By John Goralski
Southington qualified for the conference meet in six efforts on opening day. One girl qualified for states in two events. Two boys qualified for states in a single event, and a relay team will join them.
On Friday, Dec. 20, the indoor track team opened their season at one of the most elite contests in the winter season, and the Knights took advantage of every chance they got at the New Haven Invitational. Coach Annie Groom entered the meet with a lot of questions about her inexperience team. She left with a smile that told the whole story.
“It’s really a great competition, and it’s so hard to get in,” she said. “Just the fact that so many of our entries got accepted shows me that our caliber of athletes is incredible. We really are up-and-coming and getting competitive.”
Usually, the Knights send their numbers to the junior varsity meet in order to set a baseline for winter workouts. In the good years, Southington might send a handful of athletes to the varsity contest. This year, the team qualified 14 boys and 14 girls in 16 different events.
Normally, the Knights would be happy with a single competitor in any event since the meet that limits participants to the top 30 entrants in any competition. This year, Southington had multiple athletes in individual contests, and every one of them knocked off at least a couple opponents along the way.
“That’s what I was looking for. I was kind of hoping to see what some of our younger athletes could do,” said Groom. “It’s not the norm for Southington to send a lot of freshmen and sophomores to this meet, but our relays had some of them running. We are really close to where we need to be already. Now, we know what we need to do.”
Matt Bennett led the way with a meet title in the shot put (49’10.75”). David Massabni (38’3.25”) didn’t medal, but both qualified for the state meet in their first shot put competition. Erin Angelillo led the girls team with state-qualifying times in the 1600m (5:36.13) and the 3200m (12:26.99).
Southington athletes scored in two events. Bennett earned 10 points for his win in the shot put, while
Andrew Bielecki, Colin Murphy, Damiaen Florian, Brandon Bayron combined for fourth place in the boys distance medley (11:44.65), a race that combines a 1200m leg with a 400m, an 800m, and a 1600m leg.
Gabi Napoli qualified for the conference meet with her performance in the 1600m (5:56.22). Lauren Perkowski qualified for the conference meet in the 3200m (12:56.5). Dan Parzych, Liam Scafariello, Noah violette, and Sean Conway qualified for the conference meet with their performance in the 4x200m (1:43.88).
“I’m very pleased with all of their performances,” said Groom. “I don’t think we’ve scored at this meet in a while, and we had a number of state qualifiers and conference qualifiers. On our first meet, that’s really good news. The meet went pretty much the way I planned, but there were a couple of surprises. That was great.”
Now, the team will regroup for the new year as they make the push toward the postseason. The Knights have five more chances to qualify for the state meet, beginning with the McGreavy Invitational at Wesleyan University on Friday, Jan. 10.
The season is short, and that’s why Groom was most pleased with the team’s early success.
“The key to indoor track is being adaptable,” said the coach. “I don’t even know what to expect when I get out of bed in the morning. Nobody can predict the weather, and it’s a short season. This was an incredible showing.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.