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April 22. 2013 10:12PM

Bedford star Celli just keeps improving

AS a first-year sprinter, Johanna Celli of Bedford High broke her school's freshman records in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. Last year she set school records in all three events -- 12.66 seconds in the 100 meters, 26.09 in the 200, 58.3 in the 400 -- eclipsing the marks all held previously by Brittany Frazier in 2008.

Yet the biggest honor so far bestowed upon Celli came after last year's spring track and field season.

"Johanna had just completed her sophomore season and the team voted to name her captain," said sixth-year Bedford girls' coach Noah Pion. "For a junior, that doesn't happen on a regular basis. But our team, including myself, see Johanna as a natural leader."

Last year, Celli broke her school records during the Division II meet. Bedford moved up to Division I this season, but Celli has picked up where she left off. She has produced the best time in Division I in the 200 meters this season (26.20) and has the third-best time (12.80) overall in the 100-meter dash.

"I keep telling people she's also going to excel in the 400 meters," said Pion. "She ran a 61.8 time at Pinkerton this year and I can see her progressing towards a 57 or 56 second time by next year. She has great speed and people don't realize until they actually see her that she has the ability to kick it into another gear."

Pion said what makes Celli a winner is how she reacts to a loss.

"No one takes losing harder than Johanna," said Pion. "She's hard on herself when she loses, but she always comes back stronger in her next race. She wants to win, wants to be the best."

Pion said he was told by Celli's older sister, Angela, that Johanna was going to make her presence felt at Bedford.

"Angela was a senior when Johanna arrived as a freshman and Angela kept telling me that her sister was going to be one of the top sprinters in the state," said Pion. "I never doubted Angela after seeing Johanna for the first time during the winter track season. As a freshman, Johanna excelled in the 55 and 300 (meters) and on both relay teams. From that point on, she's gotten better season to season."

Pion said Celli, also a midfielder on her soccer team, plans on visiting Boston College today. "Boston College has a great program and Johanna just wants to see the campus," said Pion. "I'm sure she'll be visiting other colleges before she makes a decision some time next year."

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HIGHLIGHTS from the seventh annual Nashua North Invitational Meet Saturday saw North's sophomore Zakari Jenkins win the 100-meter dash in 11.51 and the 200-meter dash in 22,77. He was also on the victorious 4 x 100-meter relay team (45.24) with teammates Walter Torres, William Goulding and Michael Pagan.

North's Mike Lynch was also a two-time winner in the shot put (47-00.25) and discus throw (142-01). Shawn Case of Manchester Memorial topped the field in the triple jump (40-09.50), Tanner Kent of Souhegan of Amherst was king of the 800-meter run (1:59,11) and Concord's B.J. Smith shined in the mile (4:32.70) and two-mile (9:46.89) events.

Souhegan's Ben DeForest captured the 110-meter hurdles with a 14.70 meet record time, eclipsing the previous mark of 14.91 by Cameron Mitchell of Wakefield, Mass. George Feliz of Concord won the 300-meter hurdles in 42.33.

Starlin Ortiz of Londonderry (6-02, high jump), Alex Tamulonis of Milford (14-01, pole vault), Jordan Bowman of Salem (20-09, long jump,) and Jared Holly of Merrimack (javelin throw, 146-06) were the other New Hampshire winners.

On the girls' side, Sarah Burke of Bishop Guertin of Nashua was the 800-meter winner (2:18.39) and teamed with Gabby Richardson, Rachel Pelletier and Sabrina Beaulieu to win the 4 x 400 meter relay in 4:13.65.

In the running events, Hannah Kimball of Timberlane of Plaistow (400 meters, 60.16), Smita Boesch-Dining of Concord (one mile, 5:20.99), Courtney Hawkins of Milford (two-mile run, 11:21.97) and Rebecca Massah of Concord (300 meter hurdles, 50.15) were all winners.

The high jump winner was Brittney Lambert of Alvirne of Hudson (5-0), the pole vault winner was Melanie Packard of Londonderry (10-0) and the long jump winner was Mikayla Hickey of Souhegan (15-10.25). Taking the triple jump was Emma Checovich of Winnacunnet of Hampton (34-03) and victorious in the shot put was Milford's Camryn Johnson at 35-02.

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THERE ARE no Division I meets scheduled Tuesday because of school vacation. Dover High is hosting the Green Wave Invitational on Friday and Coe-Brown of Northwood is holding its own invitational on Saturday.

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"Track and Field" appears Tuesdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter Johbn Habib at jhabib@unionleader.com.

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