AYER – The District E Division 2 championship is a highly competitive meet featuring all small schools in Worcester County. Despite being at a disadvantage in school enrollment compared to the competition, similar to the past couple of decades, Ayer Shirley Regional High School was right in the thick of things.
Powerhouse Littleton ran away with the meet with 94 points, but the Panthers pulled into a top 3 performance in third place behind Parker Charter, continuing a long-time legacy in track and field of the school’s continued success.
“The boys’ finished third in the district, and we’re really happy with that,” Ayer Shirley Regional High School Boys’ Track and Field head coach Chris Donovan said. “I figured we’d be a top 5 team. I also figured we were not going to beat Littleton, they are a wagon right now, they’re just so loaded top to bottom; field and running. You kind of go in knowing the best is second, which is a little discouraging, but also you’ve got to tip your hat to them, they’ve got quite a program.”
Jacob Kalgren led the way for the Panthers, capturing a gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.97 seconds. Kalgren doubled up in the shot put, pulling in a very respectable third-place throw of 46 feet and 5 inches, which is part of the reason he is Division 1 bound next year for track in college.
“We’re happy for (Kalgren),” Donovan said. “He struggled through indoors with some injuries, but he also took third place in shot put, which is sort of a weird double, you don’t see that very often. He’s going to Northeastern University next year to be a decathlete.”
Mid-distance events have been a strong point for Ayer Shirley all season – might be quite the understatement – and a sampling came in the 400m with Arthur Ribeiro (51.58) and Cole New (51.69) taking second and third, both of which return next year. Patrick Bergin’s fifth-place showing in the 800m (2:02.85) is another example of this depth, especially considering the elite competition in the event in Central Mass.
Speaking of up-and-coming, eighth grader Jake Leone hauled home a fifth in the 2-mile (10:32.94), certainly a bright start to a very bright future. Leone started the season faster than expected and has been dabbling in both the 1 and 2-mile. Saturday, he shaved 16 seconds off his seed time.
Top performances from the district meet will advance to the Division 6 State Championship on the slate for this weekend at Westfield State University. Kalgren and the 400 runners have punched their tickets, and there may be other Panthers to sneak in. A competitive mile relay is also expected to make an experience. The following week top performances at the state divisionals advance to the All-State Championship, the top performers regardless of division.
Both Donovan and girls’ head coach Mike Seguin credit the success of both teams to not only the athlete's performances and efforts but the collective efforts of all coaches involved in the programs. Outside the head coaches, assistant coaches Andrew St. Germain, Dayna Kendall, and Garrett Lockhard continue to lift Ayer Shirley Regional to new heights.
“We’re really fortunate with coaches, everyone coaches everybody,” Donovan said. “We’ve got assistants that are just phenomenal. Andrew St. Germain is essentially a head coach, and we’re so fortunate to have him on our staff… We give him a lot of say in what we do, because we value his opinion and he’s an Ayer High graduate… (Lockhard) was a discus thrower on the team that won District All–Class (when the meet existed), he was ridiculously good in high school and is coaching the discus and shot… (Kendall) is helping out in pole vault, which we brought back for the first time in 20 years. We had zero knowledge in the event, and it’s going very well. We’re covering every event, we’ve got a dedicated coaching staff, and they’re dedicated.”
The Panthers finished the dual meet season undefeated, extending their dual meet winning streak to 38 in a row.