MERIDEN — It is the first winter sport to crown its champions.
Yet even indoor track was not immune to the COVID-19 crisis. The New Balance Nationals Indoor meet came off the boards, and that denied a trip to the New York City Armory for the seven area athletes who qualified.
Seven: It was that accomplished a season.
And postseason: Area athletes gathered gold each step of the way, from the conference and state meets at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven to the New England Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston.
A conference team championship was claimed. (Here’s looking at you, Charlie Farley.)
Four individual state champions were crowned. Two were tops in New England.
Program records were rewritten in all four towns in the R-J coverage area, and then often rewritten again.
Indoor track might not be the highest profile winter sport going, but it generated high-profile headlines in January and February. So here in sports-barren March, as we roll out the All-Record-Journal teams for the 2019-20 winter season, indoor track commands the first heat.
Let’s run it, as it were, from the top.National league
Those seven area athletes who qualified for the 2020 New Balance Nationals Indoor meet that never was?
Sheehan’s Olivia Dubuc, Southington’s Trinity Cardillo and Sydney Garrison, and the Southington girls 4x800 relay team of Jackie Izzo, Diane Pillsbury, Lauren Verrilli and Anny Moquete-Volquez.
Dubuc, flat-out one of the best athletes to ever go through Sheehan High School, qualified after finishing second in New England in the 600 meters. She was SCC conference and Class M state champion in that event and she was third at the State Open.
At each step of the way, Dubuc lowered her Sheehan girls 600 record, ultimately signing off with the 1:35.81 she ran at the New England Championships on Feb. 29.
That same afternoon in Boston, Cardillo and Garrison raised Southington records in winning New England crowns in the shot put and high jump, respectively. Cardillo threw for 44 feet, 3¼ inches. Garrison cleared 5-7.
Quite fitting for a Leap Year’s day.
The record Garrison broke was her own. She had gone for 5-6½ in winning at the State Open.
Cardillo eclipsed the 44-2 landed in 2012 by the late Cherraine Davis. Cardillo got within range by throwing for 43-7½ in winning the Class LL championship. (She was second at the Open at 43-3 ¾.)
With her accomplishments, one could say Trinity Cardillo lived up to her first name. She extended Southington’s current run of elite female throwers to three. Cherraine Davis, Amanda Howe and Cardillo: truly a tape-measure trinity.
Dubuc, Cardillo and Garrison — seniors all — are rising college athletes. Dubuc will play Division II soccer at the University of Tampa. Cardillo and Garrison, close friends since first grade, will compete in Division I track — Cardillo at Northeastern, Garrison at the University of Hartford.
As for the girls on that Southington 4x800 relay team, we haven’t heard the last of them. The quartet featured just one senior: Anny Moquete-Volquez. Lauren Verrilli and Diane Pillsbury are juniors. Jackie Izzo, the area’s top female cross country runner, is only a sophomore.
Those Lady Knights earned their ticket to the New Balance Nationals at a qualifying meet, then broke their own school record with a 9:36.72 at the New England Championships, where they placed seventh.
Individually, Izzo ran the 3200 in the CCC Championships and placed third in 11:16. She ran the 1600 in Class LL and placed fourth in 5:12.Titans terrific
Charles Farley has been coaching indoor track at Sheehan High School since there’s been indoor track at Sheehan High School.
He oversaw Class S championship boys teams in 2000 and 2002, but was banner-less with the girls. Then came Feb. 7, when the Lady Titans overtook Hillhouse in the last two events to win the team title at the SCC Championships.
Olivia Dubuc, named the meet’s outstanding female athlete, was the driving force. She won her signature 600 meters and anchored the first-place 4x400 relay.
The three girls who joined Dubuc on that 4x400 — junior Clarise Aminawung, junior Avery Winters, and sophomore Patrice Mansfield — were also SCC champs in the 4x200. They were joined by Amanda Castaldi that afternoon, and then by junior Allison Villano in the state meets.
The Sheehan girls aput a third stellar relay on the track this winter: the sprint medley. That quartet featured Aminawung, Mansfield, Villano and sophomore Arianna Amodio.
All three relays placed in the top four in Class M. All three advanced to the State Open.Vault to prominence
The Sheehan girls had another strong suit in their deep hand: pole vaulters Erin Brennan and Alicea Piscitelli.
It was their 1-3 finish that sealed the SCC team championship. Brennan won by clearing nine feet. Piscitelli was third at eight feet.
Brennan and Piscitelli advanced all the way to the State Open. Expect them to do it again. They’re only sophomores.
The area’s top pole vault heights this year were logged by a pair Southington Blue Knights. For the boys, Aidan Chesanow cleared 12-6 in placing second in Class LL and fifth in the CCC. For the girls, Alexah Zaczynski hit 10 feet in the regular season and scored silver in the CCC Championships at 9-6.
Expect more from them, as well. Chesanow and Zaczynski are juniors.Farrell’s fine finish
Cheshire junior Ryan Farrell is primarily a distance runner. Last fall, he had a breakout season in cross country and reached the State Open.
This winter, he found his groove in the 600, cutting better than six seconds off his time from the year before.
The one hitch? He was struggling to finish off races. At the SCC conference meet and again at the Class L state meet, Farrell led only to be overtaken at the end, even as he ran a Cheshire record 1:24.01 in the latter race.
Finally, Farrell put it all together at the State Open. He held off the field down the stretch and broke his school record in the process at 1:23.54.
“He learned how to run that race,” as teammate Brendan Mellitt remarked.
Mellitt, the reigning Record-Journal Cross Country Runner of the Year, had a fine indoor season himself. Focusing his efforts in the 3200 meters, Mellitt won the SCC championship in 9:51.28.
The senior ran 10 seconds faster in placing second in Class L at 9:41.78 and advanced to the State Open. He will be running next year at Bucknell University.
Another future D-I runner, Southington senior Matt Penna, also accrued All-RJ times in the 3200. Penna ran a 9:48.86 in finishing sixth in the CCC and cut it to 9:47.08 in placing 10th in Class LL.
Penna also advanced to the State Open. In fact, he finished right behind Mellitt, as the two locals went 10 and 11. Penna is heading to Iona College.
Our other All-RJ boys? Sheehan senior Riley Bjornberg and the Maloney 4x800 relay team of senior Dominic Oliveri and juniors Evan Avery, Reynaldo Torres and Xavier Zaler.
Bjornberg, a member of Sheehan’s Class S state championship football team, landed 20-7¾ to win the long jump at the SCC East Sectional. He placed fourth in Class M and ultimately reached the State Open.
Maloney’s 4x800 was an extension of a successful cross country season. The quartet ran a school record 8:33.29 finishing fifth in the CCC Championships.
The mark tumbled to 8:27.22 with a third-place finish in Class L and came to rest at 8:22.50 with a 10th place at the State Open.
A fun fact to get us through the bell lap: Xavier Zaler’s name not only rhymes, it includes the middle initial Y. Like the S in Harry S Truman, it doesn’t stand for anything. It just gives him the unique initials of XYZ.
And on that note, we have indeed covered All-RJ indoor track, A to Z.