Canton High’s Matt Graziano heart skipped a beat and there was an empty feeling his stomach. His event, the discus throw, was about to begin at the 67th annual New England track and field championships at Thornton Academy in Saco, Maine and his equipment bag was gone.
In the bag was his phone, a towel and his discus, the 3 pound, 9 ounce disc that he had practiced with and competed with all season. He had driven hours to get to the meet and waited for hours to compete. In crowd of hundreds, Graziano felt alone.
There was no time to practice and get used to the discus. Just throw it.
On his initial throw, Graziano threw 167 feet, nearly seven feet longer than the throw of 160 feet, 5 inches that he had to win the State Open championship a week earlier over Tomczak.
Before Graziano’s next throw, Canton coach Tim O’Donnell reported he had found the bag – in the vehicle of a Simsbury High athlete driving home in Massachusetts. The athlete accidentally picked up the bag as they were leaving for the day.
Things began to settle down and Graziano began chucking his replacement discus. He threw over 170 feet twice and earned a spot in the finals as the No. 3 seed. In the final, he ripped a school-record throw of 176 feet on his first attempt, immediately putting pressure on his competitors, including Jeremy Octeau, who cleared 182 feet a week earlier to win the Rhode Island championship.
It held up as Graziano won becoming the first Canton athlete to win a New England championship in track and field. The closest Octeau could get was within five feet at 171 feet, 2 inches.
Graziano becomes the third Canton athlete to win a New England title. Wrestler Kacy O’Connor and the boys doubles team of Peter and Matthew Spring each New England crowns in 1999.
“It feels good,” Graziano said. “It’s the most competitive event I have been in with three kids who have thrown over 170 feet. I knew I had it (a good throw) in me.”
O’Donnell said, “He looked really good out there.”
Graziano could tell the discus he borrowed was different. “I use a discus that spins faster than a cheaper one and it stays in the air longer,” he said. “I could tell the difference.”
It didn’t hinder Graziano, who will travel to Greensboro, N.C., this weekend to compete in the 2012 New Balance national championship meet. And Tomczak excelled as well, exceeding his personal best by 10 feet and taking fourth with a throw of 166 feet and 11 inches. Graziano picked up his equipment on Monday from Simsbury.
Simsbury’s boys 4×800 meter relay team suffered its first loss of 2012, taking third with a time of 7:57.72 behind Wachusett, Mass. (7:54.36) and Fairfield Prep (7:55.63), who was second behind the Trojans a week ago. Fairfield Prep knocked a second off its time from the State Open.
Simsbury’s time was slower than its meet-record time of 7:51.30 from the Open or its Class LL record time of 7:48.39. The team consisted of Joel Kirk, Kyle Heubner, Jefferson Wilkes and Kevin Stanko.
Simsbury’s 4×800 meter relay team lost for the first time in 2012 at the New England championships. They finished third.
Other area athletes at the New England championship included Simsbury’s Meredith Wilson, who was 18th in the 100 hurdles in 15.57 seconds and teammate Maddie Nicholson, who was 20th in the discus with a throw of 105 feet and 5 inches. Granby’s Daniel Clark, who was 22nd in the 300 hurdles in 42.25 seconds.
New England championships
At Saco Maine
Winner — Matt Graziano, Canton, 176 feet, 2. Jeremy Octeau, Westerly RI 171-02, 3. Kevin Conway, Westerly RI 170-03, 4. Jacob Tomczak, Derby, 166-11, 5. Swardick Mayanka, Newtown North, MA., 162-08, 6. Joe Colao, Westerly RI 162-04, 7. Nick Staub, Dracut, MA 156-11, 8. Kyle Ducharme, Hazen VT, 150-09