State champ: ConVal’s Corey Barrett takes home one DII title and narrowly misses another

All he had to do was work on his finish. ConVal’s Corey Barrett had been one of the top runners in the 300-meter dash throughout the entire indoor track season, and went into Sunday’s state championship meet ranked first in the state in that event. But to take home the title and put a cap on his senior season, Barrett had to finish strong.

“I told him at the beginning of the season that we were going to use this a a redeeming year,” ConVal indoor track coach Thomas Mbungo said, “because last season was an up and down year.” As a junior, Barrett finished 8th at the DII championships last year, almost two full seconds off the winning time. This season, Barrett came in refocused and refreshed and ready to make a move up the rankings.

“He worked hard, he had a strong offseason,” Mbungo said. “He’s gotten stronger physically. That’s a problem that a lot of high school runners have; you may be fast, but if you don’t have the strength, you’re not going to last. Your speed can’t carry you all the way.”

During last week’s tune-up meet, Barrett took first place, but Mbungo saw room for improvement and a chance to shave valuable time off his finish.

“The only thing he had to work on was his finish, because that’s where he lost most of his time (last week),” Mbungo said. “I told him, “What you need to do is pick up the pace near the end and fight to the finish.”

Barrett did just that in the state meet on Sunday. He finished first in the 300-meter dash with a time of 36.30, a new personal record and .8 seconds faster than his previous best. It was the second-fastest time in at the meet across all divisions, as well as the ConVal school winter track record. He also came in second in a photo finish in the boys 55-meter dash, just .01 behind Plymouth’s Malcom Gocha at 6.74 seconds. This was the fifth-fastest 55-meter dash time across all divisions and another ConVal school record.

“(The 55-meter dash) is one of those events that you just need raw power and speed and you have to get a quick start,” Mbungo said. “One of the problems that Corey was having with the short sprints was his reaction time, getting out of the box quickly. He was getting out of the box too slow, and he was having to run from behind. I told him, ‘The only thing I want you to concentrate on is getting a quick reaction out of the gun.There’s not enough distance to make up any ground.’ In the finals, he was definitely on target. He was pretty much tied with the kid that beat him.”

Barrett is now qualified for the New England championships in both events; he’ll compete with the best of New England on March 2 in Boston.

Conant’s Justin Haase also saw a seasons’ worth of hard work come to fruition Sunday, as he placed third in DIII in the shotput with a throw of 45’4.5”.

“He didn’t finish on a PR, but it was all he needed,” Conant track coach Erin Kelly said. “Now we’ve got a whole month to work to get another foot or six inches.”

Haase will also be headed to the New Englands on March 2 after his stellar state championship peformance. He steadily improved his distance throughout the indoor season – “he’s just super dedicated,” Kelly said – and under the bright lights of the Dartmouth track (and with much of his Conant team present to cheer him on), he was able to rise to the occasion.

“He really likes the high competition meets,” Kelly said. “He rose up to it, and he was excited to rise up to it. Even in practice sometimes, it motivates him more to throw better when people watch. It will be great to see kids who perform at the highest level to be all in one place (at the New Englands) and see the high level they throw at. Justin thrives in that high energy competition.”

Haase was Conant’s lone state meet competitor. ConVal sent several athletes aside from Barrett to the meet, and they were all able to finish exceptionally well. Senior Haley Zanga, at one point in the season a favorite for the 55-meter hurdle crown, battled through an illness to finish 10th in that event with a time of 9.43 seconds. Sophomore Grace Bowman, one of a handful of young, rising stars in the ConVal track program, took 9th place in the 300-meter dash with a time of 44.90 seconds.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had any girls make it to the state meet in the 300 dash,” Mbungo said. “It’s nice to see her taking that spot.”

Zanga and Bowman both narrowly missed the top-six cutoff that it takes to make the New Englands. The duo also teamed with Bailey Guinn and Lara Matthias to place 14th in the girls 4x200 relay.

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