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Three champions and a team third for Concord boys

HANOVER – Jessica Boezeman and Aiyda Ghahramani couldn’t believe what they were seeing. The Concord High School indoor track and field coaches watched champion after champion after champion cross the finish line, and in a moment, the Crimson Tide, one of the smallest teams at the Division I championships, was on its way to the day’s biggest surprise.

Wins by BJ Smith, George Feliz and Tolbert Nemo in consecutive events lifted the five-person Concord boys’ team to a stunning third-place finish, as the Crimson Tide totaled 38 points to edge Londonderry (36) and come in behind Pinkerton (78) and Nashua North (75) at the state meet at Dartmouth College.

The Concord girls got second-place finishes from Rebecca Massah and Smita Boesch-Dining to total 16 points and finish eighth in what was also a close meet, as Bishop Guertin’s third-place finish in the 4x200-meter relay gave it 74 points, enough to top Londonderry (73), Winnacunnet (56), Bedford (55) and Exeter (34).

It was difficult to find a better storyline than Concord’s mid-race trifecta, which gave the Crimson Tide all but eight of its points for the day and jumped the previously scoreless team right into the mix.

“Both of us were practically having heart attacks through most of that,” Boezeman said. “It was pretty awesome. By the time Tolbert finished his race, everything after that was pretty much gravy.”

Concord knew it had points coming when Smith, the top seed in the 3,000, took to the track. The senior also had a 1,500 to run later in the day and ran accordingly, hanging back behind Nashua North’s Craig Hammond for much of the race before passing him at the start of the final lap and eventually winning with a time of 9:08.06.

“I just tried to take it easy (then) take control of the race,” said Smith, who also finished fourth in the 1,500. “I let him get right in front of me, that way he was doing all the work. I could just wait for the right opportunity to pass.”

“He ran such a great race,” Ghahramani said. “He ran a very, very smart race. He was patient, and he waited. … He wasn’t running for time, he was running for place.”

Another favorite came through in the next race, as top-seed Feliz won the 55 hurdles in 8.17 seconds. The result was expected by many, but Feliz said afterward that a good finish in hurdles is far from a given.

“There’s definitely pressure,” he said. “I never know how fast the opponents are. … I may be seeded first, but they can also be better than I can. I’ve never underestimated my opponents and I never will.”

The next race was the most surprising for Concord, as Nemo, seeded eighth in the 55 going into the meet, nipped Nashua North’s Zakari Jenkins by one one-hundredth of a second to finish first at 6.67 seconds.

Despite his low seeding, Nemo had the top time in preliminaries, and the senior knew he had a good shot at first when he lined up.

“I’m not surprised (with the finish),” he said. “I didn’t know how it was going to go. I just had to have a good day today, and that’s what happened.”

The boys’ team also consisted of Seimou Smith and Thomas O’Brien, and the two combined with Nemo and Feliz to finish fourth in the 4x200 in 1:37.81, capping off a day for the Tide that had both coaches beaming.

“We were pretty ecstatic,” Ghahramani said. “Three state champions, that’s pretty remarkable.”

The Tide girls were led by a pair of strong races as well. Massah was seeded second in the 55 hurdles going in and lived up to her billing, notching a time of 9.17 seconds that was good for a runner-up finish and her first trip to the New Englands in indoor track.

“Everyone’s going out there, doing their part, and I’m just trying to do my part to help my team,” said the junior, who credited teammate Feliz for helping prepare her to be one of the division’s top hurdlers. “Just trying to be a team player.”

Concord got its next high finish six events later, when Boesch-Dining, an indoor rookie despite her junior class, shaved 11 seconds off of her personal best time to place second in the 1,500 at 4:46.09.

She was the third seed in the event going in, and admitted that the high position can lead to nerves at the start of the race.

“It is sort of stressful,” she said. “You sort of just have to go in there with a positive attitude and work hard to get to the spot you want to be in.”

A lot of Concord’s high finishes on both sides simply followed suit after strong preliminaries, but it’s easier said than done to repeat the performance when it really counts – which the coaches were quick to point out.

“Aiyda and I had pretty high hopes for them all around, but you always come in nervous because you just never know, because people get worked up in their head. You never know what’s going to happen,” Boezeman said. “Every single one of them came in and did more than what we expected.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or abonifant@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @dbonifant.)

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