SOUTHINGTON — Among his words of advice, keynote speaker Kevin Negandhi had this to say to the student-athletes on hand Sunday at the third annual Record-Journal “Best of the Bunch Brunch” at the Aqua Turf Club.
“Don’t peak in high school,” said the ESPN sportscaster. “Let this be the best for today, but don’t let this be the peak.”
Hopefully, those words resonated with the athletes as much as they did with the editor who oversaw coverage of their triumphs, failures and growth this past year.
Sunday was about the best — for right now. The top athletes, scholar-athletes, coach and team in the Record-Journal coverage area were recognized for their accomplishments during the 2017-18 school year.
A crowd of nearly 400 filled the Aqua Turf, with WFSB Channel 3 sports director Joe Zone back to emcee for a third straight year.
Brunch was served, medals presented, scholarships awarded, photos taken. It’s all in the books.
“It was another special day for the third year in a row, to see that that Best of the Bunch Brunch had a huge attendance again and we were able to honor and celebrate so many local high school athletes in our four towns,” said Liz White, Executive Vice President of the Record-Journal.
“We’re proud that we have a local sports team that covers high school sports as closely as professional players are covered nationally.”
On that note, what’s next?
Because, as Negandhi, the first Indian-American national sportscaster said (with a fitting nod to Mahatma Gandhi), “It’s all about the journey.”
While the Record-Journal turns its attention on how to make next year’s fourth Best of the Bunch Brunch even better, many of the student-athletes honored Sunday are now on their way college.
Some will continue athletic careers. Overall Female Athlete and Girls Basketball Player of the Year Janette Wadolowski of Southington is on her way to Tufts.
Most others will focus their competitive drive in the classroom. Overall Male Athlete of the Year Kevin Ransom, a soccer and basketball star at Lyman Hall, is on his way to Quinnipiac to major in accounting.
Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year Muhammad Hamdan of Platt is going to UConn to start his pre-med course of study. Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year Tatyana Inman of Maloney is bound for Springfield College, also to pursue a career in the medical field and to continue playing tennis.
The Record-Journal, in conjunction with premium brunch sponsor and Scholar-Athlete presenting sponsor Middlesex Community College, was pleased to award Hamdan and Inman $1,000 scholarships to help them on their way.
A third $1,000 scholarship was awarded by new brunch sponsor Bongiovanni Insurance & Financial. Owned by former Maloney student-athletes Ty and Trey Bongiovanni, the company issued its first Outstanding Scholar Athlete Specializing in Finance award to wrestler Demetre Carnot, the two-time state class champion and all-time wins leader at Maloney. He’s on his way to Miami of Ohio to study finance.
As for the individual Athletes of the Year, there were 28 recognized in 20 sports.
Four featured co-winners. Southington teammates and Class LL, State Open and New England champions Megan Biscoglio (pole vault) and Amanda Howe (discus) shared the girls track laurels for a second straight year. Cheshire teammates Tim Hoynes and Jack Raba were named players of the year in boys lacrosse.
All four of those athletes are going on to Division I programs: Biscoglio at UConn, Howe at Iowa, Hoynes at UMass and Raba at Loyola-Maryland.
Lyman Hall Co-op teammates Scott Bradley and Kyle Roberts, who combined for 129 points this winter, shared Hockey Player of the Year honors. This award was presented by departing R-J hockey writer Joe Boyle, who is heading to Troy, N.Y. to take a full-time position with the Troy Record.
In golf, Southington teammates Cam Zegzdryn and Max Chubet were co-players of the year. Both qualified for the inaugural State Open in their sport.
Chubet, only a sophomore, was one of three underclass athletes of the year lauded on Sunday. The others were Wilcox Tech’s DeJuan Ransom (boys basketball) and Southington’s Tim Walsh (boys volleyball).
A pair of three-time winners completed R-J triple crowns: Cheshire swimmer Elizabeth Boyer and Sheehan tennis player Justine Hoover. Both will continue competing in college, Boyer at Harvard and Hoover at Endicott.
Ben Brewer, Boyer’s Cheshire classmate, repeated as Boys Swimmer of the Year. He is going on to swim at Boston University.
Cheshire also fielded the the top girls lacrosse players. It’s Mia Pulisciano, who will continue playing while pursuing a nursing degree at Endicott.
And, for the first time, the R-J named a Cross County Runner of the Year. He is also from Cheshire: Yale-bound senior Brendan Murray.
Ben DeLaubell, the future West Pointer who pitched and hit Cheshire to the Class LL state championship and state’s No. 1 ranking, was a slam-dunk as Baseball Player of the Year.
The title run made it a sweep for the Rams, who took the R-J’s inaugural Team of the Year award. Their skipper, Bill Mrowka, was Coach of the Year.
On the softball field, the Record-Journal went with Southington senior Kara Zazzaro. Like Cheshire’s DeLaubell, Zazzaro starred as a pitcher and hitter this spring. And she, too, is also bound for New York to continue her athletic career. She’ll be playing at Iona.
Wallingford was home to the Soccer Players of the Year. Sheehan’s Kelsey Burr, who will be playing at Southern Connecticut State, earned the girls award. Lyman Hall’s Jack Gaynor took the boys award.
Gaynor’s LH classmate Tylor Seamans, a conference and state champion high jumper for the Trojans, was Boys Track Athlete of the year.
The Meriden schools, along with producing the Scholar-Athletes of the Year, had athlete of the year honorees in Platt volleyball player Vanessa Isyk, Platt State Open wrestling champion Ben Stratton and Maloney football player Aden Valentin.
The New Britain Bees, Central Connecticut Transportation & Storage and South Broad Paint & Home Center were also aboard as sponsors.
The Aqua Turf sponsored the student meals. Rico Premier Entertainment Events supplied the audio, visuals, lighting and photo booth. Photography was provided by Justin Weekes.
“This event wouldn’t be successful without the support of the local athletic directors, coaches, parents and sponsors as well,” Liz White noted. “We owe a huge thank you to all of them. Today we had so much fun celebrating our local student athletes and putting the spotlight on them that they deserve.”