By Jenna Kosinski
As we transition from winter to spring, winter track and field comes to a close.
However, there are a few select athletes who will compete in the last meet of the season: Nationals. The Armory in New York City will host the 2013 New Balance Indoor Nationals for the third year in a row, March 7-10, and Andover High School athletes will compete against some of the top runners in the country.
This season, Andover has 13 girls and 4 boys competing. Coach Peter Comeau has high expectations for the team this year, especially for the shuttle-hurdle relay team, which consists of Courtney Comeau (junior), Hannah Chapman (sophomore), Jillian Gamache (sophomore), and Lizzie Kobelski (freshman). The team was invited to compete in the National Open section, instead of the Emerging Elites, which was a major accomplishment in itself. Coach Comeau is hoping that they will place in the top 10 in the country.
Not only is the hurdle relay team expected to do well, but the team overall has been practicing almost every day to run their best times yet. Comeau said, “I think this particular group is going to be a lot of fun. They’re really close and it’s a great group of kids. It makes my job much easier when everyone is on the same page and supportive of each other. It makes the team better.”
Being around the best athletes in the country can be a major challenge during a competition. The New Balance track at the Armory can even be intimidating for competitors because of its seemingly large size. However, Coach Comeau said that “once they figure out that a track’s a track, they’re fine. They just have to run their race.”
Recently, as Courtney Comeau and one of the senior captains this year, Michael Maldari, waited for practice to start, they talked about the “intimidation factor” you experience at Nationals. Both have run at Nationals before, and they are excited to compete in it again.
Courtney said, “Most people are older and look more official, and you know that you’re going up against the best of the best.”
However, the pressure of Nationals also helps motivate them. This will be Maldari’s last year at the high school, and he is competing in the sprint-medley relay. He said “just knowing you’re at Nationals and seeing the top competitors run is awesome. The whole experience is worthwhile and fun.”
Sophomore Lily Puccia talked about the nervous feeling she gets before the start of a race: “Nerves and pressure play a huge role in running track. I have to mentally prepare myself before a race and make sure I’m in control of my nerves. Nationals is the biggest race I’ve ever run in, so I’m excited, focused, and ready to go.”
The girls 4×400 meter relay team, composed of seniors (and captains) Abbie Pustis
and Molly Lennon, and sophomores Jillian Gamache and Lily Puccia, will also be competing in Nationals; however for a while the girls did not think they would be. Pustis commented, “It was really difficult for the 4×400 team to get into Nationals because of the qualification time. [Coach] Comeau was going to let us go because we were so close but all of a sudden we couldn’t, which was very disappointing. But once we found out that we were going to compete, everyone got excited. Our time was close enough to the requirement that we were put back in.”
All four girls will be racing at the Armory for the very first time. For the seniors, it makes the experience much more special. Lennon said, “When I was a freshman I didn’t think I would be running at Nationals at all, so I’m very excited.”
The girls and boys that will be competing this weekend have all worked very hard to get to this point, and they have the full support not only of their team but of the whole high school. As we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks through the giant fan section known as Jack’s Jungle, Andover High has more spirit and unity than most other schools. The track and field team will represent us in the best way possible as they take over the Armory in New York City and compete their hardest. Good luck, Warriors!