WHEN Jessica Boezeman coached the track and field program at Concord's Rundlett Middle School five years ago, Rebecca Massah caught her attention.
"She was a seventh- grader at the time who wanted to try the hurdles," recalled Boezeman. "Well she tried it, fell over a hurdle and got a track burn on her knee. Instead of staying down, she got right back up and tried it again. That made an immediate impression on me. She showed me she was one tough cookie."
Through hard work and determination, Massah, now a junior at Concord High, is one of the top hurdlers in the state.
Her 15.70 time in the Division I 100-meter hurdles this season is second only to Bishop Guertin's senior standout, Betsy Garnick (14.20). Massah is rated sixth in the 300 meters in Division I with a 49.60 time.
Boezeman credits James Klobucar, a former All-American (outdoor 110 hurdles) from Cornell University and track coach at Concord. He took Massah under his wing when she entered high school. "When I took over the Concord program as the head coach, Rebecca was a freshman and she just improved steadily under coach Klobucar," said Boezman.
Athletes in the 100- or 300-meter hurdles, said Boezeman, need to take no more than three steps between hurdles.
"You lose time if you take four or five steps between jumps," said Boezeman. "Coach Klobucar, who obviously has a lot of experience and knowledge in the hurdles, did a great job teaching Rebecca. She cut a second off her time in the 100 meters from last year and she's hitting all sorts of milestones."
Success for Massah led to confidence. "Rebecca has started believing that she belonged with the top hurdlers," said Boezeman. "Having confidence is half the battle."
Boezeman also praised Garnick for embracing Massah whenever the two compete in meets. "Betsy is an outstanding athlete, but more importantly, a great person. She recognizes what Rebecca has done and Betsy goes out of her way to help and support her."
Massah, according to Boezeman, is starting to get noticed by college coaches.
"Rebecca is starting to hit her goals," said Boezeman. "There's no words to explain how I feel about her. We came through the track program together. She has a special place in my heart."
STARLIN ORTIZ of Londonderry emerged as the only two-time winner at the freshman-sophomore Kiwanis Meet for boys and girls last Saturday in Salem.
Ortiz won the 110-meter hurdles (16.24) and the high jump (6-0), leading the Lancers to a second-place team finish (60.5 points) behind Pinkerton of Derry with 91 points. Manchester Memorial was third with 57 points, ahead of Nashua North with 55 points.
On the boys' side, two freshmen, Saikou Bah of Trinity of Manchester (100 meters, 11.73) and Owen Tracey of Merrimack (long jump 18-11.25) emerged victorious.
The individual sophomore winners were Zakari Jenkins of Nashua North (200 meters, 22.65), Jack Barowski of Bishop Guertin (400 meters, 53.55), Brett Hoerner of Manchester Memorial (800 meters, 2:01.94), Eli Moskowitz of Souhegan of Amherst (1,600 meters, 4:41.00), Abram Gagnon of Manchester Central (3,200 meters, 10:10.14), Ryan Forbes of Portsmouth (300-meter hurdles, 45.02), Tyler Palmer of Manchester Memorial (pole vault, 11-0), Demitri Jackson of Nashua North (triple jump, 40-10.75), Kevin Smith of Nashua South (shot put, 42-0.25), Brenton Dressel of Exeter (discus, 110-3) and Mitchell Herrington of Exeter (javelin, 154-0).
In the girls' meet, the following five freshmen won individual events: Mikayla Hickey of Souhegan (100 meters, 13.33), Hannah Gillis of Souhegan (3,200 meters, 11:45.70), Olivia Rougeau of Milford (high jump, 5-0), Adaeze Okorie of Nashua North (long jump, 15-6.5) and Melanie Lamar of Exeter (discus, 84-4).
The sophomore victors were Taylor Choate of Nashua North (200 meters, 27.47), Rachel Leonard of Exeter (400 meters, 1:00.15), Kristen Tilley of Windham (800 meters, 2:24.09), Shannon Murdock of Exeter (1,600 meters, 5:01.30), Bridget Murphy of Nashua South (100-meter hurdles, 18.10), Ann Sheehy of Winnacunnet of Hampton (300-meter hurdles, 48.50), Kellie Mathewson of Merrimack (pole vault, 9-0), Elizabeth Carroll of Portsmouth (triple jump, 31-6), Britta Gabrielson of Winnacunnet (shot put, 32-5) and Natalie Howes of Londonderry (javelin, 103-0).
Winnacunnet captured the girls' team title with 86.33 points ahead of Merrimack (56), Nashua North (54) and Exeter (51).
The NHIAA announced the Division I Championships will be held at Winnacunnet on Friday, May 24.
On Saturday, May 25, Pelham High will host the Division II Championships and Inter-Lakes of Meredith is the site of the Division III Championships. Merrimack High is hosting its invitational on Thursday.email@example.com