By BRIAN JENNINGS
Their first scheduled meet of the regular season was canceled because of inclement weather, but the Knights didn’t let that dampen the mood in their second meet. They traveled to Hillhouse High School in New Haven for the 16th annual Hillhouse Invitational from Friday, Dec. 15 to Saturday, Dec. 16 and have already qualified a total of 23 athletes in 18 events for the Class LL meet.
Southington coach Connor Green said that he was expecting a high number of athletes to qualify for the state meet, given the fact that both teams have been doing a great job preparing for the season.
“I knew that they were kind of itching for a good opportunity to show what they’ve been practicing and really getting ready for,” said Green. “Everyone was very consistent in the weeks leading up to it. When we got there, everyone was light and enjoying the atmosphere of the meet.”
This year’s teams have more depth in multiple events than they’ve had in the past, which allowed them to take over more events. That’s what Green saw when that many athletes qualified over the weekend.
“One of the biggest things is that we have the ability to spread out our relays a little bit more with the individuals that we have on each relay,” said Green. “With that kind of depth, it basically makes it easier on the coaching side to pick events that we’re going to have kids in.”
Medalists from day one on Friday included the following: Elijah Rodriguez in the finals of the 55m hurdles (3rd, 8.10 in preliminaries); Shannon Litchfield in the 55m dash (5th, 8.14); Kate Kemnitz, Brooke Lynch, Anny Moquete-Volquez, and Laini Pizzitola in the distance medley (2nd, 13:57.84); and Jeffrey Hannigan in the triple jump (6th, 38’2”).
Zachary Burleigh and Amanda Howe led Southington on Saturday’s day two with first-place finishes in the pole vault (13’) and shot put (39’5.50”). Burleigh’s personal best from last year’s indoor season was 11-feet-6-inches.
“He left off the outdoor season at 13 feet. So, for him to basically pick up where he left off is really great,” said Green. “It’s a foot-and-a-half personal record for him. So, for that level of improvement is pretty awesome for the first meet of the season.”
Howe had some practice throws that were over 40 feet.
“I think that she was actually hoping for a little bit higher,” said Green. “Sometimes, it just doesn’t always go perfectly, but I think for the first meet of the season, she was more than happy with it.”
Other medalists from day two included the following: Tayler Riddick, Kayla Pelletier, Allie Brown, and Samantha Przybylski in the 4x200m relay (5th, 1:53.56); Johnny Carreiro, Kolby Rogers, Rodriguez, and William Downes in the 4x200m relay (5th, 1:38.28); Kemnitz in the 600m run (5th, 1:48.24); Hannigan in the high jump (T6th, 5’8”); and Keegan Jarvis in the shot put (4th, 43’3.75”).
The girls 4x200m relay broke the school record of 1:54.20, which was set by Riddick, Jenna Sheehan, Adeline Kilgore, and Przybylski last season. Jarvis had one of the biggest improvements after throwing eight feet longer than his personal record last season.
“I didn’t realize how much work he had been putting in the weight room,” said Green. “He’s never qualified for the state meet before, and for him to qualify for the state meet in his first meet of the season was really just awesome to see.”
The following qualified for the Class LL meet: Rodriguez in the 55m hurdles; Pelletier in the 55m dash (7.79); Przybylski in the 55m dash (7.99); Carreiro in the 55m dash (6.99); Natalie Verderame in the 300m dash (45.55); Brown in the 300m dash (46.20) and high jump (4’10”); Joseph Verderame in the 300m dash (38.99); the girls 4x200m relay; the boys 4x200m relay; Lynch, Moquete-Volquez, Natalie Verderame, and Kemnitz in the girls 4x800m relay (10:50.62); Joseph Verderame, Ryan Slesinski, Matthew Penna, and Hannigan in the 4x800m relay (9:06.90); Kemnitz in the 600m run; Conner Leone in the 3200m run (10:20.60); Sydney Garrison in the high jump (4’10”) and long jump (15’1”); Hannigan in the high jump; Jack Terray in the high jump (5’8”) and long jump (18’10”); Burleigh in the pole vault, Riddick in the long jump (15’2”); Howe in the shot put; Trinity Cardillo in the shot put (33’6.5”); and Jarvis in the shot put.
The Knights have had many teams in the past that have been on the second tier of finishes, especially in sprints. Green said that the program’s sprint group is starting to come together, but the sprint group is not alone.
“We also have some high finishes in other field events,” said Green. “That’s going to really start padding up extra points here and there. It’s going to be great as the season progresses.”
The Knights will be back in action next week when they split up their varsity athletes for the Hartford Public Meet at Hartford Public High School and the Hillhouse Winter Relays at Hillhouse High School. Both meets are scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 23. Southington’s pole vaulters will compete in the Glastonbury Indoor Meet at Glastonbury High School on Thursday, Dec. 21.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/12/19/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-dec-22-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.