By Dan Guttenplan
---- — With many of the state tournaments for high school team sports set to conclude this week, it seems early to roll out the seasonal “Top 10 Moments” column.
In past years, we’ve seen local baseball and softball teams compete in state-championship games. Not this season. However, the early end to the spring season does not mean it was without its moments of great accomplishments.
Below, I’ve selected some of the top feats from the last three months.
1. Preston into action: Newburyport senior track and field star Steve Preston finished off his career in style by collecting an All-State championship in the discus (155-5). The four-year thrower broke the school record in the discus, giving him the Newburyport indoor record in the shot put and the outdoor record in the discus. Preston bested Newburyport’s previous discus record of 148-3, which was set by Jim Barrett in 1965, on five of his six throws June 1. He had throws of 132-0, 151-0, 155-5, 148-10, 149-6 and 151-5. Preston is only the second Newburyport All-State champion in school history. Kyanna Stallings won the 100 meters at Newburyport in 2000 before continuing her track career at UMass Amherst.
2. More of the same for Amesbury softball: Historically, one of the most consistently dominant teams in the area, the Amesbury softball team collected a Cape Ann League Division 2 championship with a 14-1 record in league play. The Indians finished 19-3 overall, falling in the Division 2 North semifinals against Burlington. The Indians got the upper hand on rival Newburyport, dealing the Clippers (14-7) three of their seven losses — including one in the Division 2 North semifinals.
3. A Governor’s mansion: The Governor’s Academy had a strong spring on the athletic fields with both the baseball and softball teams taking home Independent School League titles. The baseball team finished 16-4 to split the ISL championship. The softball team went undefeated (16-0) thanks to starting pitcher and league MVP Sarah Dupere of Amesbury. Also worthy of note was the boys lacrosse team’s 14-2 record this season.
4. Late-season charge from the Clippers: In jeopardy of missing the state tournament with two weeks remaining in the season, the Newburyport baseball team went on a run in late May. The Clippers rattled off eight straight victories, including a win over defending state champion North Reading in the Division 3 quarterfinals. The season came to an end with a 6-2 loss to Whittier Tech in the semifinals, but not before Clipper fans starting having flashbacks of the 2011 state-championship run.
5. On track for record feats: Several local athletes stepped up with top performances in statewide competitions at the end of the season. Newburyport sophomore Nick Carleo collected a Division 4 championship in the mile (4:28), leading the Clippers to a second-place finish as a team. Amesbury’s Evan King won the javelin (169-7) in the same meet. Pentucket athletes flashed their prowess in the pole vault at the Division 3 championships, when Tom Funk earned the boys’ title (11-0) and Ali Attenasio took the top spot (9-6) in the girls meet. Amesbury’s Perry Mroz placed second in the shot put (55-1 1/2) at the All-State Championships, breaking a 21-year-old school record. Pentucket’s McKenna Kilian placed third overall in the Mass. Heptathlon and Decathlon Championships with 3,546 points.
6. Ready for the next step: The Newburyport boys lacrosse team continued its run of strong regular-season play over the last four seasons. The Clippers have a cumulative record of 58-14 over the last four seasons, although they are just 2-4 in the state tournament. This year’s team collected one of those tourney wins despite suffering a rash of injuries at midseason. Sophomore Mike Shay had nine goals in his team’s tournament win over Norwell.
7. Historic tourney moment: The Newburyport girls lacrosse team collected a victory in a state tournament game for the first time in program history. The 11th-seeded Clippers (12-7) dealt sixth-seeded Watertown (16-1-1) its first loss of the season in the opening round of the Division 2 North tournament. The Clippers eventually bowed out of the tournament against Wayland, but not before setting a school record for wins.
8. Amesbury’s continued ascent: On the heels of a strong winter season, Amesbury athletics continued to thrive this spring in the Cape Ann League. As usual, the softball team finished at the top of the league, but other sports teams also garnered recognition. Softball coach Chris Perry, track coach Ernie Bissaillon and girls tennis coach Brett Manoloff all earned Coach of the Year honors. The boys track, girls track and girls tennis teams all earned CAL Sportsmanship Awards.
9. Worst to nearly first: The Pentucket boys lacrosse team made a surprising appearance in the state tournament one year after finishing with an 0-14 record. This year’s team finished 13-7, falling to Winchester in the opening round of the state tournamement.
10. An admirable title defense: The Georgetown baseball team defended its Division 4 state championship with pride, starting the season with wins in its first seven games. The Royals eventually ran out of gas, finishing 14-8 with a loss to Lowell Catholic in the Division 4 tournament semifinals.