East Longmeadow's Paige Suse is the only female athlete from Western Mass. to be competing at nationals (DON TREEGER/THE REPUBLICAN)
By Kevin Dillon | firstname.lastname@example.org
The New Balance National Outdoor meet is for the best of the best. The elite athletes in his or her category around the country.
Only five schools from Western Massachusetts are sending athletes on a trip to North Carolina A&T Unviersity in Greensboro, N.C this weekend. Four individual athletes and four Western Mass. relay teams will be competing at various levels on the weekend.
Amherst’s Taj-Amir Torres is the only athlete who will be competing in an individual events and a relay team on the weekend, as he will race in the 100-meter championship and with his 4x400-meter relay team.
Torres won the Massachusetts All-State 100-meter dash with a time of 10.68 seconds. That time puts him 20th on the performance list, with top-seeded Leon Powell qualifying with a time of 10.33 seconds, but Amherst coach Dave Thompson still expects big things from Torres.
“I think he is going to have a chance to go in and win it,” Thompson said. “He is going to have to show up, which he is going to do.”
Torres is one of three athletes competing at championship level over the weekend, as Minnechaug’s Russell Wells will be competing for the 800-meter national championship and East Longmeadow’s Paige Suse is competing for the girls high jump national championship. Suse placed second at All-States with a jump of 5’ 5’’, while Wells finished third in his event with a time of 1:53.41.
Emerging elite is a very fitting term for what Pighetti has been able to accomplish in his first year of track competition. The senior is still learning the sport, and if he could accurately time his approach in the long jump, West Springfield coach Jackson Weber said he could be jumping in the high 23-feet range.
“Watching him do this has just been tremendous,” Weber said. “Watching him jump farther, get faster every time he runs. It’s just kind of like, ‘Oh my god, what more can this kid do?’”
All four relay teams are also competing at emerging elite level – three of which are from Amherst. Torres’ 4x400-meter relay team with Kelzy Rodrigues, Joseph Tavares and Allen Vance will be looking for a good time with Vance back on the squad.
“[Vance’s return] will help the 4x400 because that’s just the way he is going to run,” Thompson said. “He is going to run a little faster.”
Amherst will also have a relay team of Xavia Perkins, Larenz Harris, Vance and Connor Evans competing in the 1600-meter sprint medley and a tteam of Jericho Sylla, Tavares, Perkins and Rodrigues competing in the 4x100-meter relay.
Monument Mountain will compete with Amherst in the 4x100-meter relay, as its team of Connor Storti, Michael Kotleski, Jay Graham and Jessie Arevalo are also making the trip to North Carolina. That team is the only Western Massachusetts Division II team participating in the meet.