Monday, November 11, 2013

Girls Team Wins Eastern Massachusetts Divisional Championship! Cullen Repeats Individual Title.

NHS girls cross country win first divisional title in program history!
One year ago Needham came agonizingly close to winning their first divisional title before falling 4 points shy of rival Lincoln-Sudbury.  Saturday, a year of frustration lifted off the team's collective shoulders, as Needham defeated LS 57-60 to secure the victory.  Billerica finished a distant 3rd with 137 points.

The Rockets got off to a great start with an individual win from Margie Cullen.  The sophomore claimed her second consecutive divisional crown by outlasting her competition over the 5K race distance.  Cullen along with Sydney Clary of LS, Emily Bryson of North Quincy, Sarah Lagan of Natick and teammate Sarah Armstrong dominated the early stages of the race passing the 1 mile mark in 5:50.  By halfway,  Cullen and Clary had extricated themselves from the field and Cullen began to really push the pace.  Surging on a gradual uphill in the final 400 meters, Cullen dropped her opponent and sprinted away from Clary as she arrived at the finish line victorious in 18:00.2.  Armstrong hung on to finish 5th in 18:40.5.

Meanwhile first year Needham harrier Kaleigh Hughes was locked in battle with three of Lincoln-Sudbury's finest: Ariel Keklak (sister of Massachusetts standout Andrea Keklak), Morgan Butler and freshman phenom Alexa Babick.  Despite a valiant effort from Hughes she couldn't shake the tenacious trio as they got the best of her going into the chute.  Hughes finished 12th running a PR of 18:56.5.  But the Rockets weren't to be outdone as they called on their depth with Julianna Donovan and Sammy Lerner placing 19th and 20th respectively.  At this point, Needham had all five of their scorers in and LS was lacking their fifth but the score through 4 was LS with 30 to Needham with 37.  Needham's sixth runner Katie Horton came through big as she displaced Lincoln-Sudbury's fifth to finish in 28th place.  Rounding out Needham's varsity seven was rookie Maddi Terry.  Full results can be found at:

Next up for Needham is the MIAA All-State Championship to be held this Saturday November 16th at the Gardner Municipal Golf course.  The girls race is scheduled to go off at 1:00 pm. 

Photo courtesy of Ken Horton

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rockets Rise to the Challenge; Bring Home First Annual BSC Pumpkin Cup.

The captains with the cup!
Girls Dominate Conference Championships; Cullen Claims Individual Crown for 2nd Year in a Row!

Saturday October 26th at Coakley Middle School in Norwood, the Needham boys and girls cross country teams proved their meddle and won the first annual Bay State Conference Pumpkin Cup signaling joint dominance of the league by achieving the lowest combined team score.  The two teams collected just 94 points to outpace Newton North (182) and Brookline (208).

The Lady Rockets ran down the competition to finish first in the 12 team field scoring just 34 points and outdistancing runner-up Weymouth (66).  The win at the BSC meet came just three days after the girls sealed up their second consecutive conference title by defeating Wellesley 18-44 and extending their dual meet win streak to 29.

Margie Cullen & Sarah Armstrong run at the front of the pack.
Margie Cullen led the way for the Rockets, as she has done all season, winning the individual title and blazing the 5 kilometer course in 18:01!  Finishing second for the Rockets and third overall was Sarah Armstrong in a season best time of 18:25.  Kaleigh Hughes and Sammy Lerner worked well together throughout the race and finished 9th and 10th in 18:57 and 18:59 respectively.  Katie Horton and Julianna Donovan worked their way up through the field to finish just behind their teammates in 11th and 14th in 19:06 and 19:12.  Maddi Terry rounded out the varsity scoring running to a 22nd place finish in 19:50.

The varsity team performance wasn't the only story however as the JV squad led by Galia Bernat's 3rd place finish in 21:13 placed a close second to Weymouth getting outscored by a mere 4 points.  In comparison, last year's team lacked the depth that has emerged in 2013 and were unable to score in the JV competition.  Finishing behind Bernat were teammates Haley Filippine (7th), Courtney Barrett (9th), Camille Manoukian (10th) and Daria Fortin (16th).  In the freshman race, Jill Robins and Molly Retik led the way running to 7th and 8th place finishes respectively while Lily Auger crossed the line in 30th.

Boys Finish 2nd to Equal Highest Team Finish of the Past Two Decades!

Adrian leads the chase pack while John and Tommy hang tough.
This fall has been, at times, frustrating for the Rockets as they've battled through injuries and often felt ill-prepared to face the tough competition of the Bay State League.  But all of that vanished in the rear view mirror Saturday when the boys team finished second with 63 points, just 11 behind conference champions Newton North.  The runner-up placing avenged regular season losses to rivals Brookline and Wellesley and cemented the boys chances of a high finish at the Divisional Championships in two weeks.

