Issue 5 Contents


Sports Update

3/1/97 Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center

The two men ran, pursuer and pursued,
and he who fled was noble, he behind
a greater man by far. They ran full speed,
and not for bull's hide or a ritual beast,
or any prize that men compete for: no,
but for the life of Hektor, tamer of horses.
Just as chariot teams around a course
go wheeling swiftly, for the prize is great,
a tripod or a woman, in the games
held for a dead man, so three times these two
at full speed made their course around Priam's town,
as all the gods looked on_

From Fitzgerald's translation of the Illiad by Homer Epic. That's right, epic. Let the Globe and Herald write the history for the masses, but let me tell you how Massachusetts harriers will revel for years in the memory of three Brookline performances in the 1997 Indoor Championships.

Coach Glennon and I debated the tactics Matt Hebert's mile on the way to the track. Like Akhilleus and Hektor running around the walls of Troy, there were only two competitors in this race as far as we were concerned, Brookline's Matt Hebert and Bay state rival and Class B champion Mike O'Rourke of Braintree. O'Rourke had set his season's best performance in January when he ran a solo 4:26 to win the State Coaches Invitational on the fast Reggie Lewis track. Hebert had run 4:25 on the same day on the hard, unbanked Dartmouth oval, but for second and therefore he had some help in posting the fast time. Their only head-to-head meeting was at the League Championship meet where Matt got a bad start, fought his way through the field's slow 800m and then hammered the third quarter to make the race respectable. The work took it's toll and O'Rourke's strength got the better of Matt's big kick.

I was confident that the best way for Matt to run was to hang and kick whatever the pace, Coach Glennon worried that the pace would be slow and that would allow O'Rourke's strength late in the race to wither Matt's greater speed in the same way it did in the league meet. I saw the league meet loss as an outgrowth of the hard 3rd quarter pace set by Matt and less as a result of any advantage O'Rourke possessed. Also, Coach Glennon had told me at the league meet that O'Rourke was hoping to face Riley in the mile in order to run a school record time. With the state meet his last opportunity, I thought O'Rourke would certainly want a fast early pace.

Basically, coaches can think too much. When I went to talk to Matt about the race plan, he said, "Hang and Kick." And I said "yeah." If he was comfortable with a strategy and even better, a simple one, he would run well_also it was the one I liked. The most obvious scenario for the race was that O'Rourke's best hope for a win was to get as far away from Matt as possible and Matt, like Akhilleus would stalk him and wait for his moment. At the gun, O'Rourke went to the front and Matt found his position immediately behind. Reputation finally helping Matt as no other runner sought the early lead. They went through the first quarter in 62. O'Rourke, as predicted, was trying to escape. Hebert followed, closer than a O'Rourke's shadow. The rest of the field struggled to maintain contact.

At 800m it was still O'Rourke. The pace still fast; 2:10, and Hebert remained relaxed just off of O'Rourke's shoulder. Now the rest of the field began to drop, unable to sustain 4:20 pace. By 1000m it was just Hektor and Akhilleus and with just three laps left, Hektor had to do something. Just beyond 1200m he pressed again. For the first time in the race light separated the pair and then the light went out. With 180m left, Matt drew even. O'Rourke uttered a profanity.

But when, for the fourth time they reached the springs,
the Father (Apollo) poised his golden scales."
"He placed two shapes of death, death prone and cold, upon them,
one of Akhilleus, one of the horseman, Hektor,
and held at the midpoint, pulling upward. Down sank
Hektor's fatal day, the pan went down
toward undergloom.

O'Rourke never slowed, but Hebert left him behind with speed O'Rourke couldn't match if fresh. Matt Hebert won his first state title in 4:22.12, moving him ahead of the legendary 1982 Champion, Dave Stokle, on Brookline's All-Time mile list.

Hebert had little rest before he was called upon to race again, this time in the 4x800m. We moved Ruane into Dave Clark's position on this relay so that Riley wouldn't have to run 1:55 again for the win. Riley would have to run the two mile against Sophomore stud Andy Powell after the relay. Powell had run 9:13.96 to win last week and he had run 4:14 for the mile in his league meet the week before. Could Riley beat Powell on the heels of the relay? Many thought not. I heard them as I walked around the track. Most were disappointed because they thought they wouldn't see a good race in the two mile if Riley were already tired. I hoped that replacing Clark with Ruane would improve our first three legs by 8 seconds, perhaps even giving Riley the lead at the final exchange, I say perhaps because I couldn't predict how many teams had done the same with good individuals like Ruane, qualifiers in their own right, who were unlikely to score in their individual events. Once again, the vaulter would lead-off. Nathan Lasche burst off the line like few distance runners can and then made the field run around his big shoulders. At the quarter, Lasche trailed the tightly bunched field, trying to relax without losing contact. Nate's job was to keep Brookline in contention, Matt Hebert would restore the lead if he could bounce back from the mile.

At 600m Nate had slipped back but he charged hard on the back straight and picked-off those who couldn't stay with the lead group. The first exchange was mayhem. Lasche put the baton in Matt's hand and got knocked to the ground in 2:06.6.

From eighth, Matt moved quickly to the back of a now smaller lead group. In the third lap, Matt went wide to the lead and hammered out a blistering final 200m to finish in 2:00.4. He passed the baton and a 20m lead cleanly to Alex Ruane. Ruane held the lead for nearly 600m before he was overtaken. Again, Brookline slipped back, going from 2nd to seventh in the final 100m, but only because the field was still so tightly bunched. Riley took the baton early in the zone as Ruane clocked 2:07.4. Brookline's first 3 legs had improved more than 10 seconds to Make Riley's job easier. While he had several runners to pass for the win, he had no more than ten meters worth of distance to make up.

