By KEVIN ROBERTS
Depth is never much of a concern for the Southington boys outdoor track and field program, but this year is different. The Blue Knights will enter the 2019 season with a program record amount of participants.
“We have our largest team ever—100 boys—and some promising athletes that will do well in technical events, but these athletes will take a year or so to learn the events,” coach Dan Dachelet said.
Southington did lose some strong athletes to graduation. There was Zach Burleigh, the CCC West champion in the pole vault. Burleigh took third in Class LL in the pole vault, then was ninth at the state open. Burleigh is at Southern Connecticut State University.
Cam Clynes, the CCC West champion in the javelin, is also gone. Fellow All-CCC West honorees Ryan Middendorf (2nd in javelin), James Ringrose and Jeff Hannigan also graduated. The Knights also graduated Jack Terray, who was a jack-of-all trades (jumps and relays).
Southington doesn’t figure to be a CCC West Division contender, but there are some strong individuals. There are senior captains Elijah Rodriguez, Ryan Slesinski, Joe Verderame and Kolby Rogers. Rodriguez excels in hurdle events and is the defending CCC West champion in the 110m hurdles. Slesinski, whose main event is the 800m, is looking to continue the momentum from a strong indoor track season and earn a second straight All-CCC West outdoor selection. Verderame, an All-CCC West honoree in 2018, is a captain for the second straight season and brings veteran leadership. Verderame and Rogers specialize in sprints and relays.
Seniors Casey Selinske and Trevor Porter were All-CCC West honorees in 2018. Selinske finished second in the pole vault and Porter was a key part of Knight relays. Both are back to add to a solid senior class. They are joined by juniors Matt Penna and Lucca Riccio, who give Southington points in distance races. Sophomore Aiden Chesanow will compete in the pole vault and high jump, and he had some strong efforts during the indoor season.
There are others that could make an impact for the Knights, but their time may not come until later on. That’s something that Dachelet is OK with. The coach said that the quality of depth in terms of placement at the CCC and state meets will be similar to 2018. Southington took third in the CCC West meet, then finished 20th in Class LL.
“We have a solid environment along with a great coaching staff that will be very focused on developing future state-caliber athletes,” Dachelet said.
The Knights put in some solid individual efforts during a season-opening invitational at Bloomfield this past Saturday. Southington began the dual meet season Tuesday against Avon at home.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com