NFA boys overcome some adversity to win another ECC outdoor track title
East Lyme — A flashback to indoor track season came about an hour before Monday's Eastern Connecticut Conference outdoor track championship when Norwich Free Academy boys' coach Tom Teixeira was still on the bus.
At the ECC indoor championship, the Wildcats, also coached by Teixeira, lost multi-event star Cameron Belton, who tweaked his hamstring in one of the first events of the day, the 4x180-meter relay.
On Monday, the news came prior to the meet. Multi-event star Osaretin "David" Osagie, one of the top hurdlers in the state, was going to be unable to compete.
"I didn't feel good about it," said Teixeira, whose team was the three-time defending ECC outdoor champion. "I was definitely panicking. I still believed we could do it. I knew we had the potential.
"... We don't talk about points much, we always talk about where guys are at. 'If you guys do your best, everything will take care of itself.' It's a little deflating. But it's not like we haven't done it before (indoors)."
NFA responded by winning its fourth straight championship Monday with 116.5 points, topping second-place Ledyard (91) and East Lyme, third (81), and the Wildcats did so by turning to a couple of football wide receivers.
Jahiem Spruill, a senior, won the high jump with a leap of 6 feet, 4 inches, and the long jump at 21-10. He added a second-place finish in the triple jump with 44-2, just two inches shy of Fitch's Ajia Brown (44-4).
Meanwhile, junior Andrew Cote chipped in for a 4x800 relay win in the first event of the meet, joining twin brother Nathan Cote, Aidan Croteau and Aidan Brown to finish in 8 minutes, 21.36 seconds. Later, Cote came up with a somewhat unexpected victory — as the No. 4 seed — in the 400 meters, running it in 50.36 seconds, and he capped the day running a leg on the Wildcats' winning 4x400 relay along with Nathan Cote, Nazaiah Paul and Tyler DeVega (3:26.50).
It is Cote's first season running outdoor track.
"That was a big lift," Teixeira said of Cote's come-from-behind effort in the 400. You saw the guys in the triple jump all got fired up."
"(Teixeira) told us before the meet, the younger kids and the older kids need to step up a little more," Spruill said. "Yeah, everyone. We've been practicing all week. We had a good practice. We were all focused. ... I'm hoping we're in the lead right now. I'm focusing on my team, but this would make four ECC titles (in his career)."
Ledyard was steered to a runner-up finish by senior sprinter James Smith, who had three victories to his credit, one each in the 100 (11.28 seconds), the 200 (22.45) and as a member of the 4x100 relay. Smith, Travon Brown, Jaiden Bickham and Jahmik Devone combined to run the 4x100 in 43.98 seconds.
Smith, whose original dream growing up was to play football at Division I Ohio State, is headed to run next season at Southern Connecticut State University.
"Not in a million years," Smith said of whether he expected to excel at track. "I kind of picked it up from family. My cousin Joe Carter (who just finished his senior year competing at Rhode Island) made me want to be who I am. We actually raced the other day in the blocks. He let me off with a warning. He made it look a little easy."
East Lyme's Sam Whittaker won two events, taking the mile in 4:19.78 and the 3,200 in 9:47.99. He was sixth in the 800.
Whittaker edged Stonington rival Rhys Hammond in the mile. Hammond was later disqualified in that event, but came back to win his primary event, the 800, in 1:56.80, beating Whittaker.
"I was pleased with the 1,600, too, but unfortunately I got the really bad news," Hammond said of the disqualification, which came from him stepping on the lane lines, according to coach Ben Bowne. "I just had to deal with it, be resilient. Coach told me to be resilient. ... Absolutely (the disqualification served as motivation.) Yeah. Big time."
Other local winners were East Lyme's Akhil Chilamkurthi in the pole vault (12-6), Montville's Tyrone Mack in the shot put (54-5.5), Ledyard's Adam Crawford in the javelin (158-10) and Fitch's Tom Joyner, who defended his title in the discus (146-6).
NFA's boys' and girls' teams finished with their third straight sweep of the ECC championship.
2019 ECC OUTDOOR TRACK & FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
At East Lyme
1. NFA, 116.5; 2. Ledyard, 91; 3. East Lyme, 81; 4. Windham, 79; 5. Waterford, 67; 6. Fitch, 64; 7. Stonington, 55; 8. Montville, 39; 9. Plainfield, 35; 10. New London, 24; 11. Killingly, 19; 12. Bacon Academy, 14.5; 13. Woodstock Academy, 10; 14. (tie) Lyman Memorial and Putnam, 3.
100-meter dash: 1. James Smith (L), 11.28 seconds; 2. Jaiden Bickham (L); 3. Khalil Easton (Pl); 4. Ben Abely (S); 5. Jonathan Zavaleta (EL); 6. D'Angelo Aristilde (NFA); 7. Marcus Velez (M).
