Hornets Runners Track Progress in Postseason


Dismiss the athletes on Manchester Essex boys and girls indoor track teams at your peril.

On paper, it might be easy to do so: Between them, the Hornets were able to pick up one team victory during the 2023-24 regular season, with the girls breaking through against Hamilton-Wenham on Jan. 23. And the roster size for both teams is small when compared to other teams in the Cape Ann League, making those team victories tough to come by in a sport where numbers are a crucial element for piling up wins.

All that being said, the regular season is now well in the rearview mirror, and ten members of those two teams (totaling 23 student-athletes between them) are still running. That means that just under half of the Hornets who competed this winter in the regular season qualified to compete in the MIAA Divisional Meet on Feb. 14, an impressive feat that also bodes well for the future of both programs.

“The regular season surpassed expectations,” explains ME indoor track coach Nicole Bembridge. “Being a smaller team is stacked against us for dual meets, but individually both teams were amazing. Highlights were definitely the amount of athletes that auto-qualified for [the Divisional Meet] early in the season. And the amount of athletes we had trying new events - and finding success - was great.

Among those slated to compete against the top competition in Div. 5 on Wednesday are Nate Gardner (55 high hurdles, 300 meter), Meg Hurd (55 meter dash, long jump, high jump) and Maggie Light (300 meter). Abby Kent and Cia Donohoe qualified to run in the 600 meter, while Charlie Lations, Sabine Cooper, Henry Stevens and Finn O’Hara were set to run in the mile. The girls 4x200 relay team of Light, Donohoe, Kent and Caroline Eliassen also went to the Divisionals.

The fact that there is so much talent here makes all the difference when the opportunity to win a meet presents itself, just like the win over the Generals last month.

“Hamilton-Wenham has a great program,” says Bembridge. “They are similar, with smaller numbers and very capable athletes. The girls pulled it off by giving it their all and helping each other out when needed.”

The numbers weren’t quite there that day for the boys to pull off the same feat, however.

“The boys were great as well, but that meet we were down about 50 percent of the boys’ point scorers from injury or sickness,” explains Bembridge. “A full team may have turned it around, but you never know, Hamilton-Wenham may have had a bunch out, too. We can only show up and give our best, and I know both of my teams did just that.”

The regular season ended in January, but February provided two more opportunities for Hornet runners to shine with the Cape Ann League Open on Feb. 6 and the MSTCA Invitational on Feb. 10.

Three attended and two qualified for the next level during the Feb. 10 meet, with Cooper completing the mile with a time of 5:54.22 and Donohoe recording a time of 1:47.83 in the 600 meter, a personal best.

“These are two hard working young ladies, so I'm pretty pumped for them,” Bembridge says of the performances.

Both the boys and girls teams finished eighth overall in the CAL Open, with more standout performances for the record books. Gardner was a named a CAL All-Star while also winning the 55 high hurdles (7.74) and finishing fourth in the 55 meter dash and 300 meter.

“They ran the hurdle and dash prelims and finals back-to-back,” explains Bembridge. “He was still at the finish line of hurdles when they had the dash finals at the finish line. He did a legitimate track workout that day.”

Hurd also earned CAL All-Star status, while finishing third in the long jump (16’5.50), fifth in the 55 meter dash (personal record of 7.78) and fifth in the high jump (personal record of 4’10). Light qualified and finished in seventh in the 300 meter with a time of 44.87, and according to her coach, “…left flames on the track with a huge personal record in the 300 meter.”

Kent finished seventh in the 600 meter (personal record of 148.12) and 55 meter (personal record of 8.07). Stevens accomplished his goal of getting under 5 minutes in the mile, recording a PR of 4:57.26, good enough to qualify for the Division 5 meet and a seventh-place finish.