NORTH ANDOVER — At the conclusion of a very long day in the heat, both the Tewksbury Memorial High School girls and boys outdoor track team coaches joked that both programs led the state with runners-up finishes at post-season meets.
While both programs — especially the girls — have been the bridesmaid more often than not, the joke certainly doesn't take away (not that the coaches implied that it did) what the team accomplished on Sunday.
The Redmen finished with 70.50 points and better than 31 other teams, while only one, an outstanding North Reading team, finished ahead with a whopping 118 points, including an astonishing six first place finishes.
"We were pretty confident that North Reading was going to win and they did. They probably doubled our score," said girls' head coach Fran Cusick. "I predicted that us and Milton would score about 65 points and Milton scored 65 and we ended up scoring 70 so we did a little bit better than what we had predicted which was great.
“It was a fun day for both the boys and girls programs. I think (boys coach Peter) Molloy may have already said this, but we have had more second place finishes than any program probably in the history of Massachusetts. We love to come in second place."
On the day, Tewksbury had two first place finishes by sophomore Makayla Paige, who took the 400-meter hurdles and the 800 races, breaking meet records in both. In addition, six other individuals placed in the top eight and two relay teams did as well to account for the 70.5 points.
"When you have a day where you really need a lot of people to step up and they actually do, it's the most rewarding feeling in the world as a coach and as an athlete," said Cusick. "We had people who were seeded out of the top eight for scoring and ended up scoring big points for us. Cassidy Gruning was seeded 13th in the high jump and she ended up in a tie for fourth.
“Marissa Ladderbush was seeded sixth in the pole vault and she finished second. We had people step up. Lily Robinson was seeded ninth in the two mile and she finished fifth. She ran a real gutsy race and her final lap was her best one. She was in sixth throughout most of the race and she ended up fifth and we needed every point that we could get."
Ladderbush came through with two terrific performances. She finished second out of 12 competitors in Thursday's Pentathlon competition and came back to take second in the pole vault on Sunday, clearing 9-6.
At the pentathlon, she was first in the shot put (29-03.75), third in the 100-meter hurdles (17.42), fourth in the long jump (15-06.25), tied for seventh in the high jump (4-05.50) and was eighth in the 800 at 2:56.13.
Her teammates Stephanie Baptiste and Kerry Shea finished fifth and sixth overall in the pentathlon. Baptiste was second in the 100-meter hurdles (16.94), fourth in the shot put (26-04.25), fifth in the long jump (15-06), tied for ninth in the high jump (4-03.50) and was 11th in the 800 (3:04.18).
Shea finished third in the high jump (4-09.50), sixth in the 100-meter hurdles (18.11), seventh in the 800 (2:56.13), eighth in the shot put (21-02.50) and tenth in the long jump (14-04.50).
Additionally on Sunday, Baptiste was sixth in the 100-meter hurdles at 15.78 and eighth in the triple jump at 34-06.25, while Shea was 20th in the high jump clearing 4-9.
Ladderbush and Shea also joined Grace Higgins and Cassidy Gruning to finish third in the 4x100 relay with a collective time of 50.99. Gruning was also tied for fourth in the high jump clearing 5-0 and Higgins was also a part of the third place 4x400 relay team along with Paige, Abby Hansbury and Ryan Quinn, who had a collective time of 4:13.18. Higgins was also 11th overall in the 400 at 1:02.19.
"Grace Higgins didn't have her best day of the season and she's been awesome for us all season, but she was a part of the 4x100 relay team that came in third, she was a part of the 4x400 relay team that came in third as well," said Cusick. "She was on two relay teams that made it to the all-states and those are the points that really clinched second place for us."
The two other place finishes came from Julia Dillon, who was fifth in the javelin throwing 104-04 and senior Lily Robinson, who was tremendously gutsy in the two-mile, coming in at 11:51.52, also good for fifth place.
Rounding out the competitors in the running events included Jess Satterfield and Isabelle Carleton, who were 13th and 21st in the 400-meter hurdles with times of 1:10.76 and 1:13.42, Devyn Veits was 21st in the two-mile at 12:45.61 and the 4x800 relay team of Molly Cremin, Sophia Eskenas, Caitlin Conneely and Maci Chapman were 22nd at 11:27.54.
In the field events, Faith Mazzapica was 13th in the discus at 88-02 and 19th in the shot put at 29-01, while Abby Demos was 17th in the shot put throwing 29-09.
Cusick added that the entire coaching staff from both programs deserve a lot of credit.
"A huge shout out to the coaching staff for getting these kids ready. First to Peter Molloy who works with the sprinters, Jill Paige who works with the sprinters and jumpers, Tatum Pecci, who has been back from UMass-Lowell and she has been really, really helpful just as a presence and it's great to have that enthusiasm. Andrea Caprio our javelin coach has done a phenomenal job getting Julia Dillon going, Mike Davis obviously in the throws, so we just have a real good group of people.
"It's a lot of fun to be at these meets where there's high stakes and you are nervous but it's a fun type of nervous because you are running around checking scores and results, every event matters and there's stakes to it so the meet just feels more meaningful that way," he said.
This Saturday, three individuals and two relay teams will represent Tewksbury at the All-State Meet to be held at Westfield State University. Paige is seeded first in both the 400-meter hurdles and 800 and Ladderbush is 17th in the pole vault and 18th in the pentathlon.
Also the 4x400 relay team is seeded 20th and the 4x100 relay team is seeded 21st.