Track and field is known as an individual sport, where athletes mostly compete without the benefit of an assist from one of their teammates. But the Hopkinton boys indoor track and field team has bought into a “team-first” concept, and the result has been a dominant campaign in the Tri-Valley League.
“This is probably the best team we have had in the last 10 years, and it could be the best team we have had ever had,” coach Mike Donahue said.
The reason for the Hillers’ success, which includes an unbeaten record in dual meets and a 56-point margin of victory in the TVL showcase meet on Feb. 1, is depth. Hopkinton placed in all but one event at the league showcase and had multiple athletes placed in several events.
Senior Alex Brown bested the field by six seconds in the mile and also won the 2-mile. In the latter event, his teammate and brother Nick Brown was just three seconds behind in second place and junior Colby Michaud finished fifth. Alex helped paced his younger brother to a personal best time.
Ian Cann comfortably won the 1,000-meter race, and the Hillers were not done scoring points there, either, as fellow seniors Anthony Zeissig and Cody Ottinger placed third and fourth.
“There is a focus on some of the top guys, as there should be,” Donahue said. “But it’s easy to lose the fact that we have other athletes placing. This is a team whose foundation is that competitive athlete.”
Brown and Cann have the chance to excel at the state divisional meet and make their way to all-states and potentially beyond, Donahue said. Other athletes have shown the promise to compete with the best in the state.
High jumpers Ethan Champlin, a junior, and Casey McClean, a senior, each have cleared 6 feet. Junior Harrison Prucher finished second in the hurdles and tied the school record and has the potential to take a huge step forward next season.
“He is really on his way,” Donahue said, adding that Prucher is just starting to delve into more strength and conditioning training. “He is going to be a lot better next year.”
Donahue was similarly excited for the potential of junior Aidan Rowell, who placed in both sprinting events.
“It’s easier when you have tremendous depth as we do this year,” Donahue said. “A lot of guys are dedicated to the end goal, which is to perform well as a team. It’s a very team-oriented group, they support each other.”
The winter track teams, over 200 strong between the boys and girls rosters, also have been boosted by a strong coaching staff that includes Jean Cann, the girls head coach, Brian Prescott, who leads the sprinters, jumpers and hurdlers, former HHS head coach Chris Shea, and assistant coaches Dan Collins and Mike Webb filling in whatever gaps there might be on the track or in the weight room.
“The kids really connect well with the coaches,” Donahue said.
While Donahue would like to see the Hillers place among the top five teams in Division 3, the state meet also will focus on the top individual athletes and putting them in the best position to advance to the all-state competition. He’s hoping for a solid end to an exceptional winter campaign.
“I couldn’t be more pleased if I had scripted it out,” Donahue said. “The wins are nice, but our theme was integrity — the integrity of the sport, for what you’re doing and your actions and how they impact things going forward.”
Added Donahue: “I think the guys really rose to the occasion and they got the results. We haven’t had a team perform like this in years and years.”