By BRIAN JENNINGS
Southington history was made once again on Sunday, Feb. 28 at the 29th annual New England Indoor Track and Field Championships, held at the historic Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Facility in Roxbury Crossing, Mass.
Not only was the girls 4x800m relay team the first relay team to represent Southington at the New England Championships, but Erin Angelillo, Taylor Hubert, Kate Kemnitz, and Gabi Napoli broke the school record for a fifth time this season when they finished 13th in the girls 4x800m relay with a time of 9:53.9 out of 29 relays.
The championship pitted the best relays from Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut on one of the fastest indoor tracks in the region.
“It’s a great facility,” said Southington coach Dan Dachelet. “It’s a banked track with a lot of seats. The only opportunity we have to run on a banked track in Connecticut is Yale. Reggie Lewis and the Armory are the two big homes of track and field in the Northeast. We’re fortunate to get to run at a facility and on a fast track like that.”
The relay team came into the meet seeded 18th but moved up five places, breaking their previous record by 4.08 seconds.
Southington finished as the fifth-fastest 4x800m relay from Connecticut, behind Glastonbury (3rd, 9:21.83), Weston (4th, 9:23.72), New Milford (7th, 9:36.09), and Ridgefield (9th, 9:37.97).
Lincoln-Sudbury, Mass. (9:10.78) won the race, with Newton South, Mass. (9:20.12) finishing as the runner-ups. Originally 36 teams qualified for the girls 4x800m relay. The intent was to put 12 teams in each heat and have three different heats, but just 29 relays competed for the title.
“That would have set us up really nicely for being right in the middle of the pack,” said Dachelet. “We would have been not too slow, not too fast.”
At the last minute, the committee cut the relay into two heats, due to more scratches in the lineup. Southington was right on the bubble, becoming the second team in the slow heat.
“In that scenario, I was happy that we made it to the slow heat because it gave us more people to run with,” the coach said. “I would have preferred the middle heat because we would have had a lot more teams that were right around us at that point.”
What turned out to be a race between Southington and Haddam-Killingworth, according to Dachelet, in the girls 4x800m race at the state open the week before was nothing of the kind at Sunday’s meet. H-K may have beaten Southington out for fifth place at the open, but Southington would have the last laugh this time around, as H-K finished 14th on Sunday. H-K was also in the faster heat of the race.
“They actually didn’t have a lot of teams to run with,” said Dachelet. “They were kind of in no man’s land. So we were fortunate to draw that second heat.”
Angelillo might not have run a person best with a leg of 2:27, but she still maintained a solid stride to open the race for the Knights.
“The pace went out pretty good,” the coach said. “There were probably about three teams right with her. It wasn’t as fast as the previous week, but she still kept us just out of the lead at that point.”
Hubert achieved a season best in her leg, running a 2:31 keeping the Knights in the right position as well.
“I think she runs really well when she has that competition right on her,” said Dachelet. “She likes to compete, so we just said run with the girls in front of you because they’re going to run fast. The pack was perfect for her.”
Dachelet said that Kemnitz ran a really strong race, setting a personal record of about six seconds by running a leg of 2:25.
“She got the baton a couple seconds down and gradually reeled in the team that eventually beat us,” the coach said. “She reeled them in within 400 meters and then just kept on pressing away. She created a really nice gap between us and the team behind us.”
Kemnitz handed the baton off to Napoli with about 12 meters of space between the Knights and the team trailing behind them. Napoli wrapped up the race with a best time of 2:27 of about five seconds.
“I know that she would have liked to beat the girl in front of her, but the girl came out hard from the gun and closed that distance pretty quickly,” said Dachelet. “Then she opened up a nice gap on Gabi right around the 600-meter mark. Gabi sensed that the girl was fading though, and closed the gap really well. If Gabi had another 20 meters, she would have gotten her.”
Dachelet said that having the opportunity to run as the first Southington relay team at the New England Championships will open some eyes as to where the program can go.