By BRIAN JENNINGS
Southington’s outdoor track and field team sent nine athletes to compete in the 25th New Balance Nationals Outdoor at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, N.C. from Friday, June 17 to Sunday, June 19.
New Balance Nationals Outdoor
“For me as a coach, I look for how the girls handle being in this kind of situation,” said Southington coach Connor Green. “Basically, they’re at the most elite meet in the country against teams from all over, so I look to see how they handle that kind of stress and pressure.”
Amanda Howe placed ninth out of 27 athletes in the hammer throw emerging elite with a distance of 135’11”, advancing to the championship where she finished 30th at 133’4.” Howe was sitting in the top eight with a spot for the finals going into her last throw in the event, but was nudged out by an athlete a couple places behind.
Howe also competed in the discus throw emerging elite and landed in 21st out of 30 athletes at 114’2.” Howe just missed qualifying for the championship.
“They weren’t her best throws, but it was a rainy day and her first national-level competition,” said Green. “As a sophomore in high school, I’m not expecting her to be cold blooded and able to handle any circumstance. There were definitely aspects of her throws that looked great and there were areas that could be improved, but she was consistent as each throw got better and better throughout the round.”
The team of Kate Kemnitz (3:52.44), Natalie Verderame (1:00.87), Erin Angelillo (2:33.24), and Gabi Napoli (5:13.7) finished 21st out of 31 relays in the distance medley emerging elite with a time of 12:40.25. The team was four seconds away from reaching their personal best.
“We were fortunate that the girls were racing early in the day and the temperature was only in the 80s. The week after was supposed to be in the 90s, but it was still hotter than anything we’ve raced in this year. The girls did a great job in the race though,” the coach said. “They all ran how they were supposed to, tactically. Gabi did a great job at the end in the mile. She probably got the baton 13th in the heat and moved up to finish eighth in the heat.”
The team of Katie Ierardi, Rylee Van Epps (54.37), Abby Connolly, and Verderame (1:02.26) finished 28th out of 56 relays in the 800 sprint medley emerging elite with a time of 1:56.63. The team was 0.4 seconds away from breaking their own school record.
“These girls are also the same girls that run our 4×100, which is like a regular state event,” said Green. “For a race that short, which requires so much precision, they probably had the best handoffs that they’ve ever had all season, and it happened at the championship meet. Handoffs are what can make or break an event for you. It’s precious time that can be lost just because someone either starts too early or goes too late. But they were the best handoffs that I’ve ever seen from them.”
Green said that Verderame did an awesome job running a tactical 400m, passing about four or five athletes going down the straightaway to finish in the top three of her heat.
“It’s not like finishing at a conference meet,” the coach said. “Finishing 28th in an elite meet like this is a big deal. And the fact that the entire relay is coming back next year means that they have a very good chance of getting to the championship race and breaking that school record, which will set a higher standard of success for our sprints program.”
Last year marked the first time that Southington sent female athletes to compete on the national stage. The team of Jessica Howe, Sarah Palko, Kelsea Allen, and Raquel Romano finished 49th in the 800 sprint medley emerging elite with a time of 2:02.17.
“They did a great job, but that was kind of a way to get experience and get our foot in the door. Then next year, we go and really try to compete,” said Green. “And I think all of the girls that went down understood that mission and did a great job with it.”
CIAC Decathlon and Heptathlon Championship
Earlier in the week on Monday and Tuesday, Southington competed in the CIAC Decathlon and Heptathlon Championship at Willow Brook Park in New Britain.
Howe placed third out of 23 athletes in the hammer throw, setting a personal best distance with a throw of 136’2”.
The following Lady Knights ran in the 2000m steeplechase: Napoli (2nd); Kemnitz (12th); Angelillo (17th); and Lauren Perkowski (19th); Catherine Myers (26th); Laini Pizzitola (28th); Amanda Perkowski (37th); and Natalia Adamczyk (46th).
Sean Garrison (11th) and Ryan Slesinski (27th) ran in the 3000m steeplechase. Jordan McMeans (5th), Shane Leone (17th), and Jeff Hannigan (27th) ran in the 2000m steeplechase.
Kelsea Allen was the only athlete to represent Southington in the decathlon, competing in the 100m hurdles, the high jump, the shot put, and the 200m dash. Her best finish (30th) came in the 200m dash.