By BRIAN JENNINGS
Seniors Gabi Napoli and Sean Garrison signed National Letters of Intent on Monday, May 2 in the library of Southington High School.
Napoli will be attending the University of Rhode Island (URI), located in Kingston, R.I. in the fall to run for the Division I Rams cross country and track and field programs, while Garrison will be attending the University of Hartford in the fall to run for the Division I Hawks cross country and track and field programs.
“When people put that kind of effort into something, it’s nice to see that they get rewarded with something like this,” said Blue Knight cross country, indoor track, and girls track coach Dan Dachelet. “This is a tough sport because it’s not just one season. You have to focus for four years straight, and now here’s another four years you’re committing to with probably more miles. It’s that next level, but they’ll do it smartly.”
Napoli has already proven her toughness. Ever since she missed the 2014 cross country state championships with an injury, she has returned with a vengeance. She led the Lady Knights to their first cross country state open appearance in school history and a trip to the Nike cross country nationals.
She also holds the school’s course records for Bowdoin Park, Belmont Plateau, Wickham Park, and Camp Sloper. The team captain was the first Lady Knight under 20:30 at the conference and state championships at Wickham Park.
On the indoor track, Napoli is the current record holder for the 3200m, 4x800m relay, and distance medley. She is also a member of the first relay (4x800m) in the school’s history, boys or girls, to compete at the New England Championships.
On the outdoor track, Napoli is the current record holder for the 3200m. She was a member of the 4x800m relay that competed at the state open, and also set a school record as well. Her best finish in the 1600m at the Class LL meet was sixth in 2015.
When it came down to a final decision for Napoli, it was between Merrimack College in Massachusetts, Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, the University of Hartford, and URI. Napoli vacations in Rhode Island, and said that she was always told herself that she was going to go to go to URI when the time came.
“I got into the program that I applied for there, which was a big opportunity,” said Napoli. “I really liked the coach [Laurie Feit-Melnick], and we got along very well. She offered me a scholarship and that made my decision. But I love how the campus is close to the beach, and it’s not too far from home, but far enough.”
Garrison has also proven himself as a blue chip prospect. He has been the foundation for the Blue Knights running programs since his sophomore year, raising the bar higher by setting new standards for male Southington runners to come.
Garrison has been the team captain and all-conference for cross country team for the 2014-15 fall seasons, holding Southington’s course records for Bowdoin Park, Belmont Plateau, Wickham Park, Camp Sloper, and Nonnewaug. He was an individual qualifier for the state open in 2014 and led the boys team to their first appearance at the state open since 1999.
During the indoor track season, Garrison set a school record in the 3000m and 3200m, qualifying for the 2015 state open in the 3200m and Eastern States Championships. Outdoors, he set a record in the 2000m steeplechase and qualified for the 2015 state open in the 3200m.
By mid-February, Garrison narrowed his decision down to Central Connecticut State University and the University of Hartford. He said that, for him, athletics played a big part in his decision, but Hartford was also a right fit academically.
“I liked the campus,” said Garrison. “I liked how it was close to the West Hartford center because there’s a lot to do. I got to spend some time with the team and the coach [Roger Busch] at the overnight. They really made me comfortable on the campus to show me how life would be next year.”
Southington track and distance coach Colleen Roarty said that both Napoli and Garrison are both dedicated athletes that have been role models for the underclassmen.
“I am very happy for both Gabi and Sean,” said Roarty. “They have left positive impacts on the running program at Southington High School. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them. I strongly believe that they will be successful as they go off to college.”
Napoli plans to study kinesiology and Garrison plans to study marketing.