New Challenge For An Old Coach
Practices and meets will all be on the road for Tewksbury High's boys track team this spring.
After 28 years of coaching track at Tewksbury High, you'd think Steve Levine would have this thing down to a science.
But Levine's final season as the TMHS boys track coach will be anything but routine. With a new high school being constructed on the site that all 27 of Levine's previous spring track teams called home, the 2011 season will be new in many ways.
For openers, team practices are being spread out over several facilities every day. Less than two weeks into training, Levine's runners have trained in the Tewksbury High gym, the high school parking lot, behind the Ryan School, outside the Wynn Middle School and on the high school football field at Doucette Stadium.
"We're all over the place," said Levine, who will be retiring at the end of this school year. "We haven't had the whole team together in one spot since the first meeting of the season. It's a good thing we've got a great group of coaches working together in this program. Most days it probably looks like I don't do anything, because all I do is run around and make sure everybody else has everything they need."
Upperclassmen are organizing car pools, distance runners are jogging to training sites, and the athletes have been allowed to hop onto school buses which run past training locations at the end of the school day. Within a week's time, the track team will start taking buses to either Lowell High or Andover High to share practice facilities with those two programs. And every single meet will be an away meet this spring.
In spite of all the logistical challenges, the boys team is enjoying a tremendous turnout this year, with 86 athletes signed up for the team. That number is up by almost 30 participants over last year
This year's lengthy roster features several of the Merrimack Valley Conference's top performers from the 2010 season, and there's no reason to think the Redmen won't be in the race for the MVC small school title again this season. Tewksbury High has won 10 of the past 12 MVC Division 2 spring track championships.
Senior sprinter Anthony Arcari heads the list of high profile returners, and not just alphabetically. Arcari finished second overall in the 100 meter dash at the MIAA Division 2 state meet last year, and went on to take fourth place at the New England Championships.
In addition to being a standout running back on the Tewksbury High footbll team, Arcari won the Merrimack Valley Conference indoor track 55-meter dash title this past winter, and was seeded first in the Division 2 state meet, until a hamstring injury cut his season short.
"Anthony appears to be pretty close to 100 percent going into the season, but we won't know for sure until he really goes all out," Levine said. "But if he can come back to where he was when he got injured, he's almost unbeatable.
"Don't forget," Levine added. "He's better at the 100 than he is at the 50. If he's healthy, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with even at the all-state level."
Another of Tewksbury's top performers from last spring, senior multi-purpose man Ryan Vibber, also returns with injury concerns. A back injury suffered in football kept Vibber sidelined for the entire winter season, but he recently got medical clearance, and is on schedule to run in a scrimmage against Andover later this week.
Vibber is an accomplished high jumper, long jumper and triple jumper, and he excels at the 110-meter high hurdles. Vibber finished fourth in the state in the 110 meter hurldes last June, and took 13th overall at the Division 2 state meet in the triple jump.
"He's cleared to go," Levine said of Vibber. "He's got to get his wind back, but when he does he could qualify (for the state meets) in every event he does."
Vibber and fellow senior multi-purpose man Richard Kirby figure to be Tewksbury's high point scorers this spring. In many dual meets, both athletes have the potential to win three events.
Kirby, who is a standout soccer player, took fifth place in the 400-meter hurdles at last year's Division 2 state meet. He was also third in the MVC in the triple jump, fifth in the high jump and sixth in the long jump.
"Both of those guys (Kirby and Vibber) are like our decathletes," Levine said. "They're both excellent in several events. Kirby is probably the number one guy on our team right now, because he's in good health and good condition. We're looking for big things out of him."
Arcari, Kirby and Vibber will captain the team along with fellow seniors Jerry Etienne and Colin Foley.
Foley is the team's top retuning middle distance man, having taken 14th overall in the state in the 800 meters last spring. Foley took fifth in the 1000 meters in the Division 2 state meet this winter.
"Foley may be an even better miler than he is at the middle distances," Levine said. "We're considering running him in the mile some this spring, too."
Etienne is the team's top returning discus thrower, and one of the team's emotional leaders. He will compete in several throwing events.
"He's just a great kid," Levine said of Etienne. "He works so hard and he's involved in everything. He can't give enough to the school. He's one of those special athletes that every team loves to have."
Several other seniors are expected to play key roles in the team's success, including Dan Sugrue, who finished in the top 10 in the MVC in the shot put this year, and Patrick Bernardo, who has huge potential as a sprinter.
Johnny DiGiorgio should also be a big contributor as a sprinter and a jumper, while Stefan Monteiro is coming off a strong indoor season as a high jumper and a hurdler. Levine has high hopes for both Nick Parsons and Craig Tino in the middle distances, and Parsons is also the team's top returning pole vaulter.
Sophomore Brian Amaral should be the team's top two-miler while junior distance man Kip Horahan came on strong at the end of the winter season.
With over 80 athletes and 20 new freshmen on the team, there are sure to be some pleasant surprises this spring, too. Sorting it all out, with his team spread out over multiple locations, will be the biggest part of the job for Levine and his coaching staff.
"It's a new challenge," Levine said. "But I live on challenges. And (athletic director) Brian Hickey and the whole school system have done everything they can to make this easier on us. We'll get through it."