LAST YEAR as a freshman, Hannah Parker of Coe-Brown Academy of Northwood learned a painful, but valuable experience at the New England outdoor meet.
“She was running a pretty good time until she stumbled and fell over the last 10 meters of the race,” said Coe-Brown head coach Tim Cox. “She was disappointed at first, but she turned comical. She laughed it off by saying ‘I can’t believe I ate up some track.’ But believe me. She went home and circled the date on the calendar for the next New England meet.”
On Saturday, the sophomore standout not only won the 800-meter race at Veterans Stadium in New Britain, Conn., but her sensational 2:06.42 time established a New England record. She erased the 21-year-old mark of 2:08.34 set in 1992 by Liz Mueller of Waterford, Conn.
“Hannah was ready from the get-go,” said Cox. “She hadn’t been tested all year. There’s a difference running solo as opposed to running against competition and she’s knew she was going to be tested Saturday against the region’s best competitors.”
Parker was timed at 29.2 seconds through the first 200 meters and was 60 seconds flat halfway through the race. She broke through and took the lead at the final turn, bolting to the finish line in record time.
“Her tactics were perfect and she ran relaxed,” said Cox. “Hannah has the perfect combination of physical gifts and mental approach. She’s fearless when it comes to running on the biggest stage. She wanted to redeem herself after last year’s race and she did it in a big way.”
There was some question of whether Parker was going to end her season Saturday or continue on to the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., this weekend.
“There was a meeting between myself, coach (Brent) Tkaczyk and Hannah’s parents,” said Cox. “I felt what happened in New Britain, with Hannah winning and breaking the record, that it was the perfect ending to a perfect season. I suggested we wrap it up and have Hannah concentrate on her junior season.”
But Cox said Parker had other ideas.
“Hannah made the decision she wanted to compete in the nationals,” said Cox. “She explained to all of us that she wasn’t tired, actually felt as strong as ever and wanted to run in the nationals. As her coach, I told her I would support any decision she made and her parents gave the final approval to move on to Greensboro.”
Cox said Parker will compete on Sunday at 4:20 p.m. and she will enter the 800 meters ranked third. “It’s my understanding she has the fifth-fastest time in the country. That’s outstanding.”
WHILE PARKER moves on to the nationals, another Coe-Brown standout has elected to end his season on a winning note.
Junior Jeremy Brassard won the 1,600-meter run in New Britain in a personal-best time of 4:16.17.
His win capped off a tremendous season. Last fall, he won the Division II cross-country title and went on to win the Meet of Champions, as well. In the winter season, he was a Division II champ in the 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters. This spring, he won the 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters in Division II and captured the Meet of Champions in the 1,600 meters in 4:19.
“He entered the New England meet ranked ninth and exceeded all expectations,” said Cox, who noted that pre-meet favorite Henry Winn of Staples, Conn., opted to run the 800 meters instead of the 1,600 meters Saturday.
“When I heard Winn, who’s an outstanding runner, wasn’t running the 1,600 meters, I walked up to Jeremy and told him he could win this,” said Cox. “Jeremy looked up at me and said ‘I know.’”
Brassard led entering the last lap and never broke his stride to the finish line.
“We as coaches put so much trust in Jeremy because he runs every race perfectly,” said Cox. “Like Hannah, Jeremy has something you just can’t teach.”
As for the nine-person coaching staff credited for preparing their athletes at Coe-Brown, Cox said “it’s the pinnacle. We take pride in seeing all our kids do well.’
Until Saturday, thrower Kristal Kostiew (1999) was the only athlete from Coe-Brown to have ever won a New England meet.
DERRYFIELD SCHOOL doesn’t have a spring track and field team. But that didn’t stop sophomore Casey Hecox of Henniker from pursuing her goal of competing in the 1,600 meters.
According to her mother, Becky, her daughter, who is a member of the Granite State Flash running club in Manchester, trained this season with Manchester Central.
“The NHIAA allows students to train with another school if their own school doesn’t have a program,” said Hecox. “My daughter ran with Emily Harris, who is at Central and is also a member of the Granite State Flash.”
Harris, Laurel Gagnon and Meg Brockett, all from Central, were instrumental welcoming Hecox to the team. “They all took her in from day one and it turned out to be a wonderful experience for Casey,” said Becky. “They also invited her to the awards ceremony at Central.”
Hecox finished 20th overall at the New Englands, posting her best personal time of 5:19.82. “She ran seven seconds faster than her previous best time,” said Becky. In the fall of 2011, Hecox was the first cross-country runner from Derryfield to win the Division III cross-country meet at Derryfield Park in Manchester. She was sixth overall last fall and has been named to the Division III All-State Cross-Country team twice.
BISHOP GUERTIN of Nashua’s Betsy Garnick, the New England winner of the 100-meter hurdles in 14:20, is expected to run in the nationals. The same is true of Jakari Jenkins of Nashua North, the regional winner in the 200-meter dash in 21.85.
Email staff reporter John Habib at email@example.com.