CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Bishop Feehan High School track coach Bob L’Homme was assembling a quartet of Shamrocks with fast feet for the 4x100 and 4x200 boys’ relay teams this spring, he had four individuals in mind.
Led by record-setting 100- and 200-meter senior speedster Matt Zawaski as an anchor leg, L’Homme packaged junior Aidan Corrigan, senior Ray George and senior Patrick O’Toole with Zawaski as a quartet.
Not only did the foursome shatter Bishop Feehan High records in both relay events, they also traveled to the New Balance National Championship over the weekend, representing the Shamrock Running Club.
Competing in the Emerging Elite Division, the 4x100 team captured 10th nationally (42.95), while Zawaski finished 13th in the 200 dash ((21.80). The 4x200 relay team did not place due to a dropped baton.
Norton High senior Corey Stalters, who is headed to Bridgewater State in the fall, was the lone Lancer in the field and finished 19th in the javelin at 155-feet, 5-inches.
Seekonk High’s Cammie Garabain, the three-time MIAA state shot put champion and first-place finisher at the New England Interscholatic Meet, competed in the girls’ championship division on Sunday and threw 45-feet, 8 1/2-inches to finish eighth, one foot off of the winning mark.
L’Homme conferred with assistant coach and sprint specialist John King on assembling the group, with King tinkering with each individual’s approach to the event.
“Matt loves chasing down people,” L’Homme said of having the Sacred Heart University-bound Zawaski as the final leg for both relay teams.
Zawaski, the MIAA All-State 200 meters champ, is the school record-holder in both the 100 (10.98) and 200 (21.58).
L’Homme and King made two changes though. Corrigan ran the lead leg in the 4x100 relay while the University of Tampa-bound George ran the opening leg for the 4x200 team.
“In the 4x200, the first two guys run in their lanes, but once the third guy goes onto the track, he can cut in and having a big body (6-foot-3) in O’Toole works well for us, he can lean in,” L’Homme said. “Ray has the second-fastest time (22.8 in the 300 at the Division 3 Meet) in that group, so you want that — he can carry that baton longer.”
The 4x100 relay team won the MSTCA Invitational Meet title, set a Shamrock record in the event at 43 seconds in taking first place at the Division 3 Meet at Merrimack, and the following week, shattered that mark again (42.73 seconds) for second place at the All-State Meet.
“To be perfectly honest, I knew that they would be good, they had that potential, but I didn’t think that they’d get this far,” L’Homme said of the quartet assembling at the starting line for the national championship meet.
King, more renown for his prowess on the basketball court at Prout High (South Kingstown, R.I.) and Salve Regina University (Newport) “has done a phenomenal job working with our sprinters,” L’Homme said of his assistant coach.
“We like to have Aidan running that first let because he always gets a good start,” King said of the 5-foot-9 Corrigan. “He accelerates really well and can boomerang off of that curve. We worked on him coming out of the blocks a bit lower, not standing up — just really accelerating those first seven or eight steps, then gradually rising up.”
George is a package of power and speed, ideal for the second leg which is a bit longer due to the curve.
“With him, we worked on him accelerating faster,” King said. “Aidan is about 22 steps away when Ray starts running to take the baton and take off.”
O’Toole, who is headed to Providence College, has been the all-important x-factor as the third leg in both relays due to his height.
“When he gets the baton for that third leg, he can cut in, which is where he his size and physicality help him to a degree, for us to get a little advantage,” King said. “We worked on his knee drive, keeping his toes up, getting his knees drive up a bit. He’s got an important job to get that baton to Matt.”
Once the baton enters in the grasp of Zawaski, L’Homme and King both believe that the Shamrocks can win the event, no matter where they stand after three legs.
”We worked a lot on his start, sometimes he accelerates and loses his steps,” King added. “We wanted to lengthen those first few strides and be under control a little bit more, then he can take off.
”With all four of those guys, we don’t mess around with them too much, we just let then use their instincts and run. They may not be the athletic studs that you see at meets that dominate their events, but they get it done — they do all the small things well.”