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A Raider Resurrection: Lebanon Boys Track Back On Summit

  • Lebanon's John Cioffredi lands during a triple jump attempt at Saturday's NHIAA Division ll Track Championships in Pelham, N.H. Cioffredi won the event as well as the high jump and finished second in two other events for the champion Raiders.<br/><br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Lebanon's John Cioffredi lands during a triple jump attempt at Saturday's NHIAA Division ll Track Championships in Pelham, N.H. Cioffredi won the event as well as the high jump and finished second in two other events for the champion Raiders.

    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon's Corinne Kennedy (4) runs in a 100-meter hurdles heat at the NHIAA Division ll Track Championships in Pelham, N.H., on May 31, 2014.  Kennedy advanced to the finals, where she finished second.<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Lebanon's Corinne Kennedy (4) runs in a 100-meter hurdles heat at the NHIAA Division ll Track Championships in Pelham, N.H., on May 31, 2014. Kennedy advanced to the finals, where she finished second.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover's Chris Stocken in the last round of the discus throw at the NHIAA Division ll Track Championships in Pelham, N.H., on May 31, 2014. Stocken finished sixth. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Hanover's Chris Stocken in the last round of the discus throw at the NHIAA Division ll Track Championships in Pelham, N.H., on May 31, 2014. Stocken finished sixth.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon's John Cioffredi lands during a triple jump attempt at Saturday's NHIAA Division ll Track Championships in Pelham, N.H. Cioffredi won the event as well as the high jump and finished second in two other events for the champion Raiders.<br/><br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • Lebanon's Corinne Kennedy (4) runs in a 100-meter hurdles heat at the NHIAA Division ll Track Championships in Pelham, N.H., on May 31, 2014.  Kennedy advanced to the finals, where she finished second.<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • Hanover's Chris Stocken in the last round of the discus throw at the NHIAA Division ll Track Championships in Pelham, N.H., on May 31, 2014. Stocken finished sixth. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Pelham, n.h. — With three top-five finishes behind him and his next turn in the long jump just ahead, Will Merchant turned to see Josh Fontaine chasing the leader of the 3,200-meter race at Saturday’s New Hampshire Division II track championships.

Hurdling the string of blue and white pennants separating the the Pelham High track from the jumping pit, Merchant yelled to his Lebanon teammate, “Stay with him, Josh! Stick with him!”

By the time Fontaine arrived to return the favor, skin still agleam from the exertion of finishing second and vaulting Lebanon into a one-point lead over Portsmouth for the team title, Fontaine found Merchant exhorting Raider senior John Cioffredi to go the well one more time — on a day in which he’d already won the high jump and the triple jump and placed second in the shot put.

“Let’s win it right here,” Merchant said.

Turns out they already had: With Cioffredi long-jumping 21 feet, 1 inch for second place earlier in the competition, and Merchant 19-11 for fourth, the Raiders boys clinched their first outdoor title since 2010, on a day that also saw freshman Corinne Kennedy lead the Lebanon girls to fourth place.

“It was just a long day,” said Merchant, who also pole-vaulted 12-3 to second place, triple-jumped 41-6 to fifth and threw the javelin 159-1 for fifth. “We had a lot of events to do.”

And a lot of help: Along with Cioffredi’s 36 team points, Merchant’s 16 and Fontaine’s eight in the 3,200, senior hurdler Craig Telfer supplied 12 with finishes of second at 110 meters and fourth at 300. Meanwhile, senior Martin Gradijan supplied eight points by finishing a fraction of a second behind 800-meter winner Benjamin Chaimberg of Hanover High, Nevin Kapuscinski contributed six with a third in the 200-meter dash and triple-jumper Matt King and 1,600-meter runner Zak Kinsman each finished sixth for a point apiece.

“Cioffredi and Merchant) were definitely the guys we counted on,” Lebanon’s new head coach, Kevin Lozeau, said of Cioffredi and Merchant. “But everybody pulled the load today. Matt got everybody excited with his effort in the jumps.”

Anticipating a close fight with Portsmouth — Lebanon edged the Clippers by 4½ points at the Division II indoor meet in February — Cioffredi, who entered the meet as defending champion in the high jump and the shot put, figured he needed to add an event to his own load.

“I took one triple jump before today — to qualify,” the senior said. “I came in knowing I was going to have to do something big.”

Cioffredi’s victory in the triple jump loomed larger after Portsmouth’s Nick Ritzo dethroned him in the shot put with a throw of 53-11.5 (to Cioffredi’s 48-7.5), and bigger still after Coe-Brown’s Isaac Nowland sprang from the No.-8 seeding in the long jump to the top of the field with a 21-11.5, more than 2 feet farther than his qualifying distance.

“I just remembered how, my freshman year, we lost to Milford by just a few points, after winning it seven years in a row,” Cioffredi said. “Even when some things didn’t go our way today, we showed we could make it count when it’s necessary.”

In the girls competition, where Coe-Brown Northwood Academy defended its team title by a wide margin, Kennedy was counting her blessings after winning the 300-meter hurdles in a meet-record 44.56 seconds and pushing winners Dominique Twombly of Oyster River and Nancy Taban of Merrimack Valley to the very end of the 200-meter dash and the 100 hurdles, respectively.

“I was actually thinking about going slower in the hurdles to save energy for the 200, but once I got out there, I went for it,” said Kennedy, who also finished third in the long jump.

“So by the time I got to the 200, I did better than I expected. I was so tired, I was just going to run for fun. But I was able to stay with Dominique. She is super nice. She pulled me right through it.”

Lozeau can’t wait to see Kennedy and Twombly — a sophomore — duel the next two seasons.

“Corinne’s a talent,” Lozeau said. “She’s really focused. She knows how to execute.”

Joining Kennedy with point-producing performances for the Lebanon girls were Samantha MacDonald with a third place in the 300 hurdles and a fourth in the pole vault; Lauren Anikis with the fourth-place high jump; and Hannah King fifth in the triple jump.

For the Stevens High boys, Kai Kleyensteuber leapfrogged from the No.-7 seeding to the winner’s circle in the discus with a throw of 132 feet, 8 inches, adding a fourth-place toss in the javelin. Meanwhile, Akeem Bailey sprinted to fifth in the 100-meter dash and sixth in the 200.

In addition to Chaimberg’s winning 800-meter run, Chris Stocken scored a point for the Hanover boys with the sixth-best throw in the discus. Hannah Wittmann put the Marauder girls on the scoreboard by tying for sixth in the pole vault.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.