By David Willis
---- — If there was any question what Mike Maldari meant to the Andover track program over the last four years, the crew of former Golden Warriors tracksters waiting to greet him at the high school after All-States on Saturday certainly provided a clear response.
And when they began chanting his name, that was the icing on the cake.
Maldari closed out his memorable, often unsung, career with the Golden Warriors in style on Saturday, when he broke the school record in the 800-meter at All-States with a 1:56.01.
“I have been thinking about it for four years,” Maldari said. “I started as more of a miler, but I really settled into the 800 and felt like it was my race. I have been dreaming of this for years, and to do it was really special.”
It was the culmination of a career that was often overshadowed while a member of outstanding 4x800 relay teams.
“After being surrounded by those great relay teams, Mike really needed an identity on his own,” Warriors coach Peter Comeau said. “He has been chasing this record all year. It was important to him and he really worked for it. He sacrificed senior week (for Andover High seniors) to get that extra training in and it paid off.”
Making the record even more memorable was that it broke the mark of 1:56.32 owned by Adam Vetere, half of the legendary Andover High track duo along with identical twin Mark Vetere. Both now compete for Naval Academy.
“The Veteres were New England champs and All-Americans,” Maldari said. “Today, I can feel like I am on their level in one event.
“I could hear the coaches yelling after the first 400 and I knew I was on a good pace. So I tried to stay with the pack and let them carry me in. I saw the clock and I knew it was going to be close. But I did it and it was great.”
Maldari previously wrote his name into the school’s record books as a member of the 4x800 relay that ran a Warrior-best 7:53.75 two years ago and last season ran an 8:01.49 at New Balance Nationals.
“He has been a key member of this teams,” Comeau said. “He had the opportunity to run with guys like (Ryan) Cooney and (Simon) Voorhees and (Will Klein). This season, he really had to push himself this year. That’s a tribute to his commitment to track and breaking the school record.”
Maldari’s dedication and accomplishments earned him the 2013 Andover High Robert McIntyre Award for Excellence in Athletics. Next up, Maldari will be going to UMass Amherst where he will run track.
“I am so proud of everything he has accomplished,” Comeau said. “Andover has a terrific track tradition, and to break a record is something special.”