Racing in only his third meet this season, Adrian Amaya returned to the line-up, reinforcing the team and leading the way finishing in 4th place overall with an impressive 15:48 for the 5k course.  The quartet of John Benner, Drew Khalaj, Tommy Kelley and Alex Turner provided the necessary depth for the team's success.  Benner ran comfortably in the top 10 for most of the race before ultimately finishing in 7th place in 16:06.  Khalaj and Kelley remained close to Benner for most of the race before finishing 13th and 16th and running times of 16:18 and 16:29 respectively.  Meanwhile Turner took a more conservative approach starting slower and working his way up through the field to finish 23rd in 16:37.  Alex Elman (31st), Nathan Maynard (47th) and Patrick Caron (49th) rounded out the team.

As with the girls team, the varsity race wasn't the only highlight as Needham's neophytes crushed the freshmen field scoring just 35 points to runner-up Brookline's 79.  Matt Mahoney led the way cruising to victory on the 2.5k course in 8:33.  Teammates Duncan Shaver, Chris Gillis, David Muir and Tejas Kelkar finished behind Mahoney to complete the scoring.  In the JV race, Cal Fleming turned in a gutsy performance to finish 7th in 17:34.

Next up for the Rockets are the Divisional Championships at the Wrentham Developmental Center on Saturday November 9th.  The girls' race is scheduled for 9:25 a.m. with the boys' set to go off at 10:45.

For complete results visit:

Photos courtesy of Kim Benner. Full album can be seen here:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Rockets Roll Over Natick and Norwood; Benner Wins Boys Race.

After starting the season with three tough meets, the Rockets finally had room to breathe.  Wednesday October 2nd, the boys team got decisive wins over Natick (21-36) and Norwood (15-50) to improve their win/loss record to 5-2.  Employing a pack strategy, the Rockets were led by sophomore John Benner getting his first career win and running 17:38 for the 5k course at Cutler Park.  Finishing just steps behind Benner was teammate Drew Khalaj clocking in at the same time.  Tommy Kelley finished in 4th place overall for the Rockets with Derek Howes in 6th and Alex Turner in 8th.
L-R: Needham runners Noah Adler, David Muir, Sid Yadav, Chris Gillis, Will Cordonnier and Tejas Kelkar.                                                            
While the boys meet was far from close, the girls meet was a blowout.  A pack of six Needham runners let Natick's Sarah Lagan go early and made no effort to reel her in as they ran to a blanket finish with Olivia Corkery leading the way in 21:43.  Behind Corkery were teammates Sammy Lerner, Kaleigh Hughes, Katie Horton, Sarah Armstrong and Margie Cullen finishing in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th place.  The Lady Rockets beat Natick 20-41 and Norwood 15-50.
L-R: Sarah Smith, Galia Bernat, Claire Connors (partially obscured), Courtney Barrett, Rachel Blaustein and Maddi Terry.
Full results can be found at:

Photos courtesy of Kim Benner

Girls Continue Dominance, Boys Get a Split Decision.

And the varsity girls are off!
Wednesday September 25th the Rockets traveled to Walpole High School, home of the Rebels, for a double-dual meet against Newton North and Walpole.  Last year the girls meet with Newton North was closely contested with Needham coming out on top 28-29 in a battle for the ages but this year the Rockets methodically dismantled the Tigers from the start running away with the victory 23-33.  The race against the Rebels played second fiddle as the Rockets came out on top with a score of 20-40.

Camille Manoukian runs to a 4th place finish in the girls JV race.
Margie Cullen and Sarah Armstrong, as they have done all season, continued running well together and finished 1-2 in 15:32 and 15:34 for the 2.57 mile course.  Both girls broke the previous course record of 15:44 held by Newton North's Margo Gillis.  Rounding out Needham's varsity seven were Sammy Lerner (6th), Kaleigh Hughes (9th), Julianna Donovan (making her season debut in 10th), Katie Horton (12th) and Maddi Terry (15th).  Camille Manoukian and Haley Filippine ran well in the JV race to finish in 4th and 5th places running 12:51 and 12:56 respectively for the 1.78 mile distance.

The boys meet between Needham and Newton North was a contest of strength up front versus overall depth and the Rockets nearly prevailed dropping a tight race against the Tigers 25-30.  Senior captain Adrian Amaya running in his first meet of the season couldn't quite match the pace of Newton North stalwarts Mike Schlichting and Gabe Montague and finished in 3rd place behind the Tiger duo covering the varsity course in 13:27.  North's third runner crossed the line next ahead of a trio of Rocket runners captain Tommy Kelley, Drew Khalaj and John Benner all of whom were clocked at 13:45.  Next in was North's fourth followed by Needham's Alex Turner in the final scoring spot.  Rockets ran valiantly but in the end couldn't overcome the 1-2 punch of Schlichting and Montague.  The Rebels however were no match for the Rockets as Needham came out on top 19-38.

