MV’s Lessard claims title at New Hampshire High School Decathlon/Heptathlon

  • Merrimack Valley’s Dylan Lessard competes during the New Hampshire High School Decathlon/Heptathlon last weekend at Nashua High School South. He placed first the decathlon in a field of 76 boys. Courtesy

  • Merrimack Valley’s Dylan Lessard accepts a plaque for winning the New Hampshire High School Decathlon/Heptathlon last weekend at Nashua High School South. He placed first among 76 boys in the decathlon. Courtesy

  • Merrimack Valley’s Theresa Irving competes in the high jump during the New Hampshire High School Decathlon/Heptathlon last week at Nashua South High School. She finished ninth in the heptathlon. Courtesy

  • Merrimack Valley’s Theresa Irving competes in the high jump during the New Hampshire High School Decathlon/Heptathlon last week at Nashua High School South. She finished ninth in the heptathlon. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 6/18/2019 9:40:26 PM

By last weekend most high school athletes had turned in their jerseys and were getting ready for summer. Merrimack Valley’s Dylan Lessard made the most of the last weekend of his junior year by becoming a champion.

Competing against some of the most skilled and versatile athletes in the state, Lessard did well in the second day of competition at the New Hampshire High School Decathlon/Heptathlon on Sunday at Nashua High School South, taking advantage of events that played to his strengths and exceeded his own expectations in others to claim the decathlon title with 5,478 points.

Lessard was fourth through the first five events in Saturday’s competition, trailing the Day 1 leader, Nashua South’s Paul Marchand, by 308 points, but finished in the top six in all five of Sunday’s events to claim the victory.

“It was his first time competing in the decathlon and he truly embraced it,” Merrimack Valley head coach Bob Mullen said. “Going into the meet we thought top five. After the first day we’re starting to think in the back of our minds, ‘Okay let’s win this thing.’ ”

Lessard performed well enough in the Day 1 events (high jump, long jump, shot put, 100 meters, 400 meters) to stay in contention for the crown and steadily gained ground on Marchand by finishing second in the discus and javelin, sixth in the 100-meter hurdles, and tying for sixth in the pole vault to move up to second place with one event remaining.

“He is just a tough kid with a lot of ability,” Mullen said. “He is a pretty well-built kid, but he is an all-around athlete. He was right on his split (on the first lap of the 1,500 meters). He stayed right on the leader and it pulled him right along.”

Lessard pleasantly surprised himself with a fifth-place finish in the 1,500 meters after clocking in at 4:45.12 – an impressive time for a distance runner, let alone for an athlete who mostly hurdles and throws – was good for second in his heat and fifth overall.

“He stuck to the strategy,” Mullen said. “The kids he was competing with (for the decathlon lead) were not in his heat, so he just went for it.”

With all 10 events in the books, Lessard narrowly surpassed Marchand’s 5,449 points – a 29-point difference – for the crown, topping the field of 76 athletes.

Former Bow High track standout and recent Cushing Academy graduate, Dominique Biron, scored 4,337 points, which would have given her a third heptathlon title, but only competed in the meet as an exhibition, which allowed Nashua South’s Sydney Lewis (3,782 points) to defend her 2018 heptathlon title.

Biron won the heptathlon in 2016 and 2017 and won the 200 (26.37 seconds), shot put (32 feet, 10 inches) and javelin (112-4) over the weekend.

Merrimack Valley’s Theresa Irving, also a junior, finished ninth with 3,131 points thanks to a strong Day 2 of competition.

Irving was 11th through the first day of competition (100-meter hurdles, long jump, 200 meters, high jump) thanks to a personal-best mark in the high jump (5-1¾), good for second place in the event.

Irving finished sixth in the javelin and also had a strong day in the shot put and 800 to move up a couple spots on Sunday.

“She proved something to herself,” Mullen said. “I thought she overachieved. Next year she wants to be a hurdler, too.”

Both Lessard and Irving had strong outdoor track seasons, with Lessard getting named the MV boys’ team Most Valuable Player by the coaching staff.

Lessard was the leadoff leg on MV’s winning 4x400 relay, the anchor on the seventh-place 4x100, placed second in the 300 hurdles and fifth in the 110 hurdles at the Division II meet.

“I think we surprised a lot of people with our third-place finish at the Division II meet,” Mullen said of the MV boys’ team. “We decided Dylan was the MVP of the team. We felt like he was the one kid we couldn’t do without. He took on that role (as a leader) all season. He took on all the tough jobs.”

Irving tied for fourth in the high jump, finished fifth in the triple jump and eighth in the javelin at the D-II meet, helping the MV girls’ team finish 12th overall.

Preparing for the decathlon/heptathlon meant extra weeks training with the entire MV coaching staff – including Dave Irving (coaches distance and mid-distance events), Buzz Gagne (javelin), Jeff Neilsen (high jump) – and lots of time with coach Mullen, especially on the pole vault.

Points are awarded in the decathlon/heptathlon based on time and mark – not by place – with the skill events (such as the pole vault and discus) being weighed more heavily than the simpler running events.

Lessard’s training for the decathlon effectively started at the beginning of the outdoor track season, when Mullen noticed the initiative Lessard took in learning about coaching and training in all the events. This especially paid off in Sunday’s pole vaulting competition during the rain, which caused a delay in some of the events.

“Dylan made some nice adjustments on his own. A lot of credit goes to him for doing what he needed to do,” Mullen said. “This season he really started to interpret what was going on coaching-wise. He does a lot of looking around and does a lot of self-study. He’s a student of the sport now. That’s really a lot of fun for us, to have a kid who truly loves track. He trains hard.”

Lessard is the fourth Pride athlete to win the decathlon/heptathlon in Mullen’s 28 years with the MV track program.

Other local competitors in the decathlon included Pembroke’s Tyler May (12th), Christian Army (19th), James Dupuis (25th), Michael Harris (26th), Harry Army (32nd), Jake Darcy (60th), D’Andre Mitchell (64th) and Devon Peabody (66th).

The heptathlon featured Pembroke’s Cassidy Rondeau (19th), Amanda Montminy (21st), Madison Bennett (23rd), Molly Keyes (35th) and Alysse Cleasby (45th) also competed, as did Bishop Brady’s Abby Shagena (24th) and MV’s Rebecca Williams (47th).

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