MERIDEN — Now we’ve hit it. The homestretch, the bell lap, the two-minute drill with no timeouts.
Time to dig deep for the athletes who, in our opinion, dug deepest of all: our Overall Athletes of the Year.
This is the top award at the “Best of the Bunch.” We pick one young man and one young woman who we feel best embodied the all-around athlete.
In the five-year history of our event the award has gone, with one exception, to a senior athlete who played multiple sports. That does not change this year. All of our finalists were standouts in at least two, if not three seasons.
Being a champion certainly helps the cause, but is no pre-requisite. Being an elite competitor and a team leader, perhaps also a scholar-athlete, carry the greatest weight.
Every year, it’s the toughest choice to make, because the finalists whose names aren’t called are right up on that top shelf, too.
For the time being, until those names are called on Thursday night, consider all our nominees winners. It’s no stretch. They certainly did plenty of winning over the past few years.
For the girls, our three finalists for Athlete of the Year are Cheshire’s Ariana Perlini, Platt’s Caitlyn Hart and Sheehan’s Olivia Dubuc.
Perlini was a Ram for all seasons: volleyball, basketball and softball. Hart played volleyball and softball. Dubuc starred in soccer and track.
While Perlini, who is heading to Fairfield University, is focusing strictly on academics, Hart and Dubuc will continue their athletic careers in college. Hart will play volleyball at Division I Sacred Heart University. Dubuc will play soccer at Division II University of Tampa.
With the coronavirus pandemic putting the deep-six on the spring season, Perlini missed out on what probably would have been a signature signoff in softball. She was coming off a junior year in which she batted .360 with three home runs and 17 RBI.
She did have her senior seasons in volleyball and basketball, though, and made the most of them. A veteran libero in volleyball, Perlini piled up 166 digs, made All-SCC First Team and was selected to play in the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Senior All-Star game.
A guard in basketball, Perlini was that team’s senior captain and its Scholar-Athlete, both for the Record-Journal and the SCC. At Fairfield, she will major in Psychology.
Hart, meanwhile, will also be down in Fairfield, settling in at Sacred Heart in pursuit of a career in nursing.
She’ll be playing volleyball, too, though is equally adept at softball. Hart was a four-year varsity starter in both sports at Platt and, by her sophomore season, was earning All-Conference recognition in each.
We started naming her All-Record-Journal that same year.
Hart was simply in the middle of everything for the Panthers. She pitched in softball and was the setter in volleyball — save for her junior year, when she was moved to outside hitter and responded with 134 kills, 201 digs and 86 aces.
Back at setter as a senior, Hart dished 488 assists to lead the Panthers to the 2019 Class L quarterfinals. She also had 157 digs and 87 aces and returned to the All-RJ Team for a second straight autumn.
The pandemic is likely all that kept her from a third summons to the All-RJ Softball Team.
As for Dubuc, the lost spring of 2020 might have cost her a track title, maybe a school record. But that’s OK. She does not lack for either.
Dubuc’s final season at Sheehan proved to be indoor track, where she led the Lady Titans to their first team title at the SCC Championships. Dubuc won the 600 meters that day, anchored the 4x400 relay and was named Female Athlete of the Meet.
Dubuc went on to win the Class M state championship in the 600, place second in New England and, in the process, lower her own school record in the event to 1:35.81. That time also qualified her for the New Balance Indoor Nationals.
Dubuc graduates holding Sheehan girls track records in the 300 (42.83) and the 400 (58.7) as well as the 600. She helped set school records in the 4x400.
And to think track isn’t even Dubuc’s top sport. Soccer, after all, is what she’ll be playing in Tampa and soccer is the sport in which she was earning All-SCC recognition as early as her freshman year.
Dubuc led Sheehan in scoring that 2016 season. It was the start of a four-year trend. By the end of the line, Dubuc had 71 career goals, second most in program history.
Twice, as a junior and senior, Dubuc was named All-SCC First Team. Twice, the same years, she was named All-State Class M.
All-Record-Journal? Well, some picks just make themselves.
The Record-Journal “Best of the Bunch” awards video airs this Thursday, June 18 on Facebook at 6:30 p.m. and will be on myrecordjournal.com after that. The R-J is giving away an iPad Mini to one person who watches the event live on Facebook. Enter at myrecordjournal.com/ipad. Up next: Overall Male Athlete of the Year.