Fitch boys edge Ledyard 76-74 to complete perfect season
Groton - Zach Higgins' previous best in the high jump this season was 5 feet, 10 inches.
Except that Monday afternoon, with the Fitch High School boys' track and field team needing a sweep in the high jump to defend its championship in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division, fending off Ledyard, there was Higgins, soaring over 6-2.
"It was kind of like a butterfly in the stomach," said high jump winner John Floyd of the aura surrounding the event. "Nervous, but excited. ... It was so surreal when (Higgins) jumped over 6 feet."
Floyd needed a jump-off to beat Higgins for first place and teammate Vernon Powe was third, also clearing 6-2, as Fitch athlete after athlete took advantage of the adrenaline coursing through the team to seemingly surpass each height with ease.
Fitch won 76-74 to claim its third straight unbeaten regular season, making the Falcons 20-0 during that span.
With Ledyard at 73 points and needing just two for a tie or three for a win, Fitch allowed the Colonels just one point in the final three events, taking the 4x400-meter relay and the top two spots in the javelin prior to the high jump.
Fitch is 6-0 overall, 4-0 in the ECC Large, while Ledyard, having moved up this season from the ECC Medium, is 5-1, 3-1, both teams readying themselves for Saturday's ECC championship meet at Montville.
"I saw what they did indoors (winning the ECC Large Division title)," Fitch coach Rich Kosta said of Ledyard. "And with Joe Carter you never know. With an athlete like that? He's a competitor.
"I was nervous. I stayed down there (at the other end of the football field from the high jump pit) 'til they swept. I watched but not up close."
Another thing both teams had in common besides impending dates with one another at the ECC and Class MM state championship meets, was a marquee athlete.
Fitch's Tyler Latham (Central Connecticut) and Ledyard's Joe Carter (Rhode Island), are seniors and future Division I athletes who have evolved this season into better athletes with more star power and greater leadership abilities than ever before.
Latham won the 400 (52.4 seconds), the 110 hurdles (14.7) and the 300 hurdles (42.1), with the 300 hurdles coming while he was still struggling to catch his breath from the 400. He was third in the long jump.
Latham, who has also thrown the javelin more than 200 feet this year and will compete in that event Saturday along with the two hurdle events, said his body is stronger and more able to handle the breakneck pace with which he approaches a meet.
Carter, meanwhile, who has taken over as one of Ledyard's vocal leaders, previously a more quiet contributor, won the 100 (10.9), the 200 (23.1), long jump (21-0.5) and triple jump (43-7).
"It's a new matchup for the ECC Large, we have the home-field advantage and they've got to beat us," Latham said. "There's good athletes on both sides and the adrenaline's always going between us."
"This meet is definitely a challenge," Carter said. "We have some really young guys. It's a matter of who can step up. I've been pushing these young guys all year, trying to show them if you do practice you can get somewhere."
Fitch swept the three relay events and also got wins from Brian Robinson in the shot put and discus and Devante Anderson in the javelin.
Ledyard's Bryce Hedman won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, with teammate Aaron Norcia second in the 1,600 and 3,200, and Ryan Johnson took the pole vault.
"I feel very blessed. This is a good Fitch program," said Ledyard coach Jose "Pasta" Sanabria, who thought to begin the year his team might not be seasoned enough to compete in the Large Division. "The way it started to where it is now? And there's more to come."
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