WALLINGFORD — Track and field athletes in the Record-Journal coverage area were in mid-season form at the annual R-J Invitational on the newly renovated Lyman Hall track on Thursday afternoon. It was the Southington contingent, though, that stole the show.
The Blue Knights compiled a meet-high 11 individual winners, led by double-winners Amanda Howe and Anthony Mondo.
Howe, a junior and reigning Class LL discus champion, showed her elite talents with runaway wins in the shot put (38-1¼) and discus (125-10).
“It feels pretty good because you know that all of your hard work has paid off and everything you have worked for shows at meets when you can win by such a margin,” Howe said. “I’ve had a pretty good start of the season. My goal is to be around 140 in discus and being [State Open] champion, because I was second last year. My goal in shot put is to break 40 feet.”
Mondo, a senior and first-year track athlete, was best in the long jump (19-9) and triple jump (39-11). Mondo was previously a baseball player in the spring, but had success in indoor track and stuck with it.
“That was only my second time doing triple jump,” Mondo said as his medals clanked in the breeze. “I guess I just had a good day. I started indoor and did it for laughs, but it was a hidden talent I guess.”
The meet’s other double-winners were Maloney thrower Daniel Stevenson and Coginchaug distance runner Peter Schulten. Schulten swept the 1,600 (4:35.91) and the 3,200 (10:10.81). Stevenson took discus (130-3) and earned the final gold medal of the day in shot put (41-4¾).
“It was one of my first meets and it felt good to throw again,” Stevenson said. “Yeah, I expected to win both. Discus is my favorite event and that was a good throw for me.”
Stevenson’s Maloney teammate John Guest struck gold in the javelin (155-7) as the Spartans dominated the boys throws.
Maloney also started the meet with a first-place showing in the co-ed 4×100 relay with the quartet of Fred Anti, Julia Manna, Dasia White and Bryan Brazel. They won in 49.03.
Brazel was also best in the boys individual 100-meter dash in 11.55.
“It’s a great feeling to help the team and it’s just going to get me ready for more (success),” Brazel said. “It was good competition. I run faster when there other fast runners with me. It was a great race.”
Among the Southington boys winners were Michael Mauro in the 110 hurdles (16.80), Jeffrey Hannigan in the 800 meters (2:05.47) and Zach Burleigh in pole vault (11-0).
Rounding out the boys winners were Lyman Hall’s Jordan Crawford in the 400 (52.82), Cheshire’s Liam Killea in the 200 (24.02) and Sheehan’s Ethan Fox in the high jump (5-10).
Fox, a senior, was an inch away from being a double-winner. He settled for second in the long jump with a 19-8 behind Mondo’s 19-9.
“I’m a first-year track athlete and the coaches have been very patient with me,” Fox said. “They know I have natural jumping ability. I’ve improved in the first two meets. It’s a lot of fun. I love being out here.”
Fox, who goes 6-foot-6, was a forward on the school’s basketball team. He came out for track because he wanted to do a sport with his younger sister, sophomore Lauren.
“I convinced her to do it,” Fox said. “I didn’t expect to do this well. To come out and place was a crazy feeling. I didn’t think I could make that transition from basketball, but I have, and the coaches have helped me a lot.”
Fox is open to doing track in college if he were able to generate scholarship interest. In the meantime, he has two Division III basketball offers he’s considering, one from Western New England and the other from Mount St. Mary’s.
Behind Howe, the Southington girls were strong. Individual winners for the Blue Knights included Abby Connolly in the 200 (26.92), Natalie Verderame in the 400 (1:02.07), Allie Brown in the high jump (4-8) and Tayler Riddick in the triple jump (30-07.50).
It was also a big day for the Platt girls, who sported three overall winners. Ja-Lynn Washington bolted to a win in the 100 (13.30). With a throw of 109-3, Kiara Lopez won javelin. Elizabeth Garlock collected a victory in the long jump (15-7½) in addition to a second-place finish in the high jump (4-8).
“I just run and jump and that’s it,” Garlock said. “I didn’t expect this. Tuesday we had a meet and I didn’t do so well, so this felt good to win.”
Host Lyman Hall featured two female winners in Emily Ottens in the 3,200 (13:01.86) and Mackenzie Wall in the 110 hurdles (17.27), a race she never trailed.
“It’s a great start to the season,” Wall said. “I was nervous at first in the hurdles, but then I really felt it.”
Sheehan’s Stephanie Phoenix was unstoppable in the pole vault with a winning height of nine feet. Conginchaug’s lone female winner was Alexandra Alsup in the 800 (2:18.11).
Cheshire distance specialist Lauren Daddi nabbed gold in the 1,600 (5:32.24) and also headed the winning 4×400 co-ed relay (4:02.87). Daddi teamed with Camille Lewis, Isaac Marquez and Killea.
“I was really happy with my performance in the 1,600,” Daddi said. “My goal today was to come in try and win the race. Coming in, I was seeded first, so I’m glad I held my own. The 4×400 was fun racing with the boys and the girls. I was happy we came out on top.”
Prior to that relay, Daddi hadn’t previously started a race in which she had to stay in her own lane.