ECC indoor track and field notebook: NFA's Lewis keeps on soaring to new heights

East Lyme's Sam Whittaker, left, and Chris Abbey, right, congratulate NFA's Dylan McGuire on his third place finish the 1,600-meter run at the ECC Division I indoor track championship on Saturday at the Coast Guard Academy. Whittaker won the race and Abbey was second. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
East Lyme's Sam Whittaker, left, and Chris Abbey, right, congratulate NFA's Dylan McGuire on his third place finish the 1,600-meter run at the ECC Division I indoor track championship on Saturday at the Coast Guard Academy. Whittaker won the race and Abbey was second. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

New London — In the spring, Norwich Free Academy's Ally Lewis cleared a personal best of 5 feet, 9 inches to finish second in New England in the high jump.

Headed into her senior year, then, Lewis was looking for consistency at that height and maybe even a little higher. What she got instead this indoor season: tendinitis in her right achilles. The only height she was consistent in achieving was 5-4.

Prior to the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I championship meet Saturday at the Coast Guard Academy, Lewis did something she rarely does. She took a break from competing.

"It was good mentally and physically," said Lewis, who went on to break the ECC record Saturday, finishing first at 5-8. "I knew I could jump way higher than (5-4). It was just frustrating for me. My form wasn't good."

Lewis broke the ECC mark of 5-4 previously co-held by Ledyard's Amy Toth, NFA's Nicole Kadyszewski, East Lyme's Amy Wisehart, Griswold's Kalli'ana Botelho and Lewis. Toth first established the league's benchmark at 5-4 in 1990. Lewis believes she got her confidence back by using a bungee cord to practice jumping, instead of the regular bar.

"I put (the cord) at 6-0, 6-3, I kept going up. It's different than leaping right into the bar," said Lewis, who didn't miss an attempt through 5-8 in winning the league title. Her last attempt Saturday was a near-miss at 5-10.

"I got so excited I dropped my hips on the way down," she said. "That would have put me at U.S. No. 2 (for the season). But now I have the confidence for states and State Opens."

Lewis, who also finished second in the ECC in the long jump at 16-1.5, will compete in the Class LL state championship meet Saturday at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven where she is the defending champion.

• • • •

He's always considered football his top sport. But New London's Marquis Whyte, the ECC Division I 600-meter champion in 1 minute, 28.74 seconds, might want to rethink that.

"I didn't do indoor last year. I did football and honestly I was being lazy after that; I wanted to take a break," said White, who plays receiver and safety for the football team.

But Whyte did well in the spring. Just a freshman, he was seventh in the ECC in the 800 and qualified for states. He continued that success indoors at another level entirely.

"I just really wasn't trying to get beat," said Whyte, who held off runner-up Matt Kung of East Lyme for the victory. "... Running indoor track is even easier (than outdoor). The laps are shorter, so it makes me feel like I'm sprinting the whole time."

• • • •

Running long distances is no issue for Montville senior Mady Whittaker. She is, after all, the 2017 ECC cross country champion and a three-time recipient of The Day’s All-Area Girls’ Cross Country Runner of the Year honor.

Whittaker had never run the 3,200 indoors prior to Saturday, however.

Montville coach Bridget Buckley had Whittaker run the 3,200 at the Division II meet in lieu of running on the 4x360 relay team. The move paid off as Whittaker won the 3,200 in 12:21.89, a full seven seconds faster than anyone else.

It was a huge win for Montville as part of its late rally to win its first girls’ indoor title since 2001.

“I knew the pressure and I felt the pressure,” Whittaker said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but I’m very happy with how it turned out.”

Whittaker also won the 1,000 (3:13.34) and was third in the 1,600 (5:39.13). She and classmate Lauren Ross, who won a meet-high three individual events, accounted for 56 of the Indians’ 116 points.

Whittaker opted to run a bit conservatively in both the 1,600 and 3,200, hanging back until late in the latter race before taking off.

“Today, I really wanted to work on my kick toward the end,” Whittaker said. “I wanted to see what I had left in the tank. I was just going for it. Thank God I had a lot left in the tank."

• • • •

Pole vaulters generally stay in their lane, sticking to their event rather than also competing in others.

Stonington senior Joey Hinckley is a bit different as he vaults and runs. He was the ECC Division II champion in the 300 (36.85) and the pole vault (12-6). He also teamed with Ben Abely, Martin Vernet and Graham Johnstone to win the 4x180 (1:24.46).

“I was slow as a freshman,” Hinckley said. “I was like, ‘maybe sprinting is not for me. Maybe (I should try) a field event.’ We didn’t have a pole vaulter, so I started pole vault and here we are. I stuck with it.”

Why the pole vault, though?

“I was like, ‘it’s the weirdest (event). I’ve got to do it,’” Hinckley said with a laugh. “It was so cool.”

• • • •

Some doctors recommend more exercise to their patients. Some doctors recommend a better diet.

Tyrone Mack’s doctor recommended he throw heavy things.

Mack, a Montville senior, began throwing the shot put at the urging of Dr. Charles Esposito, a pediatrician in Gales Ferry. Mack matched his season PR with a throw of 50 feet, 6 inches to win the event at the Division II meet.

“I forgot why I went in (to see him), but he told me his son did it, and that I should try the shot put,” Mack said. “I’ve always played football. He said a lot of football players are good at throwing the shot put because we’re bigger guys, so I tried it and fell in love.”

• • • •

Ledyard senior James Smith would’ve liked to have taken home more than one Division II title, but one win in three events isn't bad.

Smith, the top seed in the 55 meter dash, won the Division II title with a sprint of 6.70 seconds. He finished second to Hinckley in the 300 (37.74), and he and his 4x180 relay teammates were runner-up to Stonington (1:24.80).

“Today was OK,” Smith said. “I could’ve done better and capitalized in, like, the 300. I really wanted to beat Joey. He’s a great competitor, but I couldn’t pull through.

“(The) 55, my start was kind of bad, but I was able to pull through with my leg speed. The 4x180, we were just inches away from getting first. (There were) a lot of chances to get first place in all three events. Sadly, it didn’t go that way. It is what it is. I’m OK with it. I’m not pleased with it because second is just first-to-lose, but I got one (title).”

• • • •

East Lyme's girls' team, which won the Division I title, swept the four relays for a total of 40 points, including clinching the team title with a victory in the 4x360, the final event on the track.

Darya Mikusova (4x180, sprint medley), Nancy Alden (4x180, sprint medley) and Julia Bates (sprint medley, 4x360) each earned a pair of victories. Also contributing to the relay dominance for the Vikings were Margaret Dunne, Katherine Harris, Sydney Sager, Phoebe Provencher, Julia Dewey, Laura Agbayani, Caroline Real, Saige Deveau, Ellie McCoy and Sophie Taylor.

Fitch's Tyler Cady outpaces Killingly's Jelani Johnson, NFA's Jahiem Spruill and East Lyme's Blane Hart to the finish in the 55-meter run at the ECC Division I indoor track championship on Saturday at the Coast Guard Academy. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Fitch's Tyler Cady outpaces Killingly's Jelani Johnson, NFA's Jahiem Spruill and East Lyme's Blane Hart to the finish in the 55-meter run at the ECC Division I indoor track championship on Saturday at the Coast Guard Academy. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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