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Trio of T-Wolves heading on to New Englands

Fithian, LaFreniere and Tidd all finish in top six at Meet of Champions, earn invitation to Saturday's meet

June 10, 2009
DURHAM — Three Timber Wolves, two Eagles and a Knight.

That's the head count of the local athletes who qualified for the elite New England Track and Field Championships with top six finishes at the Meet of Champions this past Saturday, June 6, at the University of New Hampshire.

Prospect Mountain's Jack LaFreniere, Isaac Fithian and Danielle Tidd, Kennett's Zach Switaj and Kim Theophelakes and Kingswood's Kirsten Silfvenius all earned invitations to the next round of competition with their performances on Saturday.

Prospect Mountain coach Kristi Hikel expected Fithian, the team's outstanding junior distance runner, to qualify, and she also knew that LaFreniere, a first-year track competitor, had a pretty good chance at qualifying, but she was caught by surprise by Tidd's qualification in the high jump.

"We left the event not realizing she'd placed," said Hikel, noting that the freshman had leaped a personal best of five feet and had tied the school record, held by her sister Brianna.

However, after going home and checking the results online, Tidd realized she had made the cut and called her coach, thrilled at the prospect of moving on.

"I've never taken more than one, so to take three in one year, I'm really excited," Hikel stated.

Fithian's qualification came with a bit of drama, but he certainly made the best of it.

In the middle of the 1,600 meters, Fithian tripped and fell. However, the Timber Wolf star got back on his feet and got back in the race, running all the way to third place with a time of 4:20.05.

"If he'd had another 100 meters, he would've gotten it, he was picking up speed at the end, he was closing," said Hikel, amazed at her athlete's recovery. "He got back up, and it looked like he struggled for about 100 meters, then all of a sudden he decided he was going to race."

LaFreniere raced to a sixth place finish in the 200 meters, finishing in 23.77 seconds, despite the fact that Hikel and fellow coach John Tuttle didn't think his start and his finish were as good as normal, which left both of them with good expectations for the New England Championships.

"To have three going next weekend, it just blows my mind," Hikel said. "It will be a long day, but they're going for the experience."

The Timber Wolf coach expects Fithian to get some good college exposure from the meet and for Tidd to get experience at a high level. LaFreniere, who will be competing for the final time as a Timber Wolf, is hoping to set a new record against the best of the best.

For Kennett coach Bernie Livingston, the two athletes moving on represent two of the best in their events in the coach's long history at the school.

Theophelakes, a senior, has the second-longest javelin throw in school history and while she didn't match that throw at the Meet of Champions, she still finished strong, taking fifth place with a toss of 115 feet.

"I think she was a little nervous because she wanted to go to New Englands," Livingston said. "She's really happy to go on, and she'd like to hit the 120-foot mark to end her career."

Switaj, a junior, ran to a third place finish in the 800 meters with his time of 1:58.61 after taking Thursday and Friday off from practice at the request of assistant coach Tim Livingston.

"He had the best race of his career," the elder Livingston noted. "He ran tactically well. For his first year running, he's a good race tactician."

Livingston noted that it was also the second-best 800 meter time by a Kennett athlete.

"The two of them had really good days, to get to New Englands is pretty impressive," Livingston said. "It should be a neat experience, I think they can rise to the occasion. The whole goal is to go there and try to exceed what they've done."

Silfvenius had the top finish of any local athlete, as she finished second in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 46.14 seconds, just behind defending Meet of Champions champ Shalyn Johnson of Nashua North.

"To finish in the place she did, breaking the school record again and running her fastest time every, that's a good way to finish off high school," said Kingswood coach, Paul Harvey. "Though she seems very laid back, she's very competitive and Saturday everything just worked out so perfect for her."

This will be the second year in a row that a Kingswood athlete will miss graduation to attend the New England Championships, as Dylan Summers was in the same position last year.

"She decided, let's go one more time, so she'll meet up with her classmates at Grad Knight," Harvey said. "We're excited. She's such a positive kid and is leaving such a great legacy at Kingswood."

In addition to the six local athletes who are moving on, the local schools also had other athletes competing.

For the boys, the Prospect Mountain 4X400-meter relay team of LaFreniere, Adam Cheney, Ben Rogers and Fithian finished ninth overall in 3:33.50.

"They were right there," said Hikel, noting that the boys were the first Class M team in the standings, just a bit out of range of the sixth place spot.

Kennett's Jack Blake was a last-minute addition to the field, as he entered the week believing his season was over after finishing fifth at the Class I Meet. However, at the seeding meeting on Wednesday, he was given a berth after other competitors dropped out and he came through with a solid 13th place finish at 116 feet, two inches.

The same rang true for teammate Liza Townsend, who was given a bid in the 100-meter hurdles at the seeding meeting. The Eagle junior hit the first hurdle and was unable to continue the race, but Livingston was pleased that both took the opportunity to compete.

"They didn't find out until Wednesday that they were going," the veteran coach said. "I'm glad they took the opportunity to come down."

Kingswood's Hannah Brunton just missed out on a bid to the New England Championships, finishing seventh in the 100 meters and eighth in the 200 meters. Her time in the 100 meters was 13.41 and her 200-meter time was 26.93.

"What more could you ask for from a sophomore," said Harvey.

Silfvenius also just missed out on qualifying in a second event, as she took seventh in the triple jump with a leap of 34 feet, five and a half inches.

That event came just moments after a tough third handoff in the 4X100-meter relay knocked the Kingswood girls out of contention.

Harvey praised senior Meghan Libby for being the positive voice after the accident.

"She was more worried about the team than the race," Harvey said. "She definitely put the team first.

"We haven't messed up all year, but it happens," he added. "It happens at all levels."

Harvey is also sure that the 4X100 incident pushed Silfvenius to go the extra mile in the 300-meter hurdles.

"I think she said, 'I'm going to do this for everybody,'" he said. "And she ran absolutely flawlessly."

Kennett's Brianna Moore had a great race in the 1,600 meters and capped off her career with an 11th place finish in 5:29.41 after spending the previous two days at freshman orientation at UNH.

"She ran a great race," Livingston said. "It was the biggest race of her career and she was happy with it."

The other three Prospect girls were unable to break into the top 10 in their events.

Kim Sykes and Megan Farrell both competed in the 800 meters and Caitlin Hussey competed in the shot put and the discus. Hikel noted that Hussey was able to bring some positive things away from her performances and that was a step in the right direction for the Timber Wolf junior, who figures to again be one of the top throwers in Class M-S next season.

The New England Track and Field Championships will take place at Burlington High School in Burlington, Vt. on Saturday, June 13, beginning at 10 a.m.

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