WALLINGFORD — Veteran track coach Charlie Farley knew he had a good one when Rayna Esch walked through the door of Sheehan High School as a freshman in the fall of 2015.
Here was one of those versatile athletes, Farley knew, who would help Sheehan girls track to have a solid four-year run.
Sure enough, Esch did not disappoint. Even after suffering a knee injury during her senior year of soccer, Esch battled back and, by running distance, got herself back in shape to perform in her regular sprinting events.
“Not quite as fast as she was in the past, but much better than any of us expected,” Farley said. “She kept working on her speed (and) her hard work allowed her to contribute to our successes at the end of the season.”
Once back to cruising altitude, Esch joined Clarisse Aminawung, Patrice Manfield and Allison Villano to set a program record in the 4x100 relay at the Class M state meet with a time of 51.27.
Esch never lost a step academically. With a 4.3 grade-point average, she was the valedictorian of Sheehan’s Class of 2019.
In being named one of Sheehan’s nine Record-Journal Scholar-Athletes of the 2019 spring season, Esch completed a triple crown. She was also R-J Scholar-Athlete in soccer and boys swimming, and Sheehan’s overall CIAC Scholar-Athlete for the year.
In all, Esch was named All-SCC Academic 11 times and earned 12 varsity letters. She is heading to UConn to major in molecular and cell biology.
No matter how deep and talented the Sheehan track program is, her departure will be keenly felt.
“Some of her other contributions were as a captain and team leader,” Farley noted.
“When she could have been focusing on herself, Rayna was concerned about her teammates as well. She was always positive and helped them whenever she saw a need.
“The coaches and athletes on the team who knew what she was capable of were pleased for her and excited that she began to return to the levels at which competed in the past.”
Mark Amodio, boys tennis: OK, the bar has been set. Mark Amodio graduates from Sheehan High School having earned seven straight Record-Journal Scholar-Athlete nominations.
Will the record be broken?
In the meantime, Amodio is off to Storrs to attend UConn after graduating No. 5 in Sheehan’s Class of 2019 with a 4.16 GPA.
Amodio played soccer, basketball and tennis on Hope Hill Road and was senior captain and All-SCC Academic in each. This spring, in tennis, he was 7-9 at No. 1 singles.
“As a junior and second-year tennis player, Mark was prematurely moved to the one-singles position due to a previously large graduating senior class and become a captain,” Sheehan coach Jamie Canney noted. “Mark faced the best tennis players in our division and lost most of his matches that year. Rather than get defeated, Mark rose up to the position and fought hard to quickly learn how to play against these players.”
Amodio had few rivals academically. He was Sheehan’s CIAC Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year and a Scholar-Athlete with the New Haven Tap-Off Club.
As a junior, he took the AP Scholar Award for earning an average score of 3 on at least three Advanced Placement tests.
This past year, the National Honor Society member and Varsity Scholar won Yale Senior Spotlight and CABE Student Leadership awards.
Amodio was a member of the Spanish Cub, Student Council and yearbook staff. He volunteers at Hoop House Basketball Camp, House of Heroes, The Outreach Program for Soccer and Community Leaf Raking Day.
“Mark is an incredible athlete and student,” Canney said. “To be a three-sport captain is a remarkable accomplishment, nevermind the fact that Mark is graduating fifth in his class.
“On paper, Mark’s achievements are impressive, but what makes Mark rare is his personality on and off the court. He is humble, kind, a great leader and can always make his teammates laugh.”
Samantha Hart, girls lacrosse: The Lady Titans broke new ground in lacrosse this spring, going 14-6, qualifying for — and winning a game in — their first SCC Tournament, and then advancing to the Class S state quarterfinals.
Samantha Hart was part of Sheehan’s juggernaut on offense. The senior attacker scored 10 goals and assisted on six. She also played volleyball and Power Puff football.
Academically, Hart made High Honors throughout her Sheehan career, graduating No. 17 in the Class of 2019 with a 3.89 GPA.
She’s someone you’d want on your Trivia Pursuit team for the Arts & Literature category. Hart participated in Sheehan’s AP Art Show and 2017 spring musical. She received a Certificate of Excellence in American Literature and an outstanding arts award from CAS.
Hart is heading to the University of Hartford.
“Sam is a multi-talented individual who excels in many different areas, including lacrosse and in the classroom,” said lacrosse coach Charissa Zbikowski. “She has been a consistent player on our attack and is a role model for her teammates. Sam is dedicated, driven and hard-working, and her performance on the field and in the classroom are a direct result of these attributes.”
Adam Leone, baseball: Catcher Adam Leone is one of the cornerstones upon whom newly appointed Sheehan head baseball coach Dom Lombardozzi will build next spring in his first season.
Already a team captain as a junior, Leone batted .339 this spring, drove in 10 runs and threw out nine would-be base stealers.
