BYFIELD — It's become an annual tradition at Triton for a new female track athlete to burst onto the scene with a breakout performance on a statewide level.
This winter, sophomore Kerstin Darsney was the latest Triton athlete to find her way to the podium at a state championship meet. After placing third in the high jump at Division 3 Championships, she finished fifth in the same event at New England Championships with her top jump (5-5) of the season.
Darsney's top-five finish at New Englands capped a season in which she made gradual improvements in her first indoor season ever. She also placed fourth at the All-State Meet in the same event.
Her jump of 5-5 at New Englands was good for a school record. That's a particularly impressive feat when considering Triton's recent history. Deanna Latham (class of 2010) was a five-time Division 3 state champion in indoors. Latham, a jumper and hurdler in high school, is now a scholarship athlete at University of Wisconsin.
"As a sophomore, Kerstin has already jumped higher than Deanna," Triton coach Joe Colbert said. "It's not fair to compare them, because Deanna had an unbelievable career. But Kerstin has that kind of ability. She seems to want to reach that level."
Darsney is aware that Triton has a track tradition of producing champion athletes like Latham, Keely Maguire, Rachelle Bourque and Taelour Murphy. Maguire (UNH) and Bourque (UMass) are currently competing at a Division 1 level in college. Murphy is a top sprinter at UMass Lowell.
"This program has had some awesome people go through it," Darsney said. "I'm hoping if I work hard enough, I can do some of those things, like get back to New Englands. I'm hoping to win a state championship and Cape Ann League championships. All of that would be awesome."
Being a champion track athlete wasn't even a thought on Darsney's radar as an eighth-grader when she was a year-round gymnast. After suffering the second dislocation of her left shoulder in less than a year, she had surgery the summer before the start of her freshman year. The surgery effectively ended her gymnastics career.
"Gymnastics took so much time, I didn't expect much when I started track the next spring," Darsney said. "I had been out of sports for a while after surgery. The running scene is a lot different than gymnastics."
Darsney picked it up quickly, bouncing from event to event in search of her speciality. Colbert found that Darsney was versatile both on the track and in the field events. As a freshman, Darsney ran on a 4x100 relay team that qualified for the All-State Meet.
"It was pretty evident that she had serious talent," Colbert said. "I don't put a lot of pressure on our freshmen, but she had some great success. That was her first season competing in a high school sport. There was a lot of learning."
Darsney joined the Triton field hockey team last fall as means to get in shape for indoor track. By the end of this winter, she was consistently one of the state's best high-jumpers.
"It was a lot of hard work," Darsney said. "I stayed late some days to do extra jumps with our coaches."
Hard work and good health will be the key for Darsney if she is to be remembered among the best in Triton track history, Colbert said. Both Latham (hurdles) and Maguire (cross country) earned All-American honors in high school.
"We almost had to hold her back after the winter season ended," Colbert said. "She wanted to keep going. We expect her to compete through All-States again this spring, so she needed to take a break. I'm looking at it like she's someone who could compete in college, so she needs to learn to manage her schedule."