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South Boston track team heats up in cold weather

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs  April 11, 2013 09:54 PM

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Queyshawn Owens won his first race after not participating in track for over a year to focus on his grades (Billy Owens/ Boston Globe)

When coach Jim de Mello talks about memorable moments from his last outdoor track season, seeing sophomore Queyshawn Owens win the 1 mile on his first ever attempt will surely be a hot topic.

“He really didn’t know what to expect. He has been training in distance a little bit but it was his first mile so I told him stay in the pack and stay within reach and see what you have in the last lap,” said de Mello, the South Boston coach of 25 years. “He beat everybody out in the last half lap and he hung on to his form.”

South Boston fared very well overall in its dual meet against East Boston on a cold and windy Thursday afternoon. It won nine events to beat English by a score of 70-17 in the boys' events and 55-8 in the girls' events.

“Our team’s performance in the spring is very good because the kids are very exited about the new season,” de Mello said.

Owens, who took a hiatus from the track his freshman year to focus on academics after starting track in eighth grade, was also a member of the first-place 4 x 100 meter relay team in addition to coming in first in the mile.

“My heart was pumping and I felt a little nervous but after I started running I was good,” Owens said.

The sophomore, who also plays basketball, added that while he didn’t participate in any sports during his freshman year, he knew that one day he would return to track.

“I was keeping up my grades so I just didn’t do anything. I just hadn’t did it in a while and I missed it, so I came back,” Owens said.

The young athlete fought through adversity and now is back in the sport he loves.

Another South Boston runner who knows about adversity is Merika Thompson. She encountered some of it in the 400 meters.

After the first 200 meters, Thompson saw that another runner had cut into her lane, and she expended air and energy by shouting at her to move.

“Once she heard me, she looked back and she moved and after that I was able to run as hard as I could with the little breath that I had left, all the way to the finish line,” Thompson said.

Thompson beat everyone in the pack besides Latin Academy’s Ashley Lewis, who won the race by more than seven seconds.

“When I got to the last 100 I was just able to give it everything until the finish so I was really happy,” Thompson said.

Her coach noted that Thompson is often very nervous when going into competitions because of the high goals she sets for herself.

“She was determined. Somebody was in her way and she knew it so she said, ‘Well, I’m going to go around her and just do the best I can with it,' ” de Mello said. “That just tells you she’s mentally tough and she’s not going to quit easily.”

The mental toughness of the team showed on a day when sunshine was rare and leg cramps were common.

“If the weather’s cold like this, we still go out and train, so the kids are kind of used to that kind of weather and it’s a challenge for them,” de Mello said. “I got three layers on and I’m cold so it’s a difficult situation for the young athletes and I take great pride in getting them prepared for this kind of weather.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

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