Anchor legs for every team openned hard. Riley came through the first quarter under 57 seconds, just holding position. As others began to struggle, Riley moved up, but one team was getting away. Newton North. Newton had taken Class A 1000m runner-up Schwirian, out of his event to anchor the 4x800m and Riley had to extend himself in the last quarter to catch him. Again Apollo's scales appeared to tip in the favor of Brookline. Again, Akhilleus overtook Hektor, but at what cost? Riley finished with a 1:54.8, almost half a second faster than last week! As I walked back to the Brookline stands, I heard the conjecture again. Can Riley come back? I wondered if we did the right thing and rationalized it again and again. Even if Riley were beaten in the two mile, the team would score 28 points. Without Riley's effort in the relay, the event would be worth no points to BHS and our team score would be 20. By the time I reached the other side of the track I started thinking about history. Let them doubt. It will make them all the more amazed. Win or lose Riley's performance on this day would be something people will always remember.

Meanwhile, we were watching Reading. Reading had several Class B champions and had the capacity to score in many events. They opened with a win in the hurdles, placed 5th in the 4x800m and took 2nd in the shot put to equal Brookline's 20 points. They survived a potential disqualification when officials argued that their 300m finalist cut-off the eventual winner before the last turn. That place was worth 6 more points. With 26 points and good teams in the remaining events, 4x200m and 4x400m relays, Reading controlled their own destiny.

But Destiny was focused on another event. Andy Powell is not just a great young runner, he's a smart young runner. He took the lead in the two mile at the gun in an effort to capitalize on Riley's short rest after the 4x800. Riley stuck to him like glue. Again Akilleus chased Hektor. At the mile split in 4:34, a time that would nearly have placed in the one mile, Powell still led. He pressed hard.

Great Akhilleus, hard on Hektor's heels,
kept after him, the way a hound will harry
a deer's fawn he has startled from its bed
to chase through gorge and open glade, and when
the quarry goes to earth under a bush
he holds the scent and quarters till he finds it;
so with Hektor: he could not shake off
the great runner, Akhilleus. Every time
he tried to sprint hard for the Darden gates
under the towers, hoping men could help him,
sending missiles down, Akhilleus loomed
to cut him off and turn him toward the plain,
as he himself ran always near the city.
As in a dream a man chasing another
cannot catch him, nor can he in flight
escape from his pursuer, so Akhilleus
could not by his swiftness overtake him,
nor could Hektor pull away.

"He should go at a mile and a half, right?" Coach Glennon asked to ensure we were shouting the same instructions. Sure, I thought, that's a good thing to do tactically, but Riley knows what to do. "He can go whenever he wants." With a quarter to go Riley moved by Powell. 4,000 spectators stood and cheered. Powell never faltered or faded, but he could not match Riley. At the top of the last turn Riley saw the clock read 8:45 and he burned for the finish line in an effort to break 9 minutes. He crossed the line in 8:58.84, just a second off the record set by Olympian Alberto Salazar 21 years ago (but Salazar didn't run a 1:54 half that day and may never have run that fast for 800m). Powell finished in 9:06, seven seconds under the old meet record. His last mile was 4:32; faster than his first, but Riley's second mile was 4:24.

Brookline's total was 30 and would stay there while the team watched the remaining relays, cheering for anyone but Reading. One 4th place finish would produce a tie, anything more would beat Brookline. Brockton loaded up it's 4x200m at the expense of it's 4x400m team and led from the gun. Reading ran 4th throughout until Central Catholic missed it's last exchange. Reading appeared to have the 6 points it needed for the win, but when the times from the second heat were factored into the scoring, Reading got nothing. Brookline still led 30-26.

In the 4x400m things looked bleak when Reading finished second to Haverhill in the 4x400 in the seeded section, but again the second heat was fast; Sharon and New Bedford runners anchoring in a rematch of the 600m earlier in the day.

We waited hours for the times to be sorted. Only the doubt that everything could work out our way provided relief. Then the team scores were announced from 6th up. Actually, 5th up. "We have a tie for fifth place with 18 points, Sharon and New Bedford_In fourth place with 20 points, Brockton_In third place with 21 points, Milton_" and then the magic words, "WE HAVE A TIE FOR FIRST PLACE WITH THIRTY-"

I couldn't hear the rest over the screaming. Brookline won it's first All-State Title in the 12 year history of the meet. We hadn't even won a class title since the 1982 when we had four individual winners. Of course, like last week, we lost the toss for the ready-made trophy and will have to wait for that.


3/1/97 Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center

The girls have had a great season, but the state meet didn't go quite as well as the prologue. So when the girls win the outdoor states this spring, I'll be writing plenty more.

Sarah Casilli ran another great race in the 600m nearly holding off Class A champion Mimi Stith for second in 1:37.9, but she was displaced by two runners from the second heat. Then the bad news came. Sarah had moved inside her lane just before the break and had been disqualified. Still, I'd rather have a rookie running 1:37 and getting D.Q'd for a rookie mistake than a rookie who runs slower. Some things are easy to fix.

The only other qualifying performance on the girls' side was the 4x400m relay, Krista Limbo, Lauren Carroll, Melina Yamaykina and Casilli who improved their season best to 4:11.6, but did not place.

The girls have a promising spring season ahead with the return of several great athletes from cross-country and many spring-only track athletes.