WESTPORT, Conn. – The 4-by-400 is the marquee relay in track and field, and during the last two years no school in New England has been better than Staples.
Friday night, the Wreckers will take a virtually new cast to the New England Championships to shoot for a third straight regional championship.
The team of Jon Heil, Henry Wynne, Walker Marsh and Max Hoberman will run in Friday’s New England Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston and attempt to win a third straight title for Staples. Heil is the only returning member from last year’s team.
The relay team's success is something of a surprise since it lost three runners from last year. But this year’s team is closing in on the school record, which was set last year by Heil, Sean Gallagher, Jack Roche and Raphael Ray. That unit has the record of 3:24.9. This year’s team won the State Open in 3:26.44.
“Early in the year, we went to the Yale Invitational, and Heil had only been coming to practice for about a week because of the football season,’’ said Hoberman, who runs the lead off leg. “We were in first place for most of the race, and we finished a close second. We hadn’t even peaked yet and we were doing well. That’s when we knew we might have a really strong team again this year.”
Staples is seeded fourth for the New England meet, behind three teams from Massachusetts. But the Wreckers seem to be improving steadily late in the season. It improved by nearly three seconds in winning the State Open, and were unchallenged in winning by nearly three seconds.
“I don’t feel like there’s pressure to win New Englands again,’’ Hoberman said. “There was a bit of pressure to win the Open because it meant a lot to the team scoring. There’s no team scoring in New Englands. It’s just a matter of executing.”
All of the relay legs are critical, but replacing Ray as the anchor figured to be the hardest assignment. Heil and Wynne have taken turns running the final leg, and each has done well. Wynne also is the No. 1 seed for the 1,000 after he ran a school record 2:29.56 to win the State Open.
Staples is ranked 61st in the nation in the 4-by-400 relay, and is even better in the sprint medley. The unit of Wynne, Zach Mitchell, David Hoffman and Dean Hefnawy is ranked 24th in the nation. Unfortunately for the Wreckers, the sprint medley will not run at New Englands. They will have to wait for the National Scholastic Championships from March 9-11 in New York to compete again.
That leaves the 4-by-400 relay, which is always the last event on the track, as Staples’ best chance for relay gold Friday.
“It’s just so cool being part of something so big,’’ said Hoberman, who also played on the Staples boys soccer team. “Having every one on the relay be so talented is neat. We go to a meet and people recognize us. ‘Hey, it’s the Staples 4 x 4.’ That’s a cool feeling.”