Also a journalist, Leone served as an editor and writer for The Titan Times.
He ranks No. 20 in the Class of 2020 with a 3.9037 GPA.
“Adam’s passion for the game of baseball is second to none, and he demonstrates this by his work ethic and leadership on the field,” Lombardozzi remarked. “He is determined to continue to get better each day through practice, and this quality rubs off on all of his teammates. These leadership qualities continue into the classroom, as proven by his academic standing in the Class of 2020.”
Meghan Murphy, softball: After graduating No. 15 in her class with a 3.92 GPA, Meghan Murphy is bound for Western New England University in pursuit of a pharmacy degree.
Maybe she’ll squeeze in a trip to Florence one of these summers. At Sheehan, Murphy was a member of the Art Club and Italian Club.
In softball, Murphy played shortstop this spring after spending most of her career at second base. Murphy also played volleyball. She was a defensive specialist in that sport.
“Meghan is a very positive and determined young lady. She works extremely hard and stays humble every step of the way,” said coach Sarah Wyant. “She has been a great leader on the softball team and is always supportive of her teammates. She is a very coachable young athlete that also does extremely well in the classroom. Her positive energy is a joy to be around and she will be greatly missed next year.”
Julian Nirmal, golf: A standout golfer since his freshman year, junior Julian Nirmal got the Titans back to the postseason this spring for a third straight year.
He earned seven medals during the regular season and qualified to play individually in the SCC Tournament.
Nirmal is scoring well in the classroom, too. He heads into his senior year with a 4.22 GPA.
The National Honor Society member also participates in Student Council and the Sheehan Marching Band.
“Julian is a great leader for the golf team,” said coach Kevin Ainsworth. “He sets such a good example both on the course and in the classroom.
“Julian is so well-liked by all of his peers and teachers,” Ainsworth added. “They see how much effort he puts into everything he does. He is truly representative of what it means to be a student-athlete.”
Shreya Patel, girls tennis: Here’s one of the top leaders of Sheehan’s Class of 2019.
Shreya Patel ranked No. 5 with a 4.2 GPA and was president of the Math Team, vice president of the Student Council and vice chairman of the National Honor Society.
It almost goes without saying she participated in the Emerging Leaders program.
In tennis, Patel capped a four-year career as senior captain and going 8-2 at No. 1 doubles with Crystal Gallagher, though she also slotted in at No. 4 singles when needed. Patel and Gallagher qualified for the State Open in doubles and were named to the inaugural All-Record-Journal Tennis Team.
“Shreya Patel has been an excellent senior captain for the Sheehan girls tennis team this year,” said coach Doug Sime. “She has shown excellent leadership and has shown a very unselfish nature since she is willing to do whatever the team needs her to do. This is exemplified by her willingness to play singles at No. 4 though starting out in the No. 1 doubles position for Sheehan.
“She is very bright and always displays a cheery nature,” Sime added. “She is a very driven individual.”
Patel also participated in the Debate Club and alternately played soccer and ran cross country.
In college, she will major in physiology and neurobiology with a pre-med track.
Dylan Poet, boys track: Dylan Poet returns to the R-J Scholar-Athlete circle on the heels of his indoor track appearance.
It’s going to be hard to dislodge him. The junior thrower ranks No. 3 in his class with a 4.152 GPA.
Poet, a member of the National Honor Society, participates in Interact Club and has earned a Certificate of Excellence in Chemistry.
The team captain, Poet qualified for the Class M state meet in the shot put in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. He also qualified in discus in the spring.
“Dylan is very dedicated to this sport and is there for his teammates and helps them with form and motivation,” noted track coach Charlie Farley. “He has spent many hours in the weightroom and at practice, and has improved a great deal from last season.
“His willingness to serve the team has been invaluable,” Farley added. “I have called upon him every day to perform some task and he always willingly does it. He is an outstanding role model for everyone on the team, both academically and athletically. He practices hard and competes hard. Dylan is a natural leader. He leads well by his example and is charismatic.
“Dylan is well organized with everything he does and is articulate when speaking to the team.”
Adam Shoshani, boys lacrosse: As a defender, junior Adam Shoshani helped anchor Sheehan’s 14-5 run to the semifinals of the Class S state tournament. It was the farthest Sheehan lacrosse has gone to date in the postseason.
Shoshani was also part of Sheehan’s second straight SCC Division II conference championship swim team. He was on the 200 freestyle relay team that placed fourth in Class S and advanced to the State Open.
Academically, the High Honors student holds a 3.78 GPA. He’s earned All-SCC Academic recognition.
“Adam has worked very hard in the classroom and on the field,” remarked Sheehan lacrosse coach Dan Wostbrock. “He is dedicated to the team and has earned a starting defensive position. He is a great student-athlete and is held in the highest respect by his teammates.”