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Raiders Run ’Em Ragged: Boys Win States; Freshman Girl Excels

  • Corinne Kennedy of Lebanon leads in a preliminary heat of the girls 55 meter hurdles during the NHIAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships at Leverone Field House in Hanover, N.H., Sunday, February 2, 2014. Kennedy took second place in the final heat.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Corinne Kennedy of Lebanon leads in a preliminary heat of the girls 55 meter hurdles during the NHIAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships at Leverone Field House in Hanover, N.H., Sunday, February 2, 2014. Kennedy took second place in the final heat.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Josh Fontaine of Lebanon leads in the 3000 meter run before being overtaken by Eli Moskowitz of Souhegan during the NHIAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships at Leverone Field House in Hanover, N.H., Sunday, February 2, 2014. Fontaine finished with a time of 9 minutes 13.1 seconds.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Josh Fontaine of Lebanon leads in the 3000 meter run before being overtaken by Eli Moskowitz of Souhegan during the NHIAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships at Leverone Field House in Hanover, N.H., Sunday, February 2, 2014. Fontaine finished with a time of 9 minutes 13.1 seconds.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • John Cioffredi of Lebanon clears 6 feet, 6 inches in the high jump, winning the event during the NHIAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships at Leverone Field House in Hanover, N.H., Sunday, February 2, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    John Cioffredi of Lebanon clears 6 feet, 6 inches in the high jump, winning the event during the NHIAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships at Leverone Field House in Hanover, N.H., Sunday, February 2, 2014.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Corinne Kennedy of Lebanon leads in a preliminary heat of the girls 55 meter hurdles during the NHIAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships at Leverone Field House in Hanover, N.H., Sunday, February 2, 2014. Kennedy took second place in the final heat.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Josh Fontaine of Lebanon leads in the 3000 meter run before being overtaken by Eli Moskowitz of Souhegan during the NHIAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships at Leverone Field House in Hanover, N.H., Sunday, February 2, 2014. Fontaine finished with a time of 9 minutes 13.1 seconds.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • John Cioffredi of Lebanon clears 6 feet, 6 inches in the high jump, winning the event during the NHIAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships at Leverone Field House in Hanover, N.H., Sunday, February 2, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Hanover — Time prevented John Cioffredi from thinking once, let alone twice, before he won the long jump and the high jump and threw second-farthest in the shot put for the Lebanon High boys at the NHIAA Division II indoor track championships on Sunday.

As for the run-up to the 4x200-meter relay race that closed the meet and clinched the team title for the Raiders by 4½ points over runner-up Portsmouth? Let Cioffredi count the ways.

“It was killer, waiting for that 4-by-2,” the senior said. “I’ve never had a longer 15 minutes in my life. This was my first time running a relay since, maybe, the middle of April last year.”

Cioffredi finally stopped worrying while teammate Craig Telfer sprinted around Dartmouth College’s Leverone Field House, then handed him the baton for the anchor leg. Needing to finish fifth or better, Cioffredi held onto the baton, and third place, to deliver the Raider boys’ first indoor championship since a 2010 tie and first outright crown since 2009, capping a day that also saw freshman sprinter-jumper Corinne Kennedy win two events to lead the Lebanon girls to third place.

“Since he’s also playing basketball this year, he’s been doing nothing but field events all season for us,” Lebanon’s new head coach, Kevin Lozeau, said of Cioffredi. “We didn’t want to wear him out. But we needed him for this relay. And the way he did for us all day, he executed.”

While Cioffredi was amassing 28 team points for Lebanon with a meet-record tying high jump of 6 feet, 6 inches, a winning long jump of 20-5.5 and an indoor personal-best shot put of 48-6.5, junior Will Merchant was following him from event to event. Merchant contributed eight team points with second place in the long jump (19-11.5) and four with a fourth-place high jump of 5-10.

All while, Merchant was hoping that whatever ailed him for most of last week didn’t come back to bite him.

“It was a bad cold, some virus,” Merchant recalled. “Tuesday I didn’t do anything in practice, and I stayed home Wednesday through Friday. Yesterday, I felt like I could do something again. I came here today and decided to see what happened.”

Telfer happened to finish second by 17-100ths of a second to defending champion Ben DeForest of Souhegan in the 55-meter hurdles and fifth in the 300-meter dash (good for two points) before handing the baton to Cioffredi in the closing relay.

And before finishing sixth (one point) in the 1,500-meter run, Josh Fontaine kicked past Portsmouth’s Brian Reaney in the final lap of the 3,000 to finish second for eight more points.

“Will’s been great,” Cioffredi said of Merchant. “He’s been picking up points where people didn’t think he could. Ninety-nine percent of the time, things go to the people with the natural talent. Then about one percent of the time, it’s the guy who has the most heart who comes through.”

Take Matt Stebbins, who ran the first leg of the 4x200 relay and handed the baton to Merchant in fourth place.

“When you’re leading off, you know you’ve got to get out of the blocks ready to go,” Stebbins said. “It’s exhilarating. It’s such a rush.”

Cioffredi’s high-jumping duel with DeForest, whom he beat at the outdoor championships last spring and who matched Cioffredi height for height until the Raider cleared 6-6.

“Coming out of the shot put, I was a little bit fatigued,” Cioffredi recalled. “I wasn’t quite as confident as I usually am. Then Ben and I got going, and we like to keep it traditional: We always tend to duke it out. It gets me motivated.”

So did his no-height performance in that event and his 10th-place long jump of 16-5 at the 2013 indoor championships.

“Last year, I had some issues with my back and I was tight in my quads,” Cioffredi said. “So it’s great to be back here healthy, and with such a great team. This is the best group of guys I’ve been with.”

The first group of guys that Lozeau, a longtime assistant to Andrew Gamble, oversaw as head coach kept surprising him — right down to the fourth-place finish from the 4x800-meter relay team of Raphael Harriman, Teddy Bessette, Zak Kinsman and Martin Gradijan, and the half-point Kevin Pomer earned by tying for sixth in the high jump.

“Coming into the season, we were hoping for maybe top three,” Lozeau said. “Then as we went along, more kids were qualifying for states, and we knew we’d be close. Everybody just had to have a great day.”

On the girls side, Kennedy debuted in a state meet with a day worth celebrating.

In the final round of the long jump, she answered Coe-Brown junior Jelesa Nelson’s flight of 16 feet, 5 inches with a 16-5.75. And after finishing four-10ths of a second behind 55-meter hurdles winner Nancy Taban of Merrimack Valley and third in the 55-meter dash, she won the 300-meter dash by almost a second.

“My team expected a lot from me,” Kennedy said. “I expected to do well in the hurdles and the 300. With the long jump, I figured I would see what happens. On the last one, (jumping-sprinting coach) Laura (Barre) said, ‘Just go for it.’ ”

Georgia Michalovic long-jumped to fifth place to round out the scoring for the Raider girls, who finished six points behind runner-up Oyster River and 45 behind defending champion Coe-Brown.

For Hanover, Olivia Hinch scored the girls’ four team points with a fourth-place time of 1:42.37 in the 600-meter run. For the Marauder boys, the 4x200 relay team finished fifth.

Reed Bell finished fourth in the 300-meter dash for the Kearsarge boys, and Shane Corley rounded out the Cougars’ scoring by running fifth in the 1,500-meter race.

David Corriveau can be reached at dacorriveau@gmail.com or 603-727-3304.