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Latin Academy sweeps city league outdoor track and field championships

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs  May 14, 2013 08:10 PM

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The all freshman Latin Academy girls 4x400-relay team (Britney Firmin, Leigha Millis, Imani Pressley and Ashley Lewis) took the top spot on the podium at White Stadium on Tuesday before their team beat O'Bryant by one point in the team standings of the Boston City League outdoor track and field championships. (Justin A. Rice / For the Boston Globe)

Latin Academy edged O'Bryant, 96-95, to win its second straight girls title at the Boston City League track and field championships Tuesday at White Stadium.

“This, I have to say, in all the years I’ve been doing these meets is the closest meet I’ve ever seen,” said City League commissioner Mary Grant, who has been involved with the program for more than 30 years.

First-year program New Mission collected 76 points to round out the Top 3.

“It’s really good for not only our kids but [O’Bryant]," Latin Academy coach Brian Leussler said. "I love that level of competition. I want the kids to be out here thinking every point matters, every kid who comes in fifth or sixth is going to make a big difference.” It was a clean sweep for Leussler as his boys were also victorious with 98 points followed by O’Bryant with 95. South Boston, whose coach, James de Mello, is retiring after 25 years, came in third with 57 points.

It was the first outdoor championship for the Latin Academy boys during Leussler's 11-year tenure. Latin lost to O’Bryant last year by a half a point.

“We were focusing on that because last year, that half point, I was just like, ‘man, we almost had it,’ but now that we got it, it’s really good,” said Malik Anderson, the winner of the 200-meter dash and the triple jump.

After Monday it looked like Latin Academy was on its way to another loss to O’Bryant for both boys and girls. Leussler’s girls and boys were down to O’Bryant by 32 and 19 points respectfully.

“It’s proof why they call it track and field," Leussler said. "Yesterday was all the field and they were 30 points ahead, today was all track and we got the 30 points back. It was a really hard fought meet so I’m happy for my team.”

The close score throughout the meet left both Leussler and O’Bryant’s Jose Ortega confused about who had won before the champions were announced.

“I was talking to Ortega from [O’Bryant] and we each thought our boys team won and we each thought our girls team lost and we couldn’t decide,” Leussler said.

According to Ortega, the close score also testified to how great of a meet it truly was.

“The best thing about this meet is coming down to the last event of the meet; the relays. That’s the most spectacular of all. That’s great,” Ortega said.

A majority of Latin Academy’s speed came from its all freshman first place 4x400 relay team of Britney Firmin, Leigha Millis, Imani Pressley and Ashley Lewis.

“We work really well together so I didn’t have any doubts,” said Firmin. “We just all promised to all work our best because it’s a team effort so we were just all trying to run as fast as we could to get a fast time.”

She also won the 800-meter dash by 24.7 seconds.

“I had no idea. I was just trying to think someone is right behind me so I was just really trying to push it,” Firmin said. “Whether someone was two meters behind me or 10 meters I was just really trying to push it all the way to the end.”

Leussler was very high on her relay teammate Lewis, the winner of the 400-meter run.

“She works really hard in workouts, she’s running hills all the time, she’s doing distance in the golf course, she alternates her tempo running and speed running,” Leussler said. “She’s in ninth grade and she’s doing incredible.”

Even though Latin Academy boys and girls teams celebrated a victory lap around the track after being awarded their trophies, for cocaptain Malik Anderson, the championship was just the continuation of an already successful season.

“I got to see everyone try and it really makes everyone feel happy,” Anderson said. “I’m glad everyone did their best and winning just adds the icing on the cake.”

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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