Sudden impact: Nashua underclassmen are difference-makers in track and field

If the Nashua High School North boys track team finds a way to upset Pinkerton Academy on Friday night and repeat as Division I track champions, it will be one of the greatest reloading efforts in state track history.

Last spring the Titans graduated 75 of the 85 points they needed to win the championship. If it happens, three sophomores and a freshman, who have become quick friends and a dynamite 4×100 meter relay team, will have played a role in the victory.

Soccer might be Nashua High School South freshman Adaeze Obinelo’s first love, but if she keeps improving in the shot put and discus, it could open up a lot more college options for the talented goalkeeper.

She’s already the top seed in both the shot and discus going into Friday night’s Division I championships in Hampton, and she’s still learning the nuances of both events.

While North and South struggle to stay competitive in some sports, the track programs at both schools continue to thrive. And with the recent influx of young talent, it shouldn’t end anytime soon.

“In a couple of years from now, once she gets the technique down, she’s going to be unbelievable,” South throwing coach Nick Hogan said of Obinelo. “She’s the type of kid that you can show her one thing and you don’t have to show her again, because she’s already got it down.”

It’s not always easy to find and nurture one young sprinter. North coach Nate Burns now has four of them in sophomores William Goulding, Walter Torres, Michael Pagan and freshman Zakari Jenkins.

The four have formed a tight bond. They run cross country together in the fall to stay in shape for winter and spring track and they are, already, the fourth ranked 4×100 team in Division I.

“Before we’re done, we’d like to have the school record in the 4×100 outdoors and 4×200 indoors,” Goulding said. “And we’d also like to be state champions in the 4×400 someday.”

For Burns, who saw so much speed graduate a year ago, it’s been a godsend.

“It’s nice to have them fall in our lap, ready to go,” Burns said. “They are all track kids year round, which makes it easy to keep track of them year round.

“They all work hard, they love hanging out together and they love pushing each other.”

They have already set a record, running a 1:34.39 in the 4×200 at Salem’s annual Kiwanis Freshmen/Sophomore Meet.

Burns first noticed Goulding when he came to North to practice with the Elm Street Middle School team, where he first met Jenkins. Pagan and Torres ran together and became friends at Pennichuck Middle School.

Just staying active after school was enough to get Obinelo interested in track.

“I started track in middle school because I like to keep busy,” Obinelo said, “but I wasn’t that into running around in circles, so I thought I’d try the field events.

“We didn’t really have a coach at that point, so we all just kind of taught ourselves.”

Obinelo has gotten plenty of coaching since, including longtime Nashua throwing coach Bill Stumpf, who has retired from coaching but continues to help out on occasion.

“There’s a lot of work in the weight room,” Obinelo said. “Throwing is great, but it’s not exactly my go-to thing right now.

“I have a while to figure it out, but I really like soccer.”

If, after a big save next fall, Obinelo twirls in the penalty area before releasing a long throw to a teammate, you’ll know she’s still wrestling with a decision she won’t have to make for a few years.