By Matt Stewart
SHREWSBURY -- After a perfect regular season, the Mid-Wach A championship had a somewhat disappointing end for the North Middlesex boys' track and field team.
The Patriots were missing key pieces due to injury and other commitments, which led to a third-place performance on Saturday at Shrewsbury High School.
"Overall, I'm really pleased with the season," North Middlesex head coach Suzanne Williams said. "It was just unfortunate that we underperformed today and were missing some of our top performers."
Wachusett Regional claimed the outright league title by winning the championship meet with 146 points, followed by Shrewsbury (142 points), and then the Patriots (111 points). Fitchburg finished in fifth with 61 points, and Leominster rounded out the places in sixth (12 points).
The Leominster girls capped off a strong regular season with a fourth-place performance (37 points), followed by Fitchburg (11.33 points) and North Middlesex (5 points).
North Middlesex boys
Senior Mike Niemi had a strong finish to his league career, winning both the 110-meter hurdles (15.24) and 400 hurdles (1:00.15).
"Niemi ran a personal best in the 110 hurdles for (fully automatic time)," Williams said. "He continues to perform well on very little practice because he works. This week he had two days of practice, maybe not even that. Considering the amount of practice he's able to put in, his performances are quite remarkable. Once he's on UMass Amherst on a daily schedule, it should really take off for him."
Junior Chris Skelly had a personal-best time of 1:57.08 to win the 800 after finishing in third in the 2-mile (10:04.63).
"Even though we didn't win the meet, we still did better than we ever have," Skelly said. "That was a goal this year, and although it's a little disappointing, it was still a good year. The 2-mile didn't go as well as I hoped, but I was motivated for the 800."
North Middlesex owned the high jump, as Neil Maskalenko won the event (6 feet), Kyle Monahan came in third (6 feet) and Jacob Fitzgerald took fourth (5 feet, 8 inches). Fitzgerald also placed third in the long jump (19-1.5).
Senior Dylan Woods had a strong end to his league career, as well, taking second in the 200 dash (23.90) and third in the triple jump (38-2). The relays were another big source of points, as the 4x100 took second (46.60), the 4x800 placed second (9:02.09) and the mile relay placed fourth (3:46.67).
Anton Dotson placed fifth in the 100 dash (11.98), fourth in the pole vault (10-6), and fourth in the long jump (18-11.25). Charlie Ritchie (52.54) and Ryan Watkins (53.29) finished fifth and sixth in the 400, respectively, and Chris Alfond took fifth in the mile (4:54.04).
Fitchburg has always had a reputation for good throwers, and this year's championship meet could be the best team throwing performance in a decade. District frontrunner Leonardo Ramirez won the shot put with a strong 52-4.5 throw, senior Drew DiGeronimo won the javelin in a landslide (161-9) and Jose Marrero was the surprise winner in the discus (120-11).
Marrero's performance was not the only a pleasant surprise in the event, as sophomore Michael Bourque claimed second (120-5) with one of his best throws of the year.
Bourque also placed fourth in the shot put (41-8) and Marrero took sixth (38-8).
"We scored most of our points in the throws," Fitchburg head coach Chris Woods said. "Marrero got one throw off early that was good enough to win and Bourque had a really good day for us."
In addition to javelin, DiGeronimo had a busy day in other events, placing second in the 400 hurdles (1:01.35), and running a leg of the fifth-place mile relay (3:47.26).
The Red Raiders also accumulated some points in the distance events, with Jason Bugarin taking fourth in the 2-mile (10:04.73) and Josh Higgins finishing in sixth the 800 (2:06.24). The 4x100 pulled in fifth (49.30) and the 4x800 took sixth to round out the scoring (10:16.64).
Leominster had several fifth- and sixth-place showings on the day, but the top performance for the Blue Devils came from sophomore Jordan Mobley's fourth-place effort in the discus (111-6).
John Gove took sixth in the 200 dash (24.65), while Tyler Dion did the same in the mile (4:56.94). The 4x100 (50.14) and 4x400 (3:57.73) placed sixth, while the 4x800 took fifth (10:03.03). Anthony Fratturelli (109-9) and Lamech Muma (117-7) pulled off sixth in the discus and javelin, respectively.
Fitchburg junior Aisha Mathieu finished in a fourth-place tie in the high jump (4-6), turning in the Red Raiders' best individual performance of the day. Renee Sadler's sixth-place effort in the triple jump (31-7.5) was another strong individual showing.
"Mathieu had a really strong season in the winter her sophomore year," Fitchburg girls' head coach Sara DiPilato-Lamey said. "She's been scoring in a lot of events since and has gone through a lot of wear and tear."
The mile relay was the best group performance, as it captured fourth place (4:30.81). The 4x100 (54.93) and 4x800 (11:35.02) each finished fifth.
North Middlesex girls
Senior Bailey Delaney capped off her career in style, leading the way for North Middlesex by taking fifth in the shot put (29-9) and sixth in the 100 hurdles (17.97). The Patriots' 4x100 (56.03) and 4x400 (4:48.60) each took sixth.
"It was a personal best for Delaney in the hurdles," Williams said.
"It was good for her to end the season on a high note, because she'd been leveling off a little bit, and it was nice to see her come out and have those types of performances."