By BRIAN JENNINGS
With just one more attempt remaining for the day, Amanda Howe tasted perfection. On Monday, June 6, the Lady Knight sophomore’s fifth shot put attempt dropped to the earth at 36 feet, 5.75 inches. It was her second best throw of the season, and it was good enough to leap frog her past five of the top throwers in the state.
As the second seed in the discus, Howe entered the state open with the team’s best chance to advance to the New England championship. But before she even attempted her first discus throw, Howe had already earned a New England bid in the shot put.
“Amanda’s walking with a little bit more of a swagger now,” said Southington coach Dan Dachelet. “She’s got a lot of confidence, throwing some very consistent throws out there.”
Howe led a contingent of eight Southington athletes at the state open and advanced to New England in two events. She finished fourth in the state in the shot put and second in the discus (120’7”).
No other Knight advanced to the regional meet, but Southington recorded a number of top performances in the second round of the postseason.
Kate Kemnitz finished 18th (2:22.96), trimming over 2 seconds from her qualifying time in the 800m and finished as the top freshman in the event. Gabi Napoli (11:57.06) placed 18th in the 3200m.
Kemnitz and Napoli joined Sarah Minkiewicz and Erin Angelillo to jump up three spots in the 4x800m relay to finish ninth overall (9:40.98).
“I think that these guys are starting to realize that we do belong up there in the front of these races,” Dachelet. “It’s that confidence that they’re starting to get to be able to go out that fast and hang on, turning it into a race and not necessarily worry about their times.”
Sean Garrison was the only male athlete to represent Southington at the open, finishing 26th (10:22.25) in the 3200m. Garrison was coming off a race at the Class LL meet that catapulted him into the 17th seed (9:38.32) at the state open.
“Sean had a phenomenal race at Class LL,” said Southington coach Colleen Roarty. “He is capping off an excellent career at Southington High School. He has dedicated himself to running and this reflects in his races.”
Roarty said that Sean has been a leader and positive role model for the boys track team all season long.
“He always represents Southington well, and I feel fortunate to have coached him these past four years, the coach said. “Sean has been preparing all season to qualify for the state open. I am happy he has accomplished this goal.”
Earlier in the week on Wednesday, Southington competed in the Class LL championship at Willow Brook Park.
The Lady Knights placed ninth out of 25 teams. Dachelet said that the girls ninth-place finish is a testament to the hard work the team has put in day in and day out throughout the season.
“There’s a lot of talent out there,” the coach said. “Some people have talented programs, so our job is to get the kids ready to put them up against the good talent out there. We need to build that reputation as a program will compete with the other elite programs with the state and be successful.”
Dachelet said that they’re trying to approach the development of the program from getting the good kids in the door that want to be apart of something like this, and then the next step is development.
“What we’re doing is working,” the coach said. “There are still some other areas that we really have to work on where we weren’t scoring points. We have to get more depth in the hurdles and field events. That’s the kind of program that we need to have. It’s a crawl-walk-run process, but we’ll get there.”
Ridgefield won the state title, followed by Greenwich and Danbury. Danbury claimed the boys state title, followed by Brien McMahon and Ridgefield.
Top performances from the girls team included Natalie Verderame in the 400m (9th); Kemnitz (6th) and Angelillo (9th) in the 800m; Napoli in the 3200m (3rd); the 4x400m relay team of Jami Pliego, Kemnitz, Doyle, and Verderame (10th); the 4x800m relay team of Napoli, Sarah Minkiewicz, Angelillo, Kemnitz, Matthews, and Doyle (5th); and Howe in the shot put (2nd) and discus (1st).
Top performances from the boys team included Garrison (12th) and Mark Murdy (16th) in the 3200m; the 4x800m relay team of Shane Leone, Tom Murdy, Jordan McMeans, Jeff Hannigan, Mark Murdy, and Casey Selinske (15th); and Hannigan in the triple jump (12th).
“The boys have fought hard all season,” said Roarty. “We had a lot of young athletes at the state meet this year, mostly freshmen and sophomores. For them to get the exposure of what it is like compete against the best in the state is huge. Moving forward, this goes to show that we have a lot of young talent, which is great for the future of the program.”
The 71st annual New England Interscholastic Outdoor Track and Field Championships are scheduled for Saturday, June 11 at Willow Brook Park. Howe will represent the Knights.