The Day's All-Area Boys' Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year: Stonington's Rhys Hammond
Rhys Hammond is a numbