Vineyarders off to the races

They kick off first home meet in two years.

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The track is back.

Our hard-bitten winter gave way to sun and scudding cloud puffs on Wednesday as the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) held its first home meet in more than two years on a newly refurbished track surface against Durfee High School of Fall River.

The mood on the track infield was celebratory, as more than 100 Island parents, sibs, and schoolmates watched their faves run, jump, and throw. For some parents, this was their first opportunity to see their kids in competition. The Vineyarders have competed only in off-Island meets for more than two years after the MVRHS track was deemed unusable for competition.

For the record, the girls won 71-54, and the boys by a 73-52 count. Family and friends enjoyed seeing the Vineyarders in action.

“We appreciate having this track, and so grateful for the opportunity to see [my daughter] compete. I haven’t been able to watch her for a couple of years,” said Sharon Engler, mother of senior Rose Engler, a top-ranked New England runner.

After placing second in her 1,600-meter hurdles heat, Rose Engler was loving her track life. “It’s so good to have this support. It makes me feel proud to feel the community, to represent it at home like this,” she said, adding she wouldn’t miss track life on the road. “We’d leave at noon and get back at 8:30 at night; it was tough academically,” she said. Engler had two second-place finishes and won the triple jump, as did Dash Christy for the boys in his first-ever track meet.

Coach Joe Schroeder said he saw the benefits of home cookin’ on his team. “You don’t have to manufacture adrenaline. Mackenzie Condon, for example, knew she had better times and distances in her, and the home atmosphere helped,” Schroeder said. Condon won four events, and qualified for the state tourney in two hurdle events and in the long jump.

“Having a home track is an important experience, particularly for the sophomores and juniors who’ve never competed at home,” Schroeder said.

Parent Greg Rollins was attending his first-ever track meet, supporting son Kyle who threw the javelin, put the shot, and ran the dashes, as does teammate Owen Porterfield. Those are unlikely combinations of events, but are what Island athletes tend to do.

“This is really interesting. I never realized the number of simultaneous events that occur in track meets,” Rollins said. Holding his son’s javelins, Rollins drew a laugh from Vineyard athletic director Mark McCarthy when the senior Rollins said he would compete. “I have a year of eligibility left,” Rollins declared.

It was that kind of afternoon. People just glad to be there. “I’m beaming inside and out,” Janet Packer said in the parking lot on the way in to the meet. “What a day,” she said. Her beam would get brighter minutes later when son Nate Packer put the shot 43 feet, 11 inches, his personal best, qualifying him for statewide competition on his second toss of the season.

“Having the track back is so important. Track represents a sizable percentage of the student population, and for kids to be able to see track will help the program to grow,” parent Fred Condon said.

The formula for victory was simple on Wednesday. “Sprints and throwing events were Durfee’s team strengths. We took jumps, distances, and hurdles,” Schroeder said.

He pointed to what he terms his “glue” competitors, such as Captain J.P. Alves, who took three thirds. “Those are the performances that get you the points that win meets,” Schroeder said, also complimenting assistant coaches Joel Graves, David Araujo, and Mike Laver, “who’ve hung in there for two years on the road,” Schroeder said.

Other notables included Tyla Packish, winner of the girls 100-meters, and Catherine Cherry and Amber Cuthbert, who finished first and second in the two-miler.

The Vineyarders take on Bishop Feehan on Wednesday, April 25, at 3 pm at MVRHS.