By David Willis
---- — The up-and-coming Andover track star has seen his name misspelled countless times, not to mention the mispronunciations.
So, to make it clear, his name is – Hamza Naveed.
“I’ve seen it spelled all sorts of ways,” he said with a laugh, looking through his neon pink sunglasses. “But hey, at least people still know who I am.”
If you don’t know Naveed’s name yet, expect to be hearing plenty of it for the next two-plus years.
The sophomore sprinter leads an outstanding group of Golden Warrior track underclassmen that has Andover dreaming of another boys All-State title in the upcoming seasons.
“This foundation of freshmen and sophomores is the best we have had in a long time,” said Warriors coach Peter Comeau. “Not to say we don’t have a very good group of juniors and seniors. But we have really impressive young guys in nearly every event.”
Naveed, a jet-fast sprinter, is front and center in a group of budding stars that includes sophomores Andrew Matteucci (hurdles), Andrew Marotta (throwing) and Sebastian Silveira (sprints) and freshmen Oliver Eberth (sprints, jumps) and Robert Pineault (distance).
“It really is awesome to think that we could really be able to accomplish something one day,” said Matteucci. “Coach Comeau talks about these amazing athletes like (All-Scholastics) Chris McConnell and the Veteres (Mark and Adam), and to think we could do something like that one day is really an honor.”
For Eberth, also a football star, success in running was only natural. After all, he grew up around the Eugene V. Lovely Field track watching his sister Sydney Eberth, the 2011 EMass. Division 1 champion in 400.
“My sister was an amazing runner,” said Eberth. “I would always be at her meets watching her run. I wanted to follow in her footsteps. Plus, I’m good friends with coach Comeau’s son Mikey, so I always knew I was going to play football in the fall then do track in the winter and spring.”
Eberth wasted no time making an impact this winter, running on the winning 4x200 and taking fourth in the 300 at the MVC freshman/sophomore meet,
“Coach Comeau knew I was kind of fast,” he said. “And for the first meet he put me in the JV heat and I did really well. So he started putting me in the varsity meets and I kept doing well. I love track. It’s a lot of fun.”
But, going out for the sport was not a given for other members of this group.
For Matteucci, the decision to try track happened by luck.
“Basketball was always my sport,” he said. “But my freshman year I got cut from the team. I still wanted a sport, so I decided to give track a shot.
“The first day I was in the hurdles trials and did really well. Coach Comeau came over and told me, ‘You are doing hurdles, and you are going to be great.’ I really started to get confident after I took second (in the 110 hurdles) at the freshman/sophomore meet.”
For Marotta, it took some encouragement from home.
“As a freshman I played football then didn’t play a spring sport,” he said. “So my parents convinced me to try track. I didn’t think I was going to like it, and was just doing it because I was supposed to.
“But once I tried the discus, I realized I was pretty good at it. And I really liked it! Against North Andover last year I threw 90 feet in the discus. That isn’t so good, but it showed me I could get better.”
Marotta has continued to grow in the sport, throwing a 110 in the discus and 112 in the javelin in the season-opener last week.
Silveira’s interest in track was peaked all the way back in elementary school.
“I started running track in sixth grade and it was a lot of fun,” said Silveira, the younger brother of basketball star Max. “I started doing well in all the races and started to believe I could do well.
“Last year I got sixth at MVCs in the 400 (53.48) and was thinking to myself, ‘alright!’ It makes you work harder every day when you have expectations.”
Pineault nearly went out for tennis this spring, his freshman year, but changed his mind in the winter.
“I knew I was going to run cross country,” he said. “And I liked that and winter track so much, I decided to stick with track this spring. I really like it.”
And then there is Naveed, a self-described “individual” and lover of neon.
“I knew I was fast when I was always running faster than my friends at recess,” he said. “I thought track was the best way to go, and I liked it right away.”
He began to impress last spring, scoring victories and running the team’s top time for the season in the 200 (23.39).
“Winning is a great feeling,” he said. “The freshmen and sophomores are the future of this team, and we want a championship.”
Comeau believes that is far from a long shot.
“This is an outstanding group,” he said. “I think we will have an great 4x400 team of Eberth, Naveed, Silveira and Matt Reardon as the only upperclassman. And once you establish a good 4x400, a whole lot can happen.”