By BRIAN JENNINGS
Blue Knights coach Dan Dachelet took on the head coaching duties of the boys and girls track and field teams for the first time last season. The boys team finished 19th out of 27 schools in the CCC, while the girls team also finished 19th out of 23 schools in the conference.
At the Class LL State Meet, the boys team did not score any points, placing outside of the top 20 schools and not placing any individuals or relays in the top eight of every event. The girls team finished 19th at the state meet.
“Indoor track is a tougher sport,” said Dachelet. “A lot of kids take a break in the winter time from their other sports. The concept of staying indoors in the hallways of the school isn’t as appealing to some kids. We made a concerted effort this year to try and build the team and to try and develop a little bit of excitement around the sport.”
Dachelet’s roster went from 65 athletes last season to 122 kids this season, almost doubling last year’s indoor squad.
“Not that numbers count for success, but at least now we have more of a better team dynamic, in terms of kids that are out there training together, working hard to learn the sport,” the coach said. “My challenge and Coach Green’s [Connor] challenge is having to teach different techniques to a large number of inexperienced kids.”
Having 122 on your roster may be a positive spark to the interest of the sport, but having that many athletes also means a lot of teaching to do in a short period of time before the season starts. And for Dachelet, that means about 50 student-athletes on this year’s roster that he has never coached before.
“We lost a week of the track and field season when the state set up the season,” he said. “For some of these kids, we only have five weeks from the first day of practice until the very last meet for the JV kids. You can’t teach a whole lot in five weeks. So, I guess the lesson learned from last year is to try and get the numbers up, and to try and develop a sense of team in a sport that has been lacking, in the last few years, involvement with kids in the school.”
Dachelet also said that finding better facilities to train plays a major role in developing a track and field team.
“How do you practice the pole vault in the hallway? How do you practice the high jump? We’ve actually worked with the athletic director on trying to secure some facilities for ourselves where we can actually do the high jump indoors,” said Dachelet. “It would be a dedicated room where we could pop up some long jumps.”
Dachelet said that his short-term goals for this season are to try and get athletes involved in the sport, enjoy the conference, enjoy the time spent doing the sport, and teach them the basic techniques in the next eight weeks. From there, Dachelet said that he hopes those indoor track and field athletes will stick around for the outdoor season, so he can get them back for the winter and build on the experience.
The boys team lost 13 seniors to graduation, including notable athletes like Dan Parzych (runner), Matt Steeves (thrower), Jack Myers (runner), Antoine Harris (runner), Dave Massabni (thrower), Michael Fazzino (runner), Tom Perzanowski (pole vaulter), and Vincent Zhang (runner), Kyle DeFrancesco (runner), and Peter Majchrzak (runner).
Perzanowski placed seventh (10-06.00) in the pole vault at the last year’s state meet. Massabni placed just outside of the top 10 in 13th (41-04.00) at the meet as well.
The girls team lost six seniors to graduation, including notable athletes Amanda Hamel (runner), Katherine Mellitt (runner), Megan Albert (runner), and Raquel Ramano (runner).
Members of the indoor track and field team voted seniors Sean Garrison and Austin Baumann as team captains of the boys team. Seniors Erin Angelillo and Jess Howe were voted as team captains of the girls team. Angelillo had the best finish for Southington at the last year’s state meet, placing sixth (3:11.19) in the 1000 meter.
“Who the kids choose for team captains is usually a rubber stamping of what we would think,” the coach. “They have grounded personalities and are always looking out for the team. They are very mature and selfless, who take this sport very seriously. They’re good mentors.”
Garrison will be competing in any running event from 800m to 3200m, taking part in the full spectrum. He might even take part in the 4X400. Baumann is a sprinter, returning to compete in the long jump and some of the relays.
Angelillo is dangerous from close in to long distance, looking to run in the 1000m, 3200m, and various relays. Howe sustained an injury during this past Fall season and will be out for at least the whole 2015-16 indoor track and field season. Howe competed in the long jump, triple jump, short sprints, and relays for the Southington last season.
Other key returners for the boys team that competed in individual and relay races at the state meet include Adam Dorau (senior), Tyler Cyr (junior), Jeff Hannigan (sophomore), Jordan McMeans (junior), and Adam Theriault (junior).
And other key returners for the girls team that competed in individual and relay races at the state meet include Lauren Perkowski (senior), Catherine Myers (junior), Rylee Van Epps (junior), Tayler Riddick (sophomore), Faith Ritchie (senior), Jami Pliego (senior), Kali Pliego (senior), Allison Brown (sophomore),
Amanda Howe (sophomore) competed in the shot put and returns as a seasoned thrower.
Dachelet said that his team is going to try and be balance this year, with their biggest challenges coming in the pole vault and high jump.
“I think our strengths are going to be distance and mid-distance,” said Dachelet. “We’ll be able to put quite a few kids in the state meet in those events and score some points hopefully. On the ladies side, we’ll have some developing girls in the sprints and relays.”
Dachelet said that he is excited to compete in the Yale Invite this season.
“You get some top runners from around the region, even outside of Connecticut,” the Knights coach said. “It’s a good, fast track and is the only bank track that we get to run during the year.”
After the realignment of the CCC, Southington was placed in the Blue Division of the Central Region along with Conard, Hall, Glastonbury, and Simsbury. The White Division of the Central Region is comprised of Avon, Bulkeley, Farmington, Northwest Catholic, Weaver, and Windsor.
The Blue Division of the North Region is contains East Catholic, East Hartford, Hartford Public, South Windsor, and Manchester. The White Division contains Bloomfield, EO Smith, Fermi, RHAM, Rockville, and Tolland.
The Blue Division of the South Region includes Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern, New Britain, Newington, and Wethersfield. The White Division includes Berlin, Maloney, Middletown, Plainville, Platt, and Rocky Hill.
“It’s a challenge but it’s also a good thing,” said Dachelet. “I’m glad that I have a bunch of kids that are interested in coming out for the sport. We’ll do our best to coach them up with two volunteer coaches, which is great. I’m looking forward to a positive experience across the board, hoping to develop them for outdoor.”