Track Athletes Excel at New Balance High School Indoor Track and Field National Championship

Three relay teams of athletes from Newton South competed at the New Balance High School Indoor Track and Field National Championship meet held in New York City this past weekend. Seniors Philip Batler, Eli Braginsky, Jake Epstein, and Alex Huang ran in the Boys 4×200 meters championship relay. Senior co-captains Rebecca Grusby and Elizabeth Walkes, juniors Katie Collins and Clare Martin, and sophomores Emily Bulczynski and Caroline Barry formed the Girls championship distance medley and 4-mile relays. Competing as Newton Centre Athletics, the Boys team got off to a fast start with Batler placing fourth in the Emerging Elite 200 in a personal-record time of 22.19 seconds.

The distance medley of Martin, Walkes, Bulczynski, and Grusby provided the highlight of the weekend — placing fifth in the Championship race to earn All-American honors in a time of 11:43.96, breaking the previous state record of 11:51 set by Lincoln-Sudbury in 2011. This same group placed 11th last year and improved by more than 30 seconds.

“I was completely surprised,” said Walkes. “I knew we could improve upon last year’s time, but I never expected such a big drop in time. It was an awesome way to end the season, with everyone running their best times.”

Martin set a fast early pace with 3:29.90 over 1,200 meters, trading the lead with the winning team from North Rockland, New York. Walkes came through her 400 meters in a quick 59.66, maintaining the team in second. Bulczynski, who has consistently improved her 800 personal record throughout the season, broke 2:20 for the first time, running 2:19.69, and handed off to Grusby in fourth place. With two All-American milers in pursuit, Grusby surged into third before being passed in the final 400 by phenoms Kate Murphy from Lake Braddock, Virginia and Lincoln-Sudbury’s Ariel Keklak. Grusby’s 1,600 split of 4:54.71 was a 13-second improvement from last year, and her first time under five minutes in this distance.

“Racing in the DCL (Dual County League) against L-S has elevated our competitiveness to the national level and pushed us to achieve All-American,” Grusby said. The teams doubled back on Saturday with Batler, Braginsky, Epstein, and Huang placing 28th in a deep field in the Championship 4×200 in 1:31.51. Grusby, Collins, Barry and Martin placed 12th in the Championship 4xmile in 21:17.95. Despite Barry suffering from illness and Martin being plagued by foot pain, the team improved upon its time from outdoor last year by 10 seconds and posted the fifth-fastest time by a team of Newton South athletes in this event. Martin, who was the All-State 800 outdoor champion last spring, removed herself from the championship 800 event on Sunday due to the injury.