For Burke’s girls' track team, clinching a share of the Boston City League South title earlier this week marked a first.
For South Boston, sharing the other half of the title marked a last.
The teams shared the South title with 5-1-0 records, which BPS track commissioner Mary Grant believes is a first for the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, both the Knights’ boys' and girls' teams won their division in coach Jim de Mello’s 25th and final season at South Boston.
“I wouldn’t have admitted it earlier, but it felt really good,” de Mello said when asked about winning both titles in his final season. “The funny thing is, the girls were really disappointed when they lost to Snowden. They were so depressed. They all came together and said, ‘We’re not going to give up.’
“They were trying to win it for me. Some of them were doing four events, two field events and two running events, to get more points.”
De Mello said the last time both outdoor teams won the South in the same year was 2008. He said they did it again in indoor track the following year.
“It doesn’t happen too often,” de Mello said. “Especially in our division, where most of the time we have one stronger team than the other."
As for Burke — a school that is stereotyped as not being athletic — it is equally thrilled to win its first title, though some argue that it doesn’t deserve a share because it lost head-to-head against South Boston.
“It’s definitely an accomplishment,” said first-year coach Byron Beaman, “and it’s not to overshadow the work Jim has done at South Boston over the last 25 years. For his girls and boys to win in his last season, that speaks a lot to what he’s been able to do and how they wanted to send him out. I take my hat off to South Boston and what he’s done.”
Beaman, Burke’s football coach who is co-coaching track for the first time with assistant boys' basketball coach Megan Waterbury, said Burke is turning the corner in its effort to establish better athletic programs.
“A lot of people are surprised at how fast we were able to turn things around,” he said.
“We’re like the Rodney Dangerfield of BPS athletics -- we can’t get any respect at all -- and I don’t know why that is, but we’re going to continue to do what we have to in every sport.”
The most amazing part of Burke’s share in the South title is that it started the season with only six girls on the team and finished with five: Senior Alexandra Tubman (100-meter dash, 4x100 relay, long jump), senior Sheree Letford (100, 4x100 relay, javelin), senior Kirina Laryea. (200, 110-meter hurdles, high jump), junior Tiffany Anderson (4x100 relay, 400 meters), and junior Cynee Carpin (4x100 relay, 400 meters, long jump).
Beaman said they were able to pull off such a successful season with so few numbers by being organized early and entering girls in events in which most teams didn’t have anyone competing, such as the high jump, 110-meter hurdles, and javelin.
“A lot of teams were slow getting started so we were able to score some wins early before people got their teams together,” Beaman said. “And we just made sure we had young ladies competing.”
South Boston’s girls’ team got off to a decent start but stumbled April 25 against Snowden because much of the team was on a field trip. But after that, the team vowed to win the South title for de Mello.
“Because he’s a great guy,” said senior shot putter Stanasa Dowdy, who rescheduled a dentist appointment so she could compete in the final meet of the regular season. “He supports us all the way, and I’m a senior, we wanted to go out with a bang as well so it would be great for our last year.”
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