By John Goralski
A large crowd of boys pack into the hallway in the basement of the school, craning their necks to hear Colleen Roarty barking out orders. The first year coach has to yell above the din of clanging metal from another pack of athletes already hard at work in the weight room.
One part office secretary and one part drill sergeant, the first year coach separates her team into small groups and sends them scurrying for open space in the school. She watches a group of runners stretching in the hall. She glances into the gym to make sure that her coaching staff is pushing all of the field athletes to their limits, and finally turns her attention to a visitor with an excited grin.
“I think we were heading in the right direction, and [former coach Matt Shea] really did a nice job building this program up,” she said. “We had a lot of guys qualify for the postseason, but out goal this year is to get even more people qualified. I’m definitely excited, but we still have some big decisions to make. We had over 100 come out for the team, so we’re going to have to make some cuts. That’s a big step for this program because we haven’t had to do that in the past.”
There’s an excitement growing about Southington’s spring team, and it’s brought an influx of top athletes from every corner of the school.
Last season, the Knights rallied for a 7-1 record and came within one victory of a conference title. They qualified athletes in every single event. Three advanced to the state open, and one just missed a medal at the New England meet. It seems that everyone wants to throw their hat in the ring these days, and Roarty was just too happy to welcome them.
But she threw down the gauntlet at the first team meeting. If you don’t come in shape, you won’t survive the preseason competition.
“It’s been just over a week, and kids are going all out. You can tell that they’re not holding back, and you can really see who showed up for the season in shape and who didn’t work out in the off-season,” said the coach. “I think we have even more talent this year across the board, not just in the throws or the short distance events.”
To help handle the numbers, Roarty has enlisted a veteran group of captains. Barmore reached the New England championships last year, and he will be charged to lead the sprinters. Matt Bennett reached the national level during the indoor season, and he has been charged to lead the throwers. Charles Morelli was a state qualifier in the hurdles last spring, and Dylan Sperry broke out as a leader for the distance guys during the winter season.
“It’s a good group,” said Roarty. “I really think that they are all good leaders, and they’ve already shown good leadership skills over the past couple of years.”
With so many athletes competing in so many events Southington’s depth will be good enough to overwhelm most teams, but the Knights are competing in one of the toughest conferences in the state. Conard, Hall, Farmington, and Simsbury return a host of state qualifiers in every event. Even Newington, New Britain, and NW Catholic return top athletes in smaller squads.
Every meet will be a measuring stick for the Knights, but Roarty expects her team to challenge anyone they meet.
“I have high expectations for everybody—as a group and as individuals—but I would really love to win a conference championship with a lot of guys qualified for the postseason,” she said. “It’s definitely a high goal, but I think it’s attainable. We have so many boys that came out and a lot of talent.”
Sperry will lead a strong group of distance runners that includes Andrzej Bielecki, Colin Murphy, Damiaen Florian, Jack Myers, Kyle Summa, Mark Murdy, Tom Murdy, and Sean Garrison. Antoine Harris will add some depth in the mid-distance races, and a host of up-and-comers are running right at their heels.
“They’re a good group, and most of them have stuck together through cross country and indoor track,” Roarty said. “They’ve been running through all the different seasons, so they’re all coming in ready. During our time trials, we had three or four of them run a mile under five minutes, and that’s a good sign for the season.”
On the short track, Barmore will pace one of the biggest group of sprinters that the program has seen in years, including Zach Maxwell, Anthony Plantumaro, Dan Parzych, Dan Williams, Kyle Borawski, Matt Maxwell, Matt Koczera, Mike pagano, Peter Majchrak, Sean Conway, Noah Violette, and Tim Anop.
“I think that they’re even stronger than they were last year,” said the coach. “We have Stephen back, but we’ve found talent from other sports, too. We have so many athletes that I think we’ll be able to spread our athletes throughout all the sprinting events.”
Charlie Morelli will be tasked to lead the jumpers. In past years, this has been s struggle, but Roarty said that the team has already shown talent in the high jump and hurdles. She expects that to carry over to the triple jump and long jump where the Knights have graduated a trio of state level competitors.
Morelli, Adam Theriault, Visoud Kong, and Drew Barmore will compete in hurdles. Matt Maxwell, Rich Rivera, Peter Majchrzak, Kyle Borawski, Mike Pagano, and Bailey Kahl should anchor the long and triple jumps, while Kolton Jankowski, Dan Smoliniski, Colin Litke, and Griffin Litke should compete for the pole vault.
“We started working on high jump last week, but we haven’t tried the long jump or triple jump yet,” said Roarty. “I’ve already seen a lot of kids with natural talent at high jump, but we’ve definitely got some ups there. We have a lot of basketball guys that came out, and I hope they do some good things.”
In the throws, Roarty will turn to Bennett and the Massabni brothers. David Massabni reached the state meet over the winter season, and Bryan Massabni is closing the gap. They will be joined by a number of different athletes in javelin and discus.
“I’m definitely excited,” Roarty said. “We’re an interesting team, and we have a lot of talent at every event. I think it’s going to be an exciting season to see what we can do.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at email@example.com.