Alex Turner races to an 11th place finish overall.
In the boys JV race, freshman Matt Mahoney got his first career win finishing in a course record of 9:55 for the 1.78 mile distance.  Behind Mahoney were five other Needham athletes in the top ten; Jacob Anderson (3rd), Alex Caswell (5th), Mike Newfield (8th), Cal Fleming (9th) and Sam Cruickshank (10th).

Matt Mahoney outdistances the competition in the boys JV race en route to victory.
Full results can be found at:

Photos courtesy of Rich Benner and Rebecca Turner

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Rockets Off to a Strong Start

After nearly a year of not writing, I'll do my best to pick up again with the beginning of the cross country season.  This year, both teams look to continue the success of last season and are off to a good start with wins against Weymouth and Milton on a sweltering hot day.

Margie Cullen and Sarah Armstrong lead teammates Sammy Lerner and Kaleigh Hughes.
For the Rockets, the win against Weymouth was a tough one.  The Wildcats came hungry, looking for a fight and did not disappoint.  Needham put up a strong one-two punch from Margie Cullen and Sarah Armstrong running times of 19:51 and 20:08 respectively over the 5k course at Cutler Park.  But then the Wildcats put 4 girls in before Needham's third.  Newcomers, Kaleigh Hughes and Olivia Corkery ran gutsy performances to finish 7th and 8th overall and veteran Katie Horton closed out the scoring for Needham in 9th.  The Rockets narrowly came out on top with a 27-28 victory over a much improved Weymouth team.  Milton was never a factor in the race as Needham walked away with victory 15-50.

The boys meet ended up being much closer than anticipated when Needham's top returner, captain Adrian Amaya, fell during the warm-up, dislocated his hip and was unable to race.  However, the team rallied behind sophomore Drew Khalaj and defeated Weymouth 26-29 and Milton 19-38.  Khalaj had a huge performance for the Rockets running to his first cross country win finishing the Cutler course in 17:02.  Behind Khalaj was John Benner in 3rd, captain Tommy Kelley in 6th, Alex Turner in 8th and Derek Howes in 12th.

And they're off!
On Wednesday September 18th, the Rockets traveled to Brookline for a dual meet against the Warriors.  Brookline has historically been a tough match up for the boys team as Needham has not beaten the powerhouse Warrior team in over a decade.  Again Khalaj led the way for the Rockets with Amaya still on the sidelines but this time he was joined by Benner.  The two underclassmen worked well with each other matching Brookline's Emmanuel D'Agostino until the very end.  D'Agostino managed to break free from the Rocket tandem finishing the 2.78 mile course at Larz Anderson in 15:44.  Khalaj was 2nd in 15:47 and Benner held on for 3rd in 15:53.  Liam Walsh in his first race of the season finished third for the Rockets and 6th overall, one place ahead of Kelley.  Alex Elman closed out the scoring finishing in 12th place.  The meet was hotly contested but in the end, Brookline pulled out the win scoring 27 points to Needham's 30.

John Benner and Drew Khalaj push the pace.
Tommy Kelley and Liam Walsh apply pressure to a Brookline runner.

The Brookline girls were no match for Needham as the Rockets defeated the Warriors 20-35.  Again, Cullen and Armstrong led the way finishing in 1st and 2nd respectively followed by Sammy Lerner and Corkery in 4th and 5th, with Hughes placing 8th.  With Wednesday's win, the Lady Rockets move to 3-0 on the season and hope to continue their undefeated streak this week against Newton North and Walpole.

Needham packing it up against Brookline.
Full results can be found at:

Photos courtesy of Kim Benner

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Needham Boys Start Strong, Qualify One

The Needham Rockets opened up the 2012-2013 indoor track season with a junior varsity meet at Milton on Wednesday and a varsity meet at the Reggie Lewis Center on Thursday.

The JV meet at Milton was highlighted by performances from Lucas Jacobs (So) in the 300m dash,Giulian Trabucco (Jr) and Greg Liacopoulos (Sr) in the shot put, and from the 4x160yd relay team. Jacobs turned in a personal best time of 43.4 to finish with the top time of the day in the event. Similarly, Trabucco and Liacopoulos took the top two spots with throws of 35' 4" and 31' 8" respectively. The relay, run by James Cataldo (Jr), Niall Butchart (Fr), Ben Mesnik (Fr) and Jacobs, brought home a strong performance at the end of the evening.

