By Cary Shuman
St. Mary’s High School Principal James Ridley knows the history and significance of the men’s decathlon event.
Ridley related that the unofficial title that went with being the Olympic decathlon champion (such as then-American sports hero Bruce Jenner in 1976) was: world’s greatest athlete.
Ridley now has a Massachusetts state decathlon champion in the St. Mary’s athletic program after junior James Brumfield claimed the coveted crown at the two-day state decathlon competition at Burlington High School.
Interestingly Brumfield’s older sister, Sharell Sanders, helped the St. Mary’s girls basketball team win two state titles. Sanders is now a member of the Caldwell College women’s basketball team.
Brumfield took first place in the ten-event competition over a field of 75 track athletes from across the state.
“It feels pretty food to win this competition,” said Brumfield humbly. “As an athlete, I try to keep myself well rounded, so winning the decathlon is definitely a huge accomplishment.”
The decathlon consists of sprint and long distance running events, the 110-meter hurdles, and field events such as long jump, triple jump, high jump, shotput, discus, and javelin.
Brumfield, who is 5-foot-10 and weighs 165 pounds, won the hurdles and placed in the top three in the 100-meter dash and high jump. He was in first place after the first day of competition.
“I was leading the second-place competitor (Andrew Chen of Waltham High) by about 60 points and he’s a really good athlete,” said Brumfield. “Entering the last event, my lead dropped to 20 points, but I did well in the 1,500 meters (5:05) and that clinched it. ”
Brumfield received the state championship T-shirt and plaque in a post-meet ceremony. He was happy to celebrate his accomplishment with St. Mary’s coach Dom Finelli, a former All-American runner at Brandeis University.
“He’s a great coach. I love him because he’s definitely into track and field. He really pushed me as an athlete throughout the entire season. He really inspired me and had me focused on the decathlon.”
The Catholic Central League champion in the 100-meter dash, 110-meter hurdles, and high jump, Brumfield made a name for himself on the football field last fall when he rushed for 171 yards and a 63-yard touchdown in a 16-6 victory over Stoneham in the North final.
Brumfield has been named a captain of the St. Mary’s football team that will try to take the next step and win the Super Bowl.
“We were so close last year (losing to West Bridgewater in the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium). We’re all working hard to get back to the Super Bowl and get the job done this time.”
Football coach Matt Durgin said Brumfield’s state decathlon title is an impressive accomplishment.
“I remember when Bruce Jenner won and he was on the Wheaties’ Breakfast of Champions box and I told James I’m going to buy Wheaties this week,” said Durgin. “He’s a great kid, a hard worker and this achievement is great for him and great for the school. He has one of the best track coaches around in Dom Finelli.”
St. Mary’s director of athletics Jeff Newhall also congratulated Brumfield.
“This competition provided an excellent showcase for James’s athletic abilities,” said Newhall. “On behalf of the entire school, I congratulate him on his accomplishment.”