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Arlington’s small team boasts 3 stellar runners

In US rankings, Arlington High School sprinter Rebecca Robinson (left) is 11th in the 300 meters. At right, fellow Spy Ponder miler Quentin Stipp (left) is ranked 29th and 2-miler Dan McDonald-Meteer is 18th. In US rankings, Arlington High School sprinter Rebecca Robinson (left) is 11th in the 300 meters. At right, fellow Spy Ponder miler Quentin Stipp (left) is ranked 29th and 2-miler Dan McDonald-Meteer is 18th. (Left: Jay Connor for The Boston Globe/File 2011; right: Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Rich Fahey
Globe Correspondent / February 16, 2012
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ARLINGTON - A win-loss record does not tell the entire story.

The Arlington High boys’ and girls’ indoor track teams found it challenging to compete in the Large School Division of the Middlesex League this winter.

The girls’ team did not win a meet while the boys managed just a tie with Belmont.

Until very recently, though, Arlington High was the only school in the state to have three athletes listed in the top 20 of the national rankings in their respective events, according to the website Milesplit.com.

Sprinter Rebecca Robinson is ranked 11th in the 300 meters and 2-miler Dan McDonald-Meteer is 18th, one spot behind Wakefield High’s Stephen Robertson. Miler Quentin Stipp was in the top 20, but now is ranked 29th in the country, and seventh in the state. All three have already qualified for the New Balance Indoor National Championships in New York City.

“I’ve been coaching for 35 years, and you’re lucky to get one of these types of kids or maybe two,’’ said Arlington High track coach John Hanley. “But three?’’

The Spy Ponders do not have an indoor track facility, and athletes can be found running in the corridors of the school, outside in what has been a mild winter or, in the case of Stipp and McDonald-Meteer, receiving permission to train at Woburn High.

Arlington is also still coping with a drastic dropoff in the numbers of students participating in indoor track, which Hanley and team members attribute at least partially to a huge increase in athletic user fees for the 2010-2011 season.

“Two years ago, we had 65 kids on each team,’’ said Hanley. “Then the user fees blew up last year (to $480 for outdoor track and $408 for indoor track). They’ve come back down, but now we have 40 kids between the two teams and we’re still recovering.’’

The transition this season from the Dual County League to the Middlesex League has also created issues. The DCL’s “2-1-1’’ policy allows athletes to compete in two sprints, one distance event, and one field event per meet. The Middlesex is a “1-1-1’’ league: Athletes can compete in only one sprint, one distance event, and one field event.

With Robinson, “we would start each meet with two wins and 10 points,’’ said Hanley. “Just having her run the 300 really hurts. I understand the rationale behind it - giving more kids a chance to compete and win - but it really hurt us.’’

One of the most decorated high school sprinters in state history, Robinson owns four indoor and outdoor state championships in distances from 55 meters to 400 meters. She has a New England title to her credit as well, setting a meet record of 39.08 in the 300 in the New England Indoor Championships last March. The Syracuse-bound senior won a state title and was second in the New England 400 meters outdoors last spring.

As a freshman, she attempted the long jump just once, and promptly set a school record of 16 feet, 9 inches. She promptly gave it up, after suffering a back injury in her landing.

“I missed running both the 55 and the 300 this season,’’ she said. “The new rules and having fewer kids on the team really hurt us.’’

Robinson, who also plays soccer, expects to focus on the 300 in coming meets and expects to renew her rivalry in the New Englands with another crack sprinter, Precious Holmes of Hillhouse High in Connecticut.

“She’s beaten me in the 400 outdoors and I’ve beaten her in the 300 indoors,’’ said Robinson. “We’ll see what happens.’’

“Becca is an outstanding athlete and she’s been good at anything she’s tried,’’ said Hanley. “But both Dan and Quentin have almost come out of nowhere to this level of excellence, and a lot of it is due to just hard work. They’ve really dedicated themselves to improving and have had a strict conditioning program since late August. Now the sky’s the limit for them.’’

Hanley said both Stipe and McDonald-Meteer have the same competitive spirit as former AHS state champion distance runner, Antony Taylor, now at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who once finished second in the 2-mile at the All-State Meet despite a stress fracture in his foot.

Stipp, who hopes to attend Northeastern or UMass Amherst, said he and McDonald-Meteer have pushed each other hard during training sessions, often at Woburn High’s indoor facility, to replicate the different conditions in indoor racing.

Stipp said he believes the large amount of speed work he has done the past few months has paid dividends.

“I feel confident in my ability if it comes down to a closing kick,’’ he said.

Stipp, whose personal best in the mile was 4:27 going into this season, said running with some of the best milers in the state at the McIntyre Elite Meet helped pave the way to his 4:18.45 time and second-place finish.

The better runners “tend to pull you along with them,’’ he said.

McDonald-Meteer, who is undecided about his college plans, said he has been receiving “plenty of letters’’ from college coaches in recent weeks after running a 9.23.50 2-mile and finishing a close second behind Marshfield’s Kevin Thomas at the McIntyre Meet. It was the third-best time in the state this year and 18th best nationally, and 20 seconds faster than his best 2-mile time heading into the season.

“Yeah, I was surprised,’’ he said. “Going into the season, I was hoping to qualify for the All-State meet.’’

He said knowing that he can run with the best in the state has given him plenty of confidence going into the Division II and state meets.

The Spy Ponders will be well represented in the MIAA Division 2 meet today at the Reggie Lewis Center, and, if form holds, at the All-State meet and All-New England meet.

Hanley said about a quarter of the boys’ and girls’ teams - including four milers - qualified for the Division 2 meet.

“We had quality but no quantity,’’ he said.

Rich Fahey can be reached at fahey.rich@gmail.

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