By Sean Sweeney, Sentinel and Enterprise
BRIDGEWATER--Anyone who has been around the Fitchburg High track program lo these last six years knows the impact that Josh Higgins had on the Red Raiders during his time on Arn-How Road. A prodigious middle-distance runner under legendary FHS Hall of Fame coach Chris Woods, Higgins was undoubtedly the heart and soul of the Class of 2016's athletic entrants.
Now nearly two full years removed from the Red and Gray, Higgins is making loads of noise for the Bridgewater State men's track and field team, and he has the honors to prove it.
Higgins was named the MASCAC's men's indoor track Athlete of the Week for the third consecutive week on Monday, claiming the conference's award for the fifth time out of the last six weeks this winter after his performances at the NCAA Division 3 meet this past weekend in Birmingham, Alabama.
Not only that, Higgins was one of seven Bears named a Division 3 All-New England honoree last Wednesday, doing so for the 4x400-meter relay as well as the 800-meter run.
"This has been the best indoor season of my career to date," Higgins said Monday afternoon. "(I) would have liked to get All-American status but fell a little short. Other than that, I'm happy and want to continue the momentum going into outdoor."
This past weekend, he finished 12th overall in the 800, posting a time of 1:53.96. He went into the event seeded fifth.
In addition, Higgins ran the first leg in the Bears' 4x400-meter relay which finished ninth at the meet in school record-breaking time of 3:18.55.
The relay team just missed out on the finals, as the top eight teams advance.
Higgins, alongside Great Barrington's Michael Kotleski, Boston's Lamont Haynes, and South Boston's John Lara, had already broken the school record while finishing sixth at Boston University's Last Chance meet two weeks ago, ultimately shaving .21 off their time this past weekend.
"We were in a deep heat, and I ended up being the last to pass the baton but got a 49.9 split for my leg," he said of his first appearance in the NCAA Championships. "The experience was pretty grand and memorable! Other than going to the meet, the team, coaches, and I went to a museum in Birmingham which consisted of history behind the city and the civil rights movement."
Two weekends ago, Higgins snapped the school record in the 800 at the Tufts National Qualifying Meet with a time of 1:53 flat; due to the size of the Tufts track, the time was converted to 1:53.41, shattering the four-year old Bridgewater State record by .02.
That performance had shaved more than half a second from his personal best, which he had accomplished during the BU meet to help garner his third Athlete of the Week honor for the season, and the first of the current stretch of three.
Higgins and his 4x400 mates were also second at Tufts.
He finished fourth in the 800 at the New England Intercollegiate Amateur Athletic Association meet at the Reggie Lewis Center on Feb. 3 to claim the first Athlete of the Week honor.
The following weekend, Higgins also helped BSU capture the MASCAC title at the New England Alliance meet in Providence: he finished second in the 600-meter run with a MASCAC best 1:21.91. He and the 4x400 runners set the MASCAC meet record that day (3:25.40).