Lebanon Senior Looks to Go Out a Winner at NHIAA Track Championships

  • Lebanon junior Marcus Roper launches the shot put during the NHIAA D-II track and field championship at Kennett High Schoo in Conway on Saturday, May 27, 2017. (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, February 03, 2018

Lebanon — Marcus Roper sat in the Lebanon High weight room on Thursday afternoon feeling confident ahead of today’s NHIAA Division II indoor track and field championship meet at Dartmouth College’s Leverone Field House.

The senior thrower is ranked first among 20 shot-putters by about five feet, making him a heavy favorite at today’s meet. His college decision has already been made; Roper will throw shot puts, discuses, weights and javelins at Plymouth State University next year.

Some might settle into a deep, complacent state of senioritis. But Roper has some unfinished business to take care of after dodging what was diagnosed as torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last spring. It’s an injury famous for sending baseball pitchers and track and field throwers under the knife for Tommy John surgery.

The reality of his injury was much less severe, and all he needed was a few months of physical therapy. The PT left the bulky power thrower hurling lefty for much of the outdoor season. But it could have been a serious blow to his track and field future.

“I haven’t been hurt yet; I’m feeling great,” he said as music blasted in the background of the Lebanon weight room. “I got real lucky. I didn’t have to get Tommy John surgery or anything.”

Roper settled for third place (45 feet, 10 feet inches) at last winter’s D-II indoor championships behind Goffstown senior Oliver Gunski (48-09) and Coe-Brown senior Isaiah Allen (47-09); Roper eventually edged Gunski by 5.5 inches in the D-II outdoor championships last spring.

A year later, the Lebanon thrower is the top dog in D-II, and is preparing to leave his mark before taking the next step in his athletic career.

Roper qualified for the state meet by throwing a 50-1.75 foot shot put distance at a Jan. 21 meet at the University of New Hampshire, better than all of last year’s D-II indoor competitors.

And while his eyes are set on a shot put title, Roper is focused on the New England championship meet as a place to improve.

“I want to get the javelin record for the school but, I feel like I’ve accomplished a good amount,” Roper said. “I want to accomplish more. I always want to one-up myself. … For me, I want to compete in New England championships a lot more. The ultimate goal is to podium, obviously, but I think going in, I might be top 10. If I’m anywhere within the top 10, I’ll be happy.”

Newport senior thrower Peter Thibault could give Roper a fight, as he enters the indoor championship meet seeded second. The pair are friends and kindred spirits, Roper said. Their friendly rivalry could make today’s shot put final an all-Upper Valley showdown.

“(Thibault) is one of my great friends. I love that guy,” Roper said. “(The rivalry) isn’t as strong as the one between Oliver Gunski (former Goffstown athlete, now at the University of Rhode Island) and I, but it’s kind of like a fun little rivalry. We kind of go back and forth between discus and shot. It’s fun.”

Roper said he wants to work more on his technique before accepting what is promised to be a heavy college workload. He’s excited for the next step, now that he’s more invested than ever.

“It’s therapeutic,” Roper said of his sport. “When you throw a heavy ball, the ball has all the anger in it. You can just throw that all away. It’s very soothing, even though you’re yelling and throwing a ball.”

Some D-II events to watch at today’s championship meet:

Boys Shot Put: Find a spot, set up a lawn chair, unroll the picnic blanket and dig in. Lebanon’s Roper and Newport big man Peter Thibault hold the top two seeds headed into today’s meet; Milford’s Michael Boucher and Con-Val’s Ryan Murray are not too far behind.

Girls Shot Put: Lebanon senior Kath Merchant is the heavy favorite thanks to a 39-foot qualifying throw at the Dartmouth Relays in early January. Kim Merchant, her sister, is also competing, ranked ninth.

Boys 55 Meters: Hanover’s Kyle Doucette will be the youngest, and the fastest, D-II athlete in the building today. Having pulled out of the boys 300, Doucette can keep his focus on the short distance dash in which the Marauders sophomore is a heavy favorite as the event’s top seed.

Boys 600: If Hanover’s boys team lacks anything, it’s distance runners. Junior Colm Seigne is the exception, and the 600 is his specialty. He’s ranked second behind Windham’s Spenser Sawyer.

Girls 3,000: Lebanon runner and future Notre Dame (Ohio) College athlete Grace Furlong is ranked 15th out of 20 runners as she continues to prepare for a collegiate training schedule.

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.