200: 1. Smith (L), 22.45; 2. Easton (Pl); 3. Bickham (L); 4. Abely (S); 5. Chris Holmes (F); 6. Zavaleta (EL); 7. Nazaiah Paul (NFA); 8. Lawensky Osias (NL).
400: 1. Andrew Cote (NFA), 50.36; 2. Ellis Phillips-Gallucci (Win); 3. Sam Montalto (S); 4. Jahmik Devone (L); 5. Tyler DeVega (NFA); 6. Mike Ionkin (Pu); 7. Rob Avena (EL); 8. Joey Hinckley (S).
800: 1. Rhys Hammond (S), 1:56.8; 2. Marquis Whyte (NL); 3. Matt LaLiberte (BA); 4. Matt Kung (EL); 5. Ian Kamperschroer (L); 6. Sam Whittaker (EL); 7. Chris Abbey (EL); 8. Kenneth Birlin (WA).
1,600: 1. Whittaker (EL), 4:19.78; 2. Abbey (EL); 3. Andrew Janus (BA); 4. Victor Cazabal (Win); 5. Matt Speight (Pl); 6. Aidan Pepin (Wat); 7. Peyton Ramsey (NFA); 8. Fisher Macklin (EL).
3,200: 1. Whittaker (EL), 9:47.99; 2. Pepin (Wat); 3. Cazabal (Win); 4. Abbey (EL); 5. Speight (Pl); 6. Ethan Aspiras (WA); 7. Cody Mathewson (LM); 8. Sam Lenes (Wat).
110 hurdles: 1. Enrique Lopez Garcia (Win), 14.85; 2. Jared Lovell (Wat); 3. Bryce Bentinck (K); 4. Jalen Chappelle (Wat); 5. Jose Madera (Win); 6. Kenneth Kramer (M); 7. Julian Valdes (M); 8. Harold Phillips (L).
300 hurdles: 1. Lopez Garcia (Win), 39.00; 2. Adam Crawford (L); 3. Michael Vincent (Wat); 4. Chappelle (Wat); 5. Bentinck (K); 6. Lovell (Wat); 7. Robert Lewis (S); 8. Akhil Chilamkurthi (EL).
4x100 relay: 1. Ledyard (Smith, Travon Brown, Bickham, Devone), 43.98; 2. NFA; 3. Stonington; 4. New London; 5. Windham; 6. Killingly; 7. Montville; 8. Fitch.
4x400 relay: 1. NFA (A. Cote, Nathan Cote, Paul, DeVega), 3:26.50; 2. Windham; 3. Stonington; 4. Ledyard; 5. Fitch; 6. New London; 7. Waterford; 8. Bacon.
4x800 relay: 1. NFA (A. Cote, N. Cote, Aidan Croteau, Aidan Brown), 8:21.36; 2. East Lyme; 3. Windham; 4. Montville; 5. Ledyard; 6. New London; 7. Waterford; 8. Lyman.
High jump: 1. Jahiem Spruill (NFA), 6 feet, 4 inches; 2. Maxson Pierre Louis (NFA); 3. Elijah Brady (Pl); 4. Kayvon Negahban (Wat); 5. Sam Menders (Wat); 6. Justin Costick (NFA); 7. Makaih Olawale (EL); 8. (tie) Peyton Adams (BA) and Nathaniel Jean (EL).
Long jump: 1. Spruill (NFA), 21-10; 2. Menders (Wat); 3. Jelani Johnson (K); 4. Jerrell Fitch (M); 5. Ajia Brown (F); 6. Marcus Velez (M); 7. Olawale (EL); 8. Adams (BA).
Triple jump: 1. Brown (F), 44-4; 2. Spruill (NFA); 3. Costick (NFA); 4. Menders (Wat); 5. Ashwin Kuruchi (M); 6. Fitch (M); 7. Vincent (Wat); 8. Devontae Singh (Win).
Javelin: 1. Adam Crawford (L), 158-10; 2. Brayden Grim (L); 3. Chris Holmes (F); 4. Cam Belton (NFA); 5. Patrick Teskey (F); 6. Nick Luther (F); 7. David Wing (S); 8. Jacob Davis (S).
Discus: 1. Tom Joyner (F), 146-6; 2. William Dentch (F); 3. Adelino DaVeiga (NFA); 4. Natanael Barbosa Torres (Win); 5. Markeith Conyers (Pl); 6. Tyler Roberts (Pl); 7. Xander Hutchins (L); 8. Rene Muhizi (Win).
Shot put: 1. Tyrone Mack (M), 54-5.5; 2. Barbosa Torres (Win); 3. DaVeiga (NFA); 4. Joyner (F); 5. Daniel Duperval (NL); 6. Joshua Morton (EL); 7. Muhizi (Win); 8. Dylan Freeman (Win).
Pole vault: 1. Chilamkurthi (EL), 12-6; 2. Hinckley (S); 3. Lucas Couture (WA); 4. Ethan Alves (F); 5. Max Davison (NFA); 6. George Limberakis (S); 7. (tie) Anthony Chong (NFA) and Josh Henry (EL).