READING — The Reading High girls and boys track teams are ready to run and are welcoming to return to the traditional indoor venues like the Reggie Lewis Center or at Boston University, where both facilities were closed last year as a result of the pandemic.
Reading girls coach Nancy Madden returns to lead the indoor squad for her seventh season.
“The girls are excited to be having a normal track season this winter,’’ said Madden. “Many of last year’s freshmen still do not understand "a normal" season since last year we ran our meets virtually as well as an outdoor setting, where it was freezing cold at times. They keep asking me if any of the meets will be outdoors and I tell them if they do spring track, otherwise all our meets will be indoors.”
With a deep squad of 75 girls this season, Madden is hopeful that the Lady Rockets can only improve from last year’s winless record of 0-5. According to Madden, this year’s roster consists of 21 freshmen, 20 sophomores, 19 juniors and 15 seniors.
“We have a lot of girls that came out for the team,’’ said Madden. “The girls have looked great so far, and we’re hoping we can improve on our personal goals while being competitive in the Middlesex League’s Liberty Division."
Leading the way for the Lady Rockets for the winter indoor track season are six senior captains.
Jackie Caraco is expected to compete in the sprints, hurdles and relays. Liz Donahue, who earned Middlesex League Liberty All-Star status on the cross country team this fall while breaking the course record, will compete in the distance events.
Brooke Golden is slated to compete in the sprints as well as the jumps along with the shot put and the relays. Catie Nickerson will vie in the middle distance while Sophie Shanley will rotate between distance, middle distance as well as relay events.
Grace Weston is also scheduled to compete in the sprinting, jumping and relay events.
“The girls have been working hard and trying different events,’’ said Madden. “We began time trials (last) week to give them a benchmark on where they are now and so they can see their improvement as the season progresses. So far their time trials have improved so much from last year, and we’re looking forward to the season.”
In the shot put, the Lady Rockets will be guided by seniors Grace Whalen and Golden along with the sophomore group of Grace Hattery and Bridget Patterson.
As for long jump, Madden expects Weston as well as senior Claire Jenkins, to be key contributors along with sophomore Antonia Zagami.
Golden, along with fellow senior Claudia Kessinger are scheduled to compete in the high jump along with junior Mina Willander and sophomore Katie Caraco.
Leading the way in the hurdling events will be the senior duo of Jackie Caraco and Jenkins followed by Willander and Katie Caraco.
As for the sprinting events, the senior duo of Kessinger and Weston should provide experience followed by the junior group of Kaitlyn Drummey, Sedona Skendeian, Elisabeth Quirbach and Gabby Bennett.
Also slated to compete as sophomores on the varsity squad will be Lily Stanton, Natalie Wall and Antonia Zagami.
Prime candidates in the distance events will be the senior group of Donahue, Shanley, Lauren Ciccariello, Catie Nickerson and Grace Whalen, all of whom participated on the cross country team in the fall.
Other participants include juniors Sam Maher, Olivia Ritondo, Julia Barbato followed by sophomores Caroline Gallegos and Mia Gallo.
Promising newcomers to the varsity squad include junior Audrey Thornton, who will compete in the sprinting and jumping events, along with fellow junior Jessica Hayes at middle distance. Freshman Molly Hackett has also ran well during pre-season time trials and is expected to add depth in the distance events.
“As a team we hope to be competitive in the Middlesex League Liberty Division,’’ said Madden, “The girls are excited for the competitive part of the season to begin and are working hard to get prepared to race, jump and throw to the best of their ability.”
The Lady Rockets will open the season on Wednesday where they’ll open against Winchester at the Boston University Track and Tennis Club.
READING BOYS INDOOR TRACK PREVIEW
The Reading boys hope to defend their indoor (outdoor) title despite the losses of several key graduation departures.
“Last year was very hard, but we did have an awesome group of student-athletes and had an amazing season in which we won the ML Liberty Division,” said boys coach Scott Price, whose now entering his eighth season. “We lost some key varsity athletes to graduation, but do have a lot of experience coming back. We’re very excited to have a normal season and to be able to participate in events like Boston University or the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center. It’s great to be going back to having a regular routine of some sorts.”
Leading the way for the Rockets will be senior captains Michael Harden, Connor Patterson, Michael Wall and Bobby Squires.
Squires and Wall were cornerstones on the Reading cross country team in the fall that tied for the Liberty Division title with Arlington. They will be the leaders in the distance events.
Patterson will aim to lead the way in the throws while Harden is expected to be a key factor in both the hurdling and jumping events.
Other returners for the Rockets include senior Ryan Wallace as well as juniors Sachin Patel, Tyler Lloyd and Jason Clish.
Wallace, who also participated on the cross country team, is expected to compete in the distance events while Lloyd and Patel are expected to compete in the high jump. Clish is also expected to add some depth in the sprints.
Sophomore Brian Ronyane will also add depth to the distance events while seniors Camy Despeignes and Ryan Branson should also add some solidarity in the sprinting events. Senior Devin Norris will aim to serve as a key catalyst in the long jump.
New to the Rockets’ varsity squad will be sophomore Ben Wallace, who will compete in the distance events. Junior Jack Quinn, who also competed on the cross country team like Wallace, will also compete in distance events while sophomore Jack Dougherty will vie in the sprints.
According to Price, 70 candidates were present during the first full week of practice. Price remains optimistic that depth will overcome some key graduation losses in the Rockets’ quest to repeat as league champions.
“The newcomers have looked great, and they’re fitting right in,’’ said Price. “I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to overcome the losses of last year’s seniors and be in position to defend our league title. The kids looked great in the first couple of weeks of practice, and they’re excited to be back competing and ready to have a great season.”
As for expectations, Price’s goal is to compete for the Middlesex League title and to compete for both sectionals and states as a team. As for COVID related issues that may happen during the season, Price isn’t even thinking about that at this point.
“I expect to show up and coach my team,’’ said Price. “If there is a COVID related incident, our team will deal with it. I am very hopeful that we can get back to normal.”
Along with the Rockets, Lexington and Woburn are also expected to be in the mix to compete for the Middlesex League Liberty Title. Price is hopeful that some acquired depth will be able to place the Rockets over the top against the top teams in the league.
“I expect Lexington and (Woburn) to be right there with us,’’ said Price. “Our goal is to win the ML Liberty division and be one of the top teams in Division 2. There are many goals for athletes, but they can be meet to meet or season long goals.”
The Rockets open the season Wednesday against Winchester at the Boston University Track and Tennis Center.