AYER – The Ayer Shirley girls’ indoor track team is the perfect combination of experienced but also future oriented, with a large number of sophomores and juniors taking leadership positions. But the biggest feature of the Panthers is their versatility, as a number of the top-end athletes are more than capable of doing a number of events.
“Our biggest strength is our versatility,” Ayer Shirley Regional girls’ track and field head coach Mike Seguin said. “The girls work hard, and can literally move around between the events so well. If someone is having an off-day or is injured, we have a few girls that can step right in and we won’t miss a beat.”
Last season, Ayer Shirley finished the regular season undefeated and were league champions. This year there is an adjustment in the local track schedule, doing away with dual meets, in favor of invitational in season meets with a league championship at the end of the season.“Almost everybody is returning,” Seguin said. “We’re only missing our top thrower from last year, but we have some really, really fast kids in the mid-distance, in the hurdles, jumps, I think we’re very well-rounded.”
Ayer Shirley boasts a lot of versatility in the sprints. Chandra Eli-Johnson, Sastea Cherduville, and Jordan Kosakowski lead the sprinting crew. Eli-Johnson and Cherduville offer some sheer speed in the lower distances, Kosakowski is strong in the lower distances, but dominates the 300-meter dash, as she offered a 45 second time last season in the Holiday Challenge.
Isabel Bresnahan shifts to the 600m run this year, and figures to be a sneaky top talent. Last year Besnahan was a 300m runner indoor, and 400m and 400m hurdle runner outdoor. Seguin thinks she’s more than capable of setting a new school record in the 600m. Devon Perwak will provide some quality depth in the event, while Ada Perwak will be moving up from the 600m to the 1,000m this year.
In the long distance, two girls standout and will shift around between the events. Carolyn Mason and Jane Marshall are coming off strong cross country seasons, but at the end of the day when championship season rolls around, they could make their bread and butter in the 2-mile. Both went to the state championships in the 2-mile last season.
The Panthers have a strong hurdle group, led by Grace Flanagan, a state-level runner looking to make a return trip off her 10-flat performance. Devin Delyani and Ada Perwak will provide some high-level depth in the event.
For the biggest meets that include long jump, a handful of Panther competitors are more than capable of making a splash, including up-and-coming eighth grader Jaliyah Mayes. Cherduville looks to be the front-running long jumper, while Mayes placed at the middle school state championship.
Alison Gravelle departs due to graduation, but Elyza Arnold looks to fill her shoes in the shot put. Gabrielle Sweeney will provide some depth, as well as anchor the team’s 4x200m relay.
Flanagan enters as the top high jumper on the team, and is likely the most versatile athlete on the team. Eli-Johnson is another proven leader in the high jump. In total there are about 8 high jumpers on the team. Delyani and Elizabeth Cruz will also be notable athletes in the event, and Cruz is one of those utility athletes capable of doing a lot of events.
The 4x200 placed at the state level last season, and that team ran a 1:52, and the mile relay will also be a strength with a 4:27.
“This group has been coming along for some time and is really coming into their own,” Seguin said. “We’ve spent the last two weeks shaking off the rust from other sports, and they’re being reminded of what the work is like in track and field. We’ve been trying to take advantage of the track as much as we can while we have it, before the snow covers the ground. Being able to get on the track with some really hard workouts, and being able to front load the season now, and once we lose the track we’ll have all of that work saved up for the championship days of the season.”