ANDOVER -- Larry Carney's Lowell High track coaches and teammates had been telling him for a while that he was very capable of being a conference champion.
Now, he is a conference champion.
On Saturday at Andover High School, Carney parlayed a blend of individual talent and some good fortune into a victory in the two-mile at the Merrimack Valley Conference Boys Track & Field Championships.
Carney, a 16-year-old junior, trailed North Andover junior Christopher Lord coming down the homestretch of the race. But Lord tripped approximately 50 yards from the finish line and Carney passed him and held on for the win in 9:51.48. Lord, remarkably, was still able to finish second among the 22 runners in 9:52.86.
"At first I was expecting a nice and easy pace. Turns out we went on like a 68-second pace, and I said 'oh boy, I better fasten my seatbelt for this,'" said Carney. "Everyone tells me I have the capability to run like a 9:40, but I always fall asleep. (Saturday), I made sure I stuck with it. I didn't care what was happening, I was feeling good.
"I think (Lord) was hurting and he lost his form. I think his spike got caught and he took a spill."
It was wild race on a day that ended with another wild finish.
Andover was in position to win the team championship, but was disqualified in the 4x400 relay -- the day's final event -- when a runner failed to stay in his lane. Andover would've won the race and the meet, instead Central Catholic captured the boys' team title with 87 points. North Andover was second (83), followed by Andover (75) and Lowell (68).
The Red Raiders had plenty of strong showings outside of Carney's big win.
Senior Randy Nong edged out senior teammate Johnny Abraham for first in the mile with a time of 4:24.48. The two will also be teammates at UMass Lowell next year.
"We were looking to go under 4:20," said Nong. "We took a second lap and slowed down a little bit, but we were able to close out the last lap and take 1-2."
Said Abraham, "(Nong) is my best friend. I can't wait to run with him for another four years."
Senior Mike Holder captured the high jump (6-0) and took sixth in the 110 meter hurdles (16:03). Lowell also won the 4x800 meter relay (8:08.35).
Chris Gendron was fourth in the two-mile (9:53.46), while Chris Polanco was fifth (9:53.92. Tyler Richards was fourth in the 800 (1:58.89), Nicolau Coury took fifth in the 100 (11:48), Lucky Sesay was sixth in the 200 (23.39) and the triple jump (38-9), Egan Ojunga was 6th in the 400 (52.79) and the long jump (19-8).
The Indians placed sixth as a team with 52 points.
Junior Peter Garmon went home with the title in the 800, finishing in a time of 1:54.79. He said his time wasn't what he was hoping for, but it was still good enough for a new school record. The previous record stood for over 30 years..
"I was happy with it, but not as happy as I wanted to be," said Garmon. "I was 0.02 seconds off the meet record, too. So that would've been nice."
Garmon was also part of the first-place 4x400 relay team (3:25.45).
Steve Fugoni was second in the 400 (51.22), while Felipe Freitas (52.33) was fourth. Derek Van Dyke took third in the 400 (57.48), and Connor Finnegan was fifth in the javelin (153-5).
Junior Tyler Bassett was the main highlight for the Middies, taking first in the javelin (166-3). Dracut finished ninth as a team with 24 points.
Dracut also took fourth in the 4x800 relay (8:28.68), while Ryan Kerrigan was fourth in the shot put (49-2) and sixth in the discus (120-6), Billy Machado was fourth in the discus (131-9) and William Tibbets was sixth in the high jump (5-8).
Eddie Matovu took second in the 110 meter hurdles (15.21) to lead Tewksbury, which took 10th as a team (17 points).
Joseph Darrigo was third in the two-mile (9:52.99), Stephen DeFrancesco was fifth in the shot put (46-0.5) and Ryan Bednarek was sixth in the pole vault (10-6).
Connor Brown finished fourth in the 200 (23.29), while Kevin Murphy placed fourth in the mile (4:27.13). Chelmsford took 11th as a team (nine points).
The Lions also captured sixth in the 4x800 meter relay.
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