyle Verner knew a time close to his personal best would pretty much translate to a victory and possibly a meet record.
Verner’s calculations proved to hold up nicely on the Reggie Lewis Center track.
The Colonial distance ace pulled away from teammate Anthony Cronin and clinched the win with a time of 4:31.57. That time was just under the 4:32.30 record set by Shane Grant of Walpole in 2018. Acton-Boxboro snagged the top-two places as Cronin also dipped under the old mark with his 4:32.06.
“I knew the meet record was probably in reach, but I was going for a time close to my personal best, ” said Verner, who has a best time of 4:29.55. “We were just trying to go out at 2:15 (for the first 800) and see what happens.”
Acton-Boxboro garnered another victory in an extremely entertaining 2-mile that featured a duel up front between the Colonials’ Chris Lin and Walpole’s Luke Zahurak. It was Lin who accelerated over the final 200 to pull away to a personal-best win of 9:56.17. Zahurak also broke 10-minutes with his 9:57.56 for second. Masconomet’s Cooper Ogden was third in 10:06.20.
“I saw the seeds and thought I really wanted to win,” said Lin, who has been packing in 50 miles a week. “I knew I had something left in the tank (the final 200m).”
Acierno was in control from the start and staved off a brief challenge from runner-up Nick Brisson (2:01.96) of Hampshire Regional with just over 200m to go. Once Acierno went to his arms with 200m left, the race was over.
Nashoba’s Connor Acierno got the meet off to a strong start in the first event, racing to a meet record in the 800m. His time of 1:59.76 easily bettered the 2:01.22 mark set in 2019 by Myles Liss-Riordan of Brookline.
“I felt smooth, strong and comfortable,” said Acierno, who has a personal best of 1:59.05. “Getting the meet record and running under 2-minutes was the goal. I could hear him (Brisson) on my shoulder and I really picked it up.”
North Andover’s Erika Wojcik missed the meet record in the 800m by less than a second after being sidelined all of last winter with a back injury. The senior destroyed the field by more than nine seconds for an easy win in 2:20.77. Chloe Dibb of Barnstable was second with her 2:30.73 and Westford Academy’s Sydney Weiss clocked a 2:32.31 for third.
The No. 1 seed by more than four seconds, Wojcik knew she’d be running by herself. “I was hoping someone would go with me, but I wasn’t expecting it,” Wojcik said, who has run 3:04 in the 1000 and a 5:21 mile. “I’d say I’m 100-percent now. I’m doing steady mileage with a hard workout once a week.”
A day after throwing a personal best in the weight event at the Boston Holiday Challenge, North Andover’s Makenna Dube broke the meet record in the shot put with a 37-7 toss. The top-four competitors all bettered the 33-11 mark of Jenna Bard of North Andover set in 2021.
“I was excited to come to this meet,” said Dube, who has her sights set on North Andover’s school record of 38-10-1/2. “I’ve been working on my speed this season moving through the circle. I definitely accomplished that goal today.”
Other winners included Jonathan Pink of Franklin in the 1,000m (2:43.19) and Rachael Kowoski of Hudson on the girls’ side (3:12.90). Wachusett’s Naomi Witt captured the 2-mile in 11:31.85 and Ari Levine of Hopedale won the shot put with a heave of 47-2-1/2.