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Winchester track & field athletes head for nationals

Winchester’s ‘Four Freshmen’ Eloise Woelk, left, Chloe Walker, Bridget Higgins and Riley Newman in matching outfits before heading to airport for the Nike Nationals in Oregon. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/PETER CASEY

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For most seniors, the work of high school is done. They’ve graduated, been to the prom, and maybe had a few parties. The remaining juniors, sophomores, and freshmen are still marking time with the last few days of school slowly passing by with their sights on summer vacation. 

But, for a small group of Winchester High students there is one more achievement yet to be finished.  Seventeen athletes from Winchester Track & Field are heading to the national outdoor track and field event to compete against the best high school athletes in the country.

A Winchester athlete competes in the high jump. COURTESY PHOTO

Six WHS athletes head to Philadelphia for the New Balance Nationals and 11 athletes travel to Oregon for the Nike Nationals. Coaches and some parents go along on the trips. The events are organized by the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation with sponsorships from Nike, New Balance, and Adidas which runs another event in North Carolina.

Winchester’s team consists of five seniors, seven juniors, one sophomore, and four freshmen girls who qualified for the 4x800 relay and have dubbed themselves the “Four Freshmen.”

It's up and over at a track meet in Burlington. COURTESY PHOTO

Head Coach Jason Cacciapuoti has been to nationals before, as have previous WHS Track & Field coaches. 

“Winchester has a pretty good history of qualifying for the nationals,” he said. “We have qualified annually for the last four years.”  

Cacciapouti headed out to the Nike Nationals in Oregon while assistant coaches Coley Carden and Francesca Pellegrini will go to the New Balance Nationals in Philadelphia.

Cacciapouti explained the thrill for these student athletes, beyond competing in a national event, is the venue.

“For the athletes doing it for the first time, it’s amazing,” he said. “Walking into the stadium for the first time, along with the top athletes from across the country, the ability to compete at these college facilities. It’s just a great experience.”

A member of the Winchester Track & Field team competes in the long jump. COURTESY PHOTO

The athletes

The student athletes attending the New Balance Nations and competing individually or in teams are:

4x1-Mile Team Relay: Wes Kaukas-Quinn, senior; Owen Burnstein, junior; Tim Hamilton, senior; and Nick Walker, junior.

Distance Medley Relay (DMR) 600/1200/800/400: Wes Kaukas-Quinn, senior; Owen Burnstein, junior; Tim Hamilton, senior; and Tyler Johnson, senior.

Steeple Chase: Mikayla Ferguson, senior.

The student athletes attending the Nike Nationals and competing individually or in teams are:

Discus: Mia Kurtz, senior.

100-Meter Dash: Danny Killian, junior.

Javelin: Leo Volchok, sophomore.

4x200 Relay: James Flemming, junior; James Yasziti, junior; Toby Janowski, junior; and Danny Killian, junior.

4x100 Relay: James Fleming, junior; James Yazici, junior; Danny Killian, junior; and Natan Naykene, junior.

4x800 Relay: Eloise Woelk, freshman; Chloe Walker, freshman; Bridget Higgins; freshman; and Riley Newman, freshman.

Winchester runs in the Middlesex League and the team had more than 200 athletes during the spring. 

Cacciapuoti said it’s a very strong field.

The race is on between Winchester and Melrose during a track meet. COURTESY PHOTO

“The boys team had a little bit more success this year finishing second or third in events,” he said. “The girls have been finishing in the top eight the last years in team events.”

Cacciapuoti said he enjoys the coaching.

“I love the sport in terms of training the athlete, trying to achieve their potential,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun trying to motivate athletes…and progressing them forward.”

He said track and field is different from other sports.

A track meet during the regular season sees boys competing. COURTESY PHOTO

“The culture of track and field, it’s still a team, but it’s a different vibe,” he said. “It’s focused around supporting each other, really pulling for each other, rooting for each other.

“Pushing for individual improvement and that also leads to team success,” Cacciapuoti continued. “In track and field, they train together. Not often do they go off on their own, they push each other. It has individual effort and team camaraderie. It’s different and unmatched in other sports.”

‘The Four Freshmen ’

As for the four freshmen girls — Eloise Woelk, Chloe Walker, Bridget Higgins, and Riley Newman — running in their first national competition, Cacciapuoti said this is new for Winchester.

“For us, it’s unique,” he said. “I don’t recall us having four freshmen qualify for a relay for the national event. These four young athletes ran a really great race, not something we had before.”

Riley Newman and Chloe Walker are members of the Freshmen Four, both of whom are going to the Nike Nationals. COURTESY PHOTO

The freshmen qualified May 11 at an invitational race at Triton Regional High School in Newbury.

Cacciapuoti said the four have grown as competitors and as a team.

“Bridget and Chloe were in the team in the winter and did a nice job building the team,” he said. “Riley and Eloise joined in the spring. I’m very excited for these four freshmen. They’re really good people. The kind of people you want to have on your team every year. “

The Freshmen Four in action during a track meet. COURTESY PHOTO

Schedule information and live webcasts of the track and field competition can be found on the following websites: Nike Nationals and New Balance Nationals.

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