By John Goralski
Annie Groom has spent much of her first indoor track season scrambling to meet deadlines and looking for opportunities. Very few meets offer every event, so success hinges upon every little decision.
Does she run relays or focus on individual events? Is anyone close to qualifying for the state meet or an upcoming invitational meet? These are the questions that plague the coach between contests.
“It’s fun. I come home from one meet, and I’m already trying to figure it out for the next one,” she said. “There’s always something that we couldn’t have anticipated like injuries. In the end, we want to get as many of them to states as possible. You have to balance the individual and the team.”
On Thursday, Jan. 3, Groom had a chance to test the middle distance runners at Glastonbury’s indoor meet. The cramped high school is a poor venue for long distance times, but it offered a chance to attack the short track.
So Groom shifted the focus, and her Knights came through. Southington athletes captured five heat titles and a pair of top five finishes in a field that included athletes from Old Saybrook, NW Catholic, Bristol Eastern, RHAM, and Bacon Academy.
“We were trying to get in some good speed work, but I wasn’t expecting a lot of fast times,” said Groom. “We were able to bring a lot of people, and everybody got a chance to compete. This was a good opportunity for our varsity and JV athletes to mingle, and it was a great chance to put together our new girls 4x800m relay.”
Alyssa Lombardi paced the girls team with the fastest time in her 600m heat (1:54.4), and she teamed with Raquel Romano, Lauren Perkowski, and Sarah Palko to claim the title in an odd 4x900m relay because of the 150m track.
“Their 12:03 was good enough to be first, and when I calculated the time [that it would have been in a 4x800m relay] it would have broken 11 minutes,” said Groom. “That’s what we need to do to qualify for states, and that’s what we’ll shoot for at the Yale Invite next week.”
Nick Garcia led the boys with a victory in the 1600m (5:08). Kyle Summa won the 600m (1:39.3), and Joe Pappalardo captured the 1,000m (3:01).
In addition, Amanda Hamel finished fourth in the girls 1,000m (3:58), and Perkowski placed fifth in the girls 1600m (6:17).
“We did very well considering it was such a slow track,” said Groom. “Alyssa Lombardi just missed qualifying for states by .45 seconds in the 600m, and at a different track, she would have made it. Ben Gibbons and Mike Sullivan both ran 41 seconds for the 300m races, and that’s close to qualifying. The biggest surprise was Jessica Howe, a freshman. She just ended up missing a state qualifying time in the 55m.”
With just a few more weeks to qualify athletes for the postseason, Groom will continue to shuffle athletes into the mix at practice and the meets. This Friday, the team will compete at the McGreavy Invitational at Wesleyan University in Middletown, and that’s a meet that’s set up more for relays than individual running events.
“We’re going to do some heavy duty speed work which some of the mid-distance and distance people need. We’re working on hand-offs for the relay, and we’re hoping to qualify the 4x400m girls relay on Friday night,” said Groom. “We have just a couple more weeks to get it all done.”