By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Knights traveled to Wickham Park in Manchester on Saturday, Oct. 28 for the fourth time this season to compete in the Class LL championship. The goal going into the state meet was to qualify both boys and girls teams for the state open, but they fell short of their expectations.
Southington couldn’t repeat their top six performances at the state meet last week. Neither team managed to crack the top nine this time around with temperatures nearing 70 degrees.
Southington coach Connor Green said the Knights’ paces were about 10 seconds slower per mile and about 30 seconds back of the times they needed to run.
“They were disappointed, but not to the point where they were devastated,” said Green. “I think they realized that it just wasn’t their day. They were happy with how their season progressed on the both boys and girls sides.”
Although it wasn’t their best performance, Green said both teams still gained a lot from the experience. He said that both teams recognized that all the hard work they put in does pay off.
“We went in with a very high pack mentality, and I could see that carrying over during indoor and outdoor track in some of the distance races,” the coach said. “They’ll actually be utilizing their teammates to help them with pacing and race strategy.”
Green said that both teams also seemed to be a little more relaxed at big competitions this season than they have in past years.
“They’re starting to realize that they belong there,” said Green. “That’s the mentality that we’re trying to build. It’s not the goal to make it to the state open as a long shot, but it’s the goal to make it to the open every year, and anything else is extra or bonus.”
Conner Leone (17:18) set the pace for Southington runners, finishing 34th out of 184 runners to advance to the state open. This is the second consecutive season that Leone will be representing the Knights at the state meet.
“Outside of what our team goals were, he’s been saying since day one that his goal was to get back to the state open,” said Green. “He said that he ultimately wants to get all the way to the New England meet if he could.”
Forty-eight places separated Leone from Southington’s third-place runner. Shane Leone (17:42), Ryan Slesinski (18:20), Sean Young (18:28), and Matt Penna (18:33) scored. Ben Palladino (18:55) and Tanner Sperry (18:56) contributed.
“The leaders went through the first mile at 5:20, which was way too slow for what our race plan was,” the coach said. “So, when you have the guys keying off on the people in front of them and they’re not going through with the correct pace, they don’t necessarily think that they should pick it up and go ahead of them.”
With her top 40 finish, Natalia Adamczyk (21:34) paced the girls team to 10th place out of 19 teams. Isabella Scalise (21:56), Sarah Minkiewicz (22:00), Kailey Schmarr (22:32), and Julia Michnowicz (23:19) scored. Laini Pizzitola (23:21) contributed.
“The girls packed it in well exactly how our race strategy was,” the coach said. “Unfortunately, their times were just a little bit shifted back, compared to what we were projecting. If we had run exactly how we did at the conference meet, the girls would have been top six in Class LL.”
Green said that Conner Leone will have his work cut out when he returns to Wickham Park on Friday, Nov. 3. In order to advance further into the postseason, Green said that the Southington pacesetter is going to have be top 20 at the state open, which will take a 16:40 or faster.
“He just needs to be able to bounce back from his race and realize that no matter what the lead pack goes out in on Friday, it’s his race that he needs to run,” said Green. “If it’s off-paced or over-paced, he needs to make the adjustments in the race.”
Conner Leone has a season best time of 16:40, which came at the CCC Championship at Wickham Park. According to Green, the mark is Southington’s second-fastest time ever recorded at Wickham Park for that particular course.
The state open boys race is scheduled to start at 2:45 p.m.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/11/01/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-nov-3-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.