By BRIAN JENNINGS
Southington’s indoor track and field team spent Friday, Jan. 15 and Saturday, Jan. 16 at one of the most anticipated events on the team’s schedule. The Knights took a trip down to New Haven to compete against schools from more than a dozen different states at the 34th annual Yale Interscholastic Track and Field Classic inside of the preeminent Coxe Cage.
“The venue’s quite special,” said Southington coach Dan Dachelet. “It used to be a dirt track back in the day. There’s a lot of history in this facility, and I’m glad to get a chance to participate.”
For some Southington athletes, it was like returning to an old friend. For others, it was a first chance to compete on a banked track. Whether it was marveling at the architectural beauty of the facility or being washed over in natural light, newcomers got to experience one of the gems of Yale athletics.
“The special thing about this is that it’s the only invitational that we go to within the state of Connecticut that has a banked track,” said Dachelet. “So for those kids that are running anything from 300m on up, it gives them an opportunity to run potentially faster times.”
Coxe Cage sports one of the fastest tracks in the area, allowing athletes to accelerate into the turns on the banked track. Southington athletes took advantage of the opportunity.
Distance runner Sean Garrison took down a 15-year-old school record in the 3000m, earning a state-qualifying time of 9:04.43. Garrison’s time eclipsed the previous record (9:12) set by Brian McKernan in 2000 by more than seven seconds.
“Sean’s ready for a good track season,” the Southington coach said. “To run that kind of time in indoor this time of the year speaks to where he’s at. You get excited about being a part of the school’s history for something like that, but he definitely was focused.”
Mark Murdy (9:31.68) trailed behind Garrison in 3000m but also finished with a state-qualifying time.
Some of the underclassmen that took advantage of their inaugural race at Coxe Cage. Freshmen Kate Kemnitz (2:31.53) set a school record in the 800m, and Natalie Verderame just missed the school record in the 400m (63.82) and finished with a state-qualifying time in the 300m (45.52).
“I think what’s fun about watching new athletes in this sport is their excitement for the competitions,” said Dachelet. “They’re asking all these questions about how they go about doing this and who’s done this. They’re almost turned into instant track geeks with the statistics that their looking for, who their competition is, and things like that.”
Dachelet went on to say that it’s exciting to watch someone discover themselves as an athlete in a new sport, especially for Kemnitz and Verderame, who haven’t competed on a track before.
Nicolette St. Amand (47.72) just missed states by 0.48 in the 300m. Gabi Napoli (11:23.94), Lauren Perkowski (11:38.24), Catherine Myers (11:44.31), and Isabella Scalise (11:44.91) all finished with state-qualifying times in the 3000m. The team of Kemnitz, Taylor Hubert, Marissa Matthews, and Napoli finished sixth out of 20 relays in the 4x800m.
Amanda Howe improved on her qualifying mark in the shot put with a seventh-place throw of 33’1”.
Adam Dorau finished the 300m with a state cut (38.73), while Tyler Cyr (40.07) just missed states by 0.07. Dorau also returned to meet the state standards by 0.02 (9.02) in the 55m hurdles.
“To get a chance to run on this track and compete against the best teams in the region is a privilege,” the coach said. “In the guy’s 800m race, the kid [Randy Neish] won the race and he’s now the number one half-miler in the nation. This is a quality meet.”
Next on Southington’s schedule is the SCC Coaches Invite at Hillhouse High School in New Haven on Saturday, Jan. 23.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.