June 15, 2014 11:05PM
By Sean Krofssik
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. — Before Maloney senior Briana Burt competed in her championship heat of the New England High School Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Bridgewater State University on Saturday, she had a few words with Spartans hurdles coach Don Askew.
“We were dancing before the race,” Burt said. “I said to him, ‘This is my last race in high school; lets make it good one.’”
Burt turned in the race of her life in the 100-meter high hurdles. She ran the fastest time by any Connecticut hurdler this year with a 14.57 and became Maloney’s first New England champion in recent memory.
“I had an explosive start,” Burt said. “I let my instincts take over. I was in third heading into the final hurdle and, with a strong finish, I won.”
Burt made up the ground when the two girls in front of her clipped the final hurdle and she got over it cleanly.
“She got out quick, like she always does,” Maloney coach Chris Watson said. “She was right behind the girl from Ledyard and the girl from New Hampshire. The last hurdle slowed them down just enough.
“Briana never hits a hurdle,” Watson added. “If you look at it, there was the award for running such clean races all year. She may have not been the fastest hurdler in the race, but she ran the smoothest race. I think people forget about that part of the race. It’s a factor and it made a huge difference.”
Burt said she never felt better on the track.
“My goal this spring was to break 15 seconds,” Burt said. “I had no goals of winning a state or New England title. I just wanted to bring my time down and get ready for college. But with the lower time came the titles. I never thought it would happen. It is still really early in my track career.”
Burt is heading to University of Hartford, where she will play soccer and run track for the Division I Hawks. Burt has the highest expectations for her future on the track.
“When I started as sophomore, I was running the hurdles in 18 and 19 seconds,” Burt said. “Last year, I was in the high 15’s. My next goal for college is the low 14’s and high 13’s, and after that I would like to go for 12’s in the Olympic Trials. I’m not that far off.”
Watson said with Burt’s talent and work ethic, anything is possible.
“She runs such a clean race and never clips the hurdles,” Watson said. “The hurdles go up three inches in college, but because she is such a clean racer I don’t think she will have any problem. There are a lot of possibilities for her. You can’t predict the future, but she set herself up for a great career going forward.”
Burt won the CIAC Class L hurdles championship in 14.84 two weeks ago and placed second at the CIAC State Open in 14.99 last week before her New England win.
“It meant the world to me and showed all of my hard work had paid off,” Burt said. “With a lot of great people behind you, everything is possible. I wanted to win the title for my school and for my coaches. It really hasn’t sunk in yet. Even the state title hasn’t sunk in. It feels like a dream.” Burt’s high school career will have its final farewell on Tuesday and Wednesday at the CIAC state heptathlon at the Coast Guard Academy in New London.
Watson said he was never happier at a track meet than he was on Saturday.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” Watson said. “I was kind of speechless when it happened. It was an awesome moment for Briana, me and Don Askew.”