By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Knight outdoor track and field team entered the first leg of their postseason stretch when they traveled to Hall High School on Wednesday, May 22 for a soggy CCC West Championship in the rain.
The Knights placed third out of eight teams with 101.5 points, garnering 15 medalists and three conference champions. Hall (178) won the CCC West title, followed by Glastonbury (149.5), NW Catholic (88), Conard (65), Avon (43), Simsbury (39), and Farmington (37).
Southington coach Dan Dachelet said that the team went into the conference meet using quick math of there they should be within the conference, based on what they’ve done throughout the year and the depth of the team.
“We were a third-place team,” said Dachelet. “I counted us getting 100 points. Everyone did what they needed to do, and we balanced each other out. Some people had an off day and some that had a good day, but in bad conditions, it was a solid day for us.”
Southington’s lone first-place finish on the track came from Elijah Rodriguez, as he took first in preliminaries (15.65) and finals (15.51) of the 110m hurdles. He came within a hundredth of a second of his state-qualifying time in the event.
The Knights were represented by two first-place finishes in the field. Zachary Burleigh took first in the pole vault with a height of 12 feet.
“The runway was a mess,” said Dachelet. “It was mud. These guys were 25 feet off of their best mark because the condition of the runway.”
Cameron Clynes took first in the javelin with a distance of 146’2”.
“You couldn’t throw in the center,” said Dachelet. “You had to run to the sides. It just didn’t lend itself to having a technically sound throw, so these guys were kind of muddling their way through it, trying to do the best that they could.”
Southington’s other medalists included the following: Ryan Slesinski, Trevor Porter, James Ringrose, Joseph Verderame, Teagan Duffy, and Tyler Salzillo in the 4x400m (2nd); Casey Selinske in the pole vault (2nd); Ryan Middendorf in the javelin (2nd); Jake Monson in the shot put (3rd) and discus (5th); Jamie Lamson in the javelin (3rd); Terray in the long jump (4th) and high jump (T6th); Slesinski in the 800m (4th); Conner Leone in the 3200m (4th); Johnny Carreiro, Jack Terray, Kolby Rogers, Porter, Ringrose, and William Downes in the 4x100m (4th); and Rogers in the 100m (5th).
“Ryan Middendorf ran on the one side, found some good footing, had a good toss, and almost made the state meet,” said Dachelet. “That’s what I’m talking about, in terms of people rising to the occasion.”
Slesinski (800m, 2:01.7) and Conner Leone (3200m, 9:53.29) improved their state marks. Conner Leone improved his state mark in the 3200m by over 11 seconds.
“Conner’s wanted to run times like that all season,” said Dachelet. “That was a nice race. I wasn’t quite sure where he was going to be at, but in the last 800, he was still kind of there in the midst of the pack and a had a nice finish to run a personal record.”
The Knights will enter the second leg of the postseason on Wednesday, May 30 when they travel to New Britain High School to compete in the Class LL Championship. Meet time is 3 p.m. Staples is the defending champion.
The Knights have athletes qualified in all but one of the 18 events of the state meet, which is the 1600m. They are deepest in the 400m with four athletes qualified.
Heading into the class meet, Dachelet said that the team has a lot of very strong performers.
“As you move along through the championship season, your ability to do well in those meets increases, if you have top performers,” said Dachelet. “The lower points tend to be shared by multiple schools and become diffused.”
Dachelet said that their finish at the upcoming class meet should be the best finish that the boys team has had in a long time, in terms of ranking.
“If you have guys like Zachary Burleigh or Cameron Clynes or a 4x800m team like we have, who can win the meet, we have an opportunity to do better,” said Dachelet. “I don’t have a particular number or place, but this is the strongest team that I’ve coached.”
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.