By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Knights placed 21st at last year’s Class LL state meet at Willow Brook Park in New Britain. Southington qualified 18 athletes in 11 different events, advancing one athlete, Sean Garrison, to the state open. Garrison finished 29th in the 3200m run at the open, after finishing 14th at the state meet.
“I think last year was pretty successful,” said Southington head coach Colleen Roarty. “Obviously, we want to keep building and improving each year. However, we have a lot of young athletes this season.”
The Knights graduated 21 seniors, seven of which competed at the state meet, but are returning 10 athletes with state meet experience. Still, Roarty thinks it could be a challenge to eclipse last year’s team.
“There is a gap in the middle and a lot of young kids that will be learning new events this year,” said the coach. “It should be interesting year.”
It helps to return a strong core of proven athletes, and Southington’s captains are as good as it gets. Garrison has come off a record-breaking indoor season, racing at the front of the 1600m and 3200m fields. He’ll be joined by Adam Dorau, John Meade, and Matt Andrini.
Dorau proved to be one of the most improved athletes over the winter indoor season, and will pace the Knights in the hurdles and mid-distance events. Meade is a very versatile athlete expected to lead the team in the short sprints, mid-distance events, and even the shot put. Andrini might be the only team captain without any state meet experience, but he brings a whole lot of potential to the table in the throws.
“Coach Mike Drury and I discussed it, and we thought those people, based on their commitment throughout the year, put in a lot of effort,” said Roarty. “A lot of the guys look up to them as leaders. So I think they’ll do a good job leading the team this year.”
Upperclassmen that will look to make an impact in the varsity lineup include seniors Alessio Diana (sprints/ jumps/ relays), Mark Threlkeld (javelin), Dave McCormick, Tim Anop (pole vault/ sprints), Luis Chaves (throws), and Mark Howland (sprints). Junior Anthony Plantamuro (relays), Julian Robles, Robert Bunting (throws), Paul Schiewiger, KJ Dowler, Tyler Moquin, Dave Pastor, Jeremy Spooner, Mark Meade (discus/ javelin), Dante D’Agostino, Cameron Coulombe, Everett Sperry, Mike Mauro (mid-distance/ hurdles), Vance Upham (sprints), Mike Steminsky (shot put), Adam Theriault, Jordan McMeans, Mark Murdy (distance), Tom Murdy (distance), and Mario Ferri are expected to be key contributors.
Underclassmen Will Barmore, Jack Herms, Jake Monson (discus/ shot put), Shane Leone (distance/ jumps/ relays), Jeff Hannigan (mid-distance/jumps), Anthony Riccio, Conner Leone (distance), Zach Burleigh (pole vault), Cade Testa, Sean Young, Drew Downey, and Alex Lipsky (javelin/pole vault) could contribute right away, along with freshmen Casey Selinske and Russell Hotchkiss.
Diana, Dorau, Meade, Howland, T. Murdy, Upham, Plantamuro, Mauro, and Hannigan all competed at last year’s state meet.
Roarty said she is noticing a different kind of look to this year’s team, compared to last year’s team.
“As a team, we are more serious,” the coach said. “This year, the people that want to be here are here. They came out with a more serious mindset this year, and they are more focused.”
Increased concentration on the upcoming season comes a certain uniqueness to the team, explains Roarty.
“I think they’re more determined to do better in their specific events, and as a team,” said Roarty. “Last year, we were more focused individually, but we really want to do well in all of our dual meets, and the big invitationals as well. We’ve talked about goals since the beginning of the season, and we didn’t really do that last year.”
But in order to have a successful season, Roarty said that her seniors will play a crucial role in the process. And the mindset is simple: help each other. She described it as a “trickle-down effect” as the upperclassmen step up and lead the underclassmen.
She expects the short-distance unit to set the pace, along with an experienced distance crew, while the skill events—like throws, jumps, and hurdles—might take a little extra attention before they begin to score as prominently.
“They take a lot more time,” said Roarty. “You’re learning something that could be new to you, and it’s a lot of technique. I think we need more practice before we go into a meet. But if we work on those events, we’ll be successful this season. Coach Drury always works hard with the throwers.”
Roarty is entering her fourth year as head coach of the program.