MIDDLE LANES — The R-J Sports Department wants no part of a “post-truth” world.
Macro: Fiction is not our game.
Micro: It’s hard enough living in a post-Sheehan world of track and field.
With a number of athletes from Sheehan’s loaded Class of 2022 now competing in college programs, the bottom sort of fell out on the area track horn of plenty — at least so far this year and at least by the standards to which we’ve grown accustomed.
No teams winning class championships or contending for State Opens — so far.
Yet there were golden moments this indoor season, and none brighter than on the evening of February 10, when Maloney junior Bria Benigni held off the field at the Floyd Little Athletic Center to win the Class L state championship in the 1000 meters.
At that point, most of the postseason still lay ahead — several more class meets, the State Open, the New England Championships, Nationals. Certainly more local champions would be forthcoming.
Alas, no. And with each successive round, Benigni’s achievement stood alone and thus grew in stature.
In the meantime, the junior kept logging sub-three minute times in the 1000.
She placed fifth at the State Open, seventh in New England and, ultimately, capped her season at New Balance Nationals helping set a new Maloney girls record in the sprint medley relay.
The R-J likes to go with seniors for its Athletes of the Year. Bria Benigni, however, shall not be denied. The area’s lone state champion this winter is the 2023 Record-Journal Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.
Benigni did have competition, starting with teammate Shaelyn Murphy. The senior high jumper placed second in Class M, tied for sixth at the State Open and cleared a season-high 5 feet, 4¼ inches tying for 18th at New Balance Nationals.
At that same national meet, Murphy was part of that sprint medley that lowered its program record to 4:20.37. Murphy was joined by Bria Benigni, junior Mia Carbone and sophomore Kiariana Williams, who also set a Maloney girls record in the 55 meters at 7.67 seconds.
Another finalist for Indoor Track Athlete of the Year was our Cross Country Runner of the Year, Alexa Ciccone of Cheshire.
The junior distance maven rewrote the Cheshire record book in the 3200 meters when she twice placed third in the state meets, first in Class L in 11:00.42 and then at the Open in 10:54.31.
Lengths shifted after that. Ciccone ran the 2-mile at the New England Championships and placed third in 10:54.10. (The 2-mile is .02 meters shorter than the 3200, for those keeping score or running it at home.)
Ciccone also went to New Balance Nationals and placed 12th running in the Championship Division of the 5000 meters. That’s 3.1 miles. Her time: 17:33.54.
Joining Ciccone on the All-RJ Team, though his season was truncated by injury, is Cheshire teammate Colin Brown. A state sprint champion, Brown will look to return to cruising altitude in the spring. The senior did run in the Class L meet and placed second in the 55 meters in 6.49 seconds.
After missing the State Open and New England Championships, Brown returned for the New Balance Nationals and logged a 6.99 in the Championship Division of the 60 meters.
The balance of the All-RJ Indoor Track Team is highlighted by conference champions, particularly from the SCC. The Wallingford schools swept the pole vault behind seniors Chance DeCrescenzo of Lyman Hall (13 feet) and Savanna Bauman of Sheehan (9-6).
DeCrescenzo went on to place fourth in Class M and sixth at the Open. Bauman, a gymnast by trade, advanced to states in both pole vault and long jump. She was fourth in the latter in Class M at 16-½.
On the track, Lyman Hall’s best success came in the relays, all of which revolved around sophomore twins Tom and Tim Conklin.
The Conklins, in combination with junior Mike Fisher and sophomore Owen Rich, captured the SCC championship in the 4x400 with a time of 3:35.53.
The Conklins also mined SCC silver in the sprint medley with Fisher and freshman Aaron Rich. They were third in the 4x800 with Aaron Rich and junior Henry Murphy.
There is a third Rich who should be added to this All-RJ mix, and that’s Ethan. A freshman high jumper, Ethan Rich was third in both the SCC (5-10) and Class M (6-0).
In that Class M meet, Owen Rich (he’s the sophomore) was the top LH performer with a second-place showing in the 55 hurdles (7.94).
Two towns over, there was another excellent hurdler, and that was Southington’s William Reeves. The senior was second in Class LL in 7.98 seconds and placed sixth at the State Open in 8.03.
A junior teammate of Reeves’, Rashard Williams, earned the Central Connecticut Conference crown in the long jump when he landed a leap of 21-9 ½. Williams was also third in the 55 meters that day in 6.63 seconds.
Williams plays football. He’ll be a guy to watch next fall.
First, though, it’s on to spring track, where Williams and Benigni and all the area’s best will take aim at a more prolific campaign. We get the feeling they’re just getting warmed up.