The New Balance Nationals have arrived, the ultimate bookend to the indoor track and field season.
The three-day meet, held at the New Balance Center in New York from Friday to Sunday, will not have its shortage of athletes from Rhode Island making the 200-mile trip to the Bronx. At least 35 runners and weight-throwers will conclude their indoor campaigns at the famed facility, commonly called The Armory.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the athletes and relays that have a chance to attain All-American status based on a top-six finish. Potentially, there’s also a few that could come home with a victory in the Big Apple.
Barrington junior Adam Kelly has been No. 1 for most of the season for the 25-pound weight and has a best that less than a foot from the 80-foot mark. He’s also Rhody’s best chance to earn the coveted ring awarded to the winners in the championship events. Kelly has been consistently over 70 feet and had his all-time best a few weeks ago when he captured the New England Weight Throw Championship with a distance of 79 feet, 1.2 inches.
Kelly’s top competition should be St. Pius X (GA) senior Daniel Haugh of Throw 1 Deep. Haugh is No. 2 on the national rankings with a 78-5 effort. R.I. could occupy several spots on the podium. Barrington sophomore Bobby Colantonio ranks fourth in the country after his runner-up placement at the Weightarama this past Saturday where he had a PB of 72-6.5. Classical senior Tom Vadis (69-11.75) and Moses Brown junior Owen Russell (69-3.25) also could place among the top six.
The clear-cut favorite in the girls’ 20-pound weight is Gabby Figueroa of Austintown Fitch in Ohio. She holds the top seed at 64-11 and has two other tosses further than 61 feet. Narragansett’s Leia Mistowski was sixth last year and has potential to better that placement this weekend. She is ranked eighth nationally with a heave of 54-11. Classical junior Alva Hicks, who won the recent Weightarama with a PB of 56-8 (US #6) is also very capable of making it to the podium.
Classical senior Maddy Berkson tried to steal the show last year in the 800m before finishing a still-outstanding third with a state record of 2 minutes, 6.7 seconds. This weekend, Berkson is among a handful of runners that has a legitimate shot to break the tape a victor. She’s one of the top seeds and always runs well at The Armory. In our “Road to the Nationals” feature, Berkson stated she is going to stick with the leaders and hopefully be able to utilize her patented kick in the closing stages.
The competition includes junior Ersula Farrow of Grosse Point South (MI), Dracut (MA) senior Karina Shepard and last year’s NBNI mile champion Elise Cranny of Niwot (CO), who are all capable of sub 2:08 for the two-lapper. Barrington senior Abby Livingston, who has run 2:09 in a relay, is also in the field. It will be her solo event. She was originally scheduled to also run the anchor leg for the Eagles' 4x800 relay, but an injury to team member Mary Kate Coogan has forced the fourth-ranked Eagles to withdraw from the event. It won’t be easy for anyone to win this race and it will more than likely take a 2:06 or faster to earn the prize.
On Friday night, Bishop Hendricken senior Colin Tierney will compete in the 5,000m, an event he is seeded No. 12. He indicated at the NE meet, after running a best of 9:15 for two miles, that he would like to crack 15 minutes at the nationals much like he did at NBNO last June. If he can run a time in that range, something he is certainly capable of, a top-six finish is possible.
The boys’ 4x1 mile relay was won by Brothers Track Club (Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey) last year with a time of 17:22.67. Sixth place was timed in 17:34.57. The relay events are often difficult to predict who will be the best, but if you base it on last year’s results La Salle certainly has a shot to excel this week. All four members of the Rams’ relay are capable of running very fast on the banked oval and average a low 4:20 for each leg, which is what Brothers did in 2013. Jack Salisbury, the R.I. state champion, won the New England meet with a PB of 4:17.8. He’ll be the Rams’ anchor and is rarely (if ever) intimidated by his competition. The remaining members – junior Dan Paiva (4:21.34), junior James Placco (4:08, 1,500m) and sophomore Matt Bouthillette (4:22.84) - have all been successful this season and have run fast times for the mile (or 1,500m) distance. Don’t be surprised if this talented group is among the leaders late in the race.
As mentioned earlier, the state and New England champion Eagles will not be running the 4x800m relay. But La Salle is entered in the event and the Rams could place high. A sixth-place finisher in 2013, La Salle is ranked 13th in the country with its runner-up placement at the New England’s of 9:19.76.