By BRIAN JENNINGS
Dan Dachelet has enjoyed a small army of postseason athletes during his three seasons with the indoor track team, and he’s seen a number of school records fall. But Dachelet isn’t ready to rest on his laurels.
“From year to year, my goal is to continue to grow the depth of the program,” said the coach. “That would mean getting kids in every single event to qualify for the conference and state meets. I also want to increase the number of kids in every single event.”
A lot of the program’s success has come from the girls teams, with a disproportion of Lady Knights on his rosters, but the Knights have been solid from top to bottom. Southington qualified a total of 24 athletes in 19 events for last year’s Class LL championship, advancing five athletes in two events to the state open.
Neither team finished in the top 20, but both teams were represented with entries at the state open. The girls 4x800m relay broke school records at both the Class LL and state open meets to become the first female relay to qualify for the New England Championship in the program’s history. The girls re-broke their record with a 13th place finish at the New England race (9:53.9).
Satisfied with the individual success, Dachelet is turning his attention to team goals.
“As a coach, I’ve created a dynamic team atmosphere where the kids want to join the program,” he said. “When they get there, they feel like it’s a home. For the people that are so motivated, you provide them with what they need to be intrinsically motivated towards success.”
The girls team lost 13 athletes to graduation, but they return experience at almost every event, led by senior co-captains Catherine Meyers and Rylee Van Epps. Marisa Matthews returns for her senior year, along with juniors Megan Biscoglio, Allison Brown, Amanda Howe, Tayler Riddick, and Isabella Scalise; and sophomores Kate Kemnitz and Natalie Verderame.
“You’re going to see a lot of girls qualifying in the sprints, shot put, and high jump,” the coach said. “We got some new girls, so we have potential for some really good half milers.”
Myers competed in the 3200m at last year’s state meet and will fill the mid-distance void in the 1600m. Van Epps was sidelined all of last year with an injury, but is coming off of a successful soccer season, ready to hurdle in the 55m.
Matthews ran as a leg in the 4x400m relay at the state meet, but will switch gears this season and extend her reach, focusing primarily on the mid-distance events of the 4x800m relay and 1000m.
Biscoglio launched herself into the state meet in the pole vault and will look to reach new heights this season. Brown competed in the 4x200m relay, 1600m sprint medley, and high jump at the state meet, but will leaping in the field mostly this season, concentrating on the high jump.
After breaking school records in the discus and hammer throw during last year’s outdoor season, Howe should be a favorite to medal at nearly every meet in the shot put and weight throw. Howe placed fourth in the shot put at the state meet, setting a personal record of 36’ 7” earlier in the year, and currently holds the school record (33’ 0”) in the weight throw.
Riddick will compliment Brown in the field, hopping in the long jump and triple jump, and Scalise will aid Myers in distance running, directing her attention to the 1600m and 3200m. Scalise competed in the 3200m at the state meet.
Kemnitz ran as a leg in the 4x800m relay and also competed in the 1000m and 4x400m relay at the state meet, and she’ll lead the Knights in the mid-distance events. Verderame played a vital role as a leg in the relays for the girls team last year, competing in the 4x200m relay, 4x400m relay, and 1600m sprint medley at the state meet. But this season, Verderame will harness her energy in the short sprints, dashing in the 55m and 300m.
“The big one will be the sprints,” said Dachelet. “I would like to see the hurdles and deeper 300s take off the ground. Those are the areas that we have opportunity in with a bunch of talented girls.”
The boys team didn’t score at the Class LL championship, but they still managed to send eight athletes to compete in 10 events at the meet. With only four athletes lost to graduation, Dachelet has high expectations for the team’s development.
Senior co-captains Adam Theriault and Tyler Cyr will lead the way, along with seniors Cameron Colombe, Jordan McMeans, Mark Murdy, and Mike Steminsky. Juniors Jeffrey Hannigan, and Shane Leone reached the postseason lasst year, and Dachelet is pleased with the team’s depth throughout the lineup.
“Our opportunity to score at the state meet is going to come from across the board,” said Dachelet. “Hopefully, we can get a couple guys in the long jump, triple jump, hurdles, a relay, and the sprint medley. It will be a nice broad spectrum. We’re not deep, but we’re sprint-heavy. It’s a mixed bag, which is good.”
Cyr is an all-around, short-distance harrier for the boys team, who competed in the 55m dash, 300m, and 4x200m relay at the state meet and looks to take charge in the 55m dash and add the long jump to his list. Theriault will pace the distance events, leading the Knights in the 1600m and 3200m.
Colombe will focus on the short and mid-distance events this season, racing in the 300m and 600m. McMeans ran as a leg in the 4x800m relay at the state meet and will concentrate on the 1000m this season.
Murdy will assist Theriault in the distance events, in the long haul for the 1600m and 3200m. Steminsky will look to compete at the 40’ mark in the shot put.
Hannigan and Shane Leone will anchor the mid-distance events. Juniors Zachary Burleigh (pole vault), Conner Leone (1600m, 3200m), and Joseph Verderame (300m, 600m) will look to make an impact in the varsity lineup.
“I really want to see us in the workouts,” said Dachelet. “That’s where you make the money on the track. We have a lot of guys who haven’t trained yet. We want to really nail these workouts and set ourselves up for the end of the season.”
The schedule continues to be littered with challenging developmental and invitational meets as the Knights test their mettle against the top teams in the region. Instead of traveling to New Haven to compete at the Yale Invitational, Southington will be taking a trip to Providence, R.I. to compete at the East Coast Invitational.
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