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    Friday, June 09, 2023

    Ouellette's story resonates ... the way so many others have, too

    Lyme/Old Lyme's Madeline Ouellette (16) celebrates her goal with teammate Bianca Tinnerello (3) against Holy Cross in CIAC Class-S state championship game action Saturday, November 18, 2017 at Middletown High School. Mya Johnson scored off a header in overtime to give the Wildcats the 2-1 victory and the program's third consecutive state title. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Middletown — The argument could be made that of the many stories from Saturday's Class S girls' soccer state championship game, the best belongs to Maddie Ouellette, the midfielder Old Lyme High School coach Paul Gleason would later call “brilliant.”

    Ouellette played with a broken left wrist, suffered in Tuesday's semifinal game, and still held down the midfield. Her arm in a cast, Ouellette scored the game-tying, momentum-shifting goal after Holy Cross took a 1-0 lead, finding her way to scoop up a rebound off a direct kick from fellow senior Maddie Zrenda.

    She played Tuesday even after she fell on her wrist.

    She won her third straight Class S title Saturday.

    A broken wrist and yet still brilliant.

    Call Ouellette the sentimental favorite.

    It's something I've been thinking about in the last couple years as I cover our local high school athletes. It's my 28th school year as a member of The Day sports department, perhaps the reason sentiment is even prevalent: age.

    But really, how do they do it?

    How do otherwise ordinary high school kids find it within themselves to be extraordinary? To give us so much to write about? How do they find such incredible moments, the ones that make you wish the game would never end, even when you're outside on a Saturday afternoon in November with an icy rain falling?

    They're not professionals. They're not even Division I athletes in some instances.

    Ouellette said Saturday that she's applied to UConn, the University of New Hampshire, Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac and UMass, but not for soccer. Inspired by her mom, Theresa, Ouellette wants to either major in nursing or go to medical school.

    “My mom tells me she thinks I'm mature to focus on my school,” Ouellette said. “But it's going to be hard. I know my boundaries.”

    Yet somehow, the extraordinary:

    • East Lyme senior Emma Locklear scored the game-winning penalty kick for the girls' soccer team this season in the first round of the Class L state tournament after not having played at all in the game. She volunteered for the penalty kick round, telling coach Rachel Redding she was confident.

    • Without East Lyme quarterback Chris Salemme in Friday night's football game due to injury, senior fullback Isaac Tomblin carried the ball tirelessly, 40 times for 180 yards and a touchdown, to inch the Vikings to victory. Coach Rudy Bagos thought enough of Tomblin to give him the ball on fourth-and-inches from East Lyme's own 10-yard-line late in the game.

    • Montville senior wide receiver Greg Clark caught the game-winning touchdown from quarterback Ryan Douchette in overtime to lift the Indians football team to a win over Waterford and to a share of the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II title. Clark is applying to the Coast Guard Academy, among other colleges, for track. Douchette, a sophomore, moved up from the Montville junior varsity earlier this season.

    • And some of the moments that started me thinking about the whole subject … Kevin Johnson's halfcourt buzzer-beater for the Waterford boys' basketball team in the winter of 2016, followed by a Class MM championship in the 800 meters for Megan Brawner of Ledyard in the spring track season that same year. Brawner ran the 1,600 and collapsed about an hour before, yet unflaggingly picked herself back up and defended her title in the 800.

    These are exemplary kids. Some of our finest. They're the ones Gleason said Saturday he hopes go on to affect change in the world as “senators, congressmen, presidents.”

    But wait. How do they do it? At such a young age, how do they find the confidence to lead, to inspire?

    Most likely it's heart. That's what makes it so sentimental.

    “I give it 100 percent for my dudes,” Tomblin said when asked about it recently. “If it's fourth-and-one and coach gives it to me, it's up to me. Even if I get met at the line of scrimmage, I've got to find a way to get the yard. It's kind of businesslike, but passionate.”

    Yes, it's the effort that's most noticeable on days like Saturday. Tears of joy streamed down Ouellette's face at the conclusion of the game.

    “We're not confident we're always going to win, but we're confident we're going to do our best,” Ouellette said this week.

    Well done to Maddie O., as her teammates call her, who gave it her all and then some Saturday afternoon.

    And most memorably so.

    This is the opinion of Day Scholastic Sports Editor Vickie Fulkerson.

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