As far as unlikely heroes are concerned, Jesse Fleming has booked his place in Norwood High track lore.
The sophomore ran a 22-second personal best in the 2-mile to take third place, earning the first point of his career and the clinching point in the boys indoor track team’s 48-47 victory over Milton last Thursday that delivered the Mustangs a share of the Bay State Conference Herget Division title.
"It was exciting, the kids went bananas," said Norwood coach Russ Booth "The boys and girls hockey teams are having great seasons, but they were the talk of the school on Friday. It was really something else."
Norwood and Milton finish as co-champs at 4-1 in the division. It is the first indoor crown for the Mustangs since 1994, completing massive turnaround from last year’s one-win campaign.
Fleming’s ran 11:39.5 to earn the pivotal placement. While both coaching staffs left the meet with the belief Norwood had won, official post-meet scoring indicated a one-point Wildcat victory, with Milton’s Peter Eberhardt taking third in the 2-mile instead.
A review determined that Eberhardt had mistakenly completed 15 laps instead of 16, confirming Fleming’s third place and the Mustang victory and title.
"He deserves all the credit in the world for the mental toughness he displayed," said Booth of Fleming.
While Fleming’s performance in the 2-mile was the difference, Norwood needed to take the top two spots in the 55-meter dash to give him the opportunity, with the Mustangs figuring to be big underdogs in the final 4x400 relay. In a battle between three of the league’s top sprinters, Norwood’s Leo Miller (6.88) and Jason Matovu (6.89) and Milton’s Kareem Patterson (6.89) all finished within a hundredth of a second of each other, but Miller and Matovu secured first and second for a critical eight points.
It was another huge day for Matovu as he added wins in three individual events to collect 18 points on the day.
As they have all season, Norwood dominated the jumps. Matovu’s 20 feet, 4 inches led a sweep in the long jump with teammates Shaun Callahan and Aaron Cockrane. Matovu cleared 5-6 to win the high jump while Callahan’s 5-4 edged Milton’s Patterson and Larry Javvier, who both posted the same height but needed more attempts.
Matovu took the 55 hurdles as well in 8.24, with Osoto Izeko toughing out a third despite being limited by a hamstring injury.
Norwood’s terrific shot put duo of Lonsdale Garrison and Dan DiTomasso both threw personal bests to go 1-2. Garrison tossed 47-5 1/2 to beat DiTomasso (45-11) for the first time this season.
The Mustangs needed to scratch for every point in the middle distance events, especially with Milton unexpectedly sweeping the 300. Matt Thibeau grabbed a third in the mile. Tim Buckley was narrowly beaten in the 1,000, settling for second, with Sam McGrath just missing out on a third, while Ryan Igoe and Rob Wood went 2-3 in the 600 in another tight race.
"It was actually a trying night," said Booth. "We knew it was going to such a close meet that we needed a couple of things to go our way and they weren’t going our way. I’ve never cheered so hard for the 2-mile in my life."
Norwood concluded the dual meet season with a 56-39 loss to Needham in their crossover meet with the Carey Division’s second place team to wrap up at 4-2 overall. The Mustangs won half of the 10 events, including three more victories from Matovu in the hurdles, high jump and long jump.
Miller and Matovo also went 1-2 in the dash, as did DiTomasso and Garrison in the shot put.
Matovu and Miller both had great days at the MSCTA Invitational on Saturday. Matovu took second in the long jump as his personal best of 21-5 1/2 broke the meet record, but was just shy of the winning jump of 21-6 from Salem’s Jon Crimble. Matovu is closing in on the school’s indoor record of 21-6 1/2.
Miller and Matovu both ran personal bests in the dash, Miller ran the top time in the preliminaries with a 6.74 and repeated it in the final for third, while Matovu came in at 6.82 for 14th.
DiTomasso threw 44-10 1/2 for eighth in the shot put.
Norwood next competes at the BSC Championships on Wednesday.