Thursdays varsity meet saw the Needham Rockets picking up a win against the Braintree Wampatucks. The boys got off to a strong start with the Rockets sweeping the mile, lead by Adrian Amaya (Jr) and followed closely by Tommy Kelley (Jr) and John Benner (Fr). Amaya qualified for the Division II Championship with his time of 4:42.40. In a controlled effort, Needham took first and second in the next event, the 1000m run. Dan Alpert (Jr) out kicked teammate and captain, Tyler Hagen (Sr) for an additional 8 points towards the Rockets' cause. The 600m run saw captain Ned Connolly (Sr) come back strong for a second place finish and a personal best time of 1:29.72. Derek Howes (So) chipped in a third place as well.

With the injury to captain Kevin Walsh (Sr), Jack Strollo (So) has taken the opportunity to step up for the team. The 300m dash had Strollo finishing first followed by a third place finish from Aaron Maslow (So). In the straightaway events, Harry Hall (Jr) brought home 5 points for his first place finish in the 55HH, and the Rockets added another 4 from second and third place efforts from Colin Riley (Jr) and Alex O'Donnell (Sr) in the 55m dash. Both PR'd by nearly a third of a second, finishing at 7.15 and 7.17. In the 2-mile, the trio of Zak Heier (Sr), Liam Walsh (So), and Drew Khalaj (Fr) took the three scoring spots in a metronomic effort.

The field events were highlighted by yet another sweep of an event, this time in the shot put. Connolly turned in a PR for first place, followed by a PR by Ian Stewart (Sr) and then a third place from Trabucco pulling double duty on the two days. Needham also received a pair of third place finishes from Hall in the long jump and from Sid Yadav (Jr) in the high jump. With the meet already in hand, the Rockets closed the night with a win in the 4x400 relay, run by Strollo, Alpert, Howes and Hall.

The final score Thursday night was tallied at 61-34. Needham continues this week with the JV meet at Newton North on Wednesday and the varsity meet at the Reggie Lewis Center. The varsity team will take on the Weymouth Wildcats in what will no doubt be a close meet.

For full results from the Milton and Braintree meets, please visit

Lady Rockets Fly Past Braintree in Season Opener

Thursday evening December 13th, the Rockets opened up their season against the Braintree Wampatucks at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury and did not disappoint.  The girls' team outscored and outdid their opponents in nearly every event to win the meet scoring 64.67 points to Braintree's 30.33.  From the first shot of the starter's pistol, Needham gained control by sweeping the one mile and 1,000 meter runs won by sophomore Kaleigh Hughes (5:46.66) and senior captain Hallie Armstrong (3:22.22).  Finishing strong behind the victors, were Sarah Armstrong and Sammy Lerner as well as Rachel Blaustein and Julianna Donovan.

Meanwhile in classic three ring circus style, the high jump and shot put were being contested in different areas of the arena.  In the high jump, an event that Needham has struggled with in recent years, sophomore Lydia Phung soared to new heights clearing 4' 7" and placing second in the event while captains Christina Smith and Hallie Armstrong placed in a three-way tie with Braintree's Alex Pearse for third giving each athlete .33 points toward their team's total.  The shot put turned out to be another difficult event for the Rockets without their top returner Tasha Desir on the injured list.  The Wamps threw well up front to take first and second but sophomore Shaleah Guild stepped up in her first competition in nearly a year to snag third place with a throw of 28' 11".

Back on the oval, the Rockets looked to be in control again scoring four points in the 600 off the second and third place finishes of junior Kira Oberle and sophomore Isabel Cole.  The 300 turned out even better for Needham with senior captain Robin Kelly winning in a personal best time of 43.62 seconds.  When the gun went off to start the 2 mile, the Rockets were nearly guaranteed another sweep with senior captain Caroline Turner leading the way and getting the win in 12:22.01 with teammates Erica Koljonen and Daria Fortin finishing in second and third respectively.

In the 55 meter hurdles, Smith was no match for her competition winning by a huge margin in 9.87 seconds.  Sophomore Grace Li stepped up to garner third place.  In the 55 meter dash, junior Blessing Ojini got out of the blocks well to snag the win and five more points for the Rockets running 7.87 seconds.  In the final field event of the night, Smith and Kelly combined for a solid one, two punch leaping 14' 10.75" and 14' 2" in the long jump.

Entering the 4 x 400, the Rockets had already outscored the Wamps and the relay was little more than a formality.  The team consisting of Lerner, Hughes, Blaustein and Hallie Armstrong picked up their final victory on the night finishing in 4:28.24.

Full results can be found at:

Next up for Needham is a dual meet with Weymouth Thursday December 20th at Reggie Lewis.  The meet is scheduled to begin at 4:30 pm.