(written, shot and edited for Somerville Patch)
Somerville junior Andre Rolim ran the fastest 600 Meter Run in both Massachusetts and New England Tuesday at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Boston. The run capped a four-medal performance by the Somerville Highlanders at the Boston Holiday Challenge, the first major track meet of their winter season.
Though Rolim has often won the 600 Meter by simply staying with the leaders for the first two laps, then exploding in the final 100 meters, this time he set a blistering pace almost immediately.
“Usually I follow the rabbit, and in the end I pass him,” Rolim said. “But I just kept my pace [this time], and I finished.”
Rolim pulled ahead of the pack just halfway through his first of three laps, widening the gap between himself and the next runner to nearly half a lap by the end of the race. He finished in 1:21.67, beating second-place Mike Fitzpatrick of Revere by nearly four seconds.
“If I followed them, I wouldn’t have gotten the fast time that I got,” Rolim said.
In a far more tightly contested race, Highlander senior Lyndon Kaba won the 55 Meter Dash, running it in 6.70 seconds – a personal best by 0.01 seconds – despite what both he and boys’ coach Dave Dickerson called a slow star. The race was so closely run that Fritz Gustave of Durfee High School finished just 0.1 seconds behind Kaba and took sixth.
“To pick it up, I think, ‘go faster, go faster, move faster,’” Kaba said. “I just go.”
On the girls’ squad, senior Nicole Genard cruised to a preliminary-round victory in the 55 Meter Dash. She ran the finals cleanly, not clipping a single hurdle, but even with a clean run could not catch Vanessa Clerveaux from Brockton.
Clerveaux finished in 8.21 seconds – also the fastest time in the state and region so far – while Genard finished in 8.41, beating her 2010 Boston Holiday Challenge time by 0.04 seconds.
“She has to work on getting out faster from the blocks,” said girls’ coach Charlie O’Rourke. “To the first hurdle, she needs to improve on that. After that, she’s just as fast as anyone.”
Genard later came back to anchor the 4×200 Meter Relay. In that race, the Highlanders got two good legs from sophomore Alison Kaba and junior Gelyne Berger, but senior Michel-le Meranda turned the Highlanders from a fifth-place team into a third-place team on the third lap.
Meranda passed the baton to Genard cleanly, and Genard burst out of the gate in third place. Sprinting as hard she could, Genard gained on but couldn’t quite catch second-place Brockton. The Highlanders took home the bronze with a time of 1:49.36.
“It’s a slow progression,” O’Rourke said. “Each week we get faster and more experienced.”
Several other Highlanders competed Tuesday, setting personal bests but not placing.
Senior Pristine Mei ran her best 2 Mile at 12:43.91, finishing 13th overall. Sophomore Kevin Ma ran his best 600 Meter at 1:34.69, finishing 29th overall. And senior Jerry Nazaire ran his fastest 300 Meter Dash in 39.79 seconds, finishing 32nd overall .
“It’s a great start,” Dickerson said, adding: “We have holes that we have to fill, and they’re not as obvious in a meet like this as in a dual-meet season. But we have a lot of young kids that are working at it.”
In his first indoor track meet ever, junior Brian Martinez finished 12th overall in the 1000 Meter Run with a time of 2:53.42, giving a tremendous kick down the final straightaway to avoid finishing last in his heat.
“Now he knows what it’s like to run a competitive race in here,” Dickerson said. “I see him getting stronger and stronger.”
Berger and Alison Kaba both competed in the 55 Meter Dash. Berger finished fourth in her preliminary heat in 7.93 seconds, and Kaba finished sixth in hers in 8.06 seconds. Neither qualified for the finals, nor did senior Ryan Baugh, who finished sixth in his heat for the Boys 55 Meter Dash with a time 7.33 seconds.
Meranda also competed in the Girls 300 Meter Dash, finishing first in her heat and 11th overall with a time of 44.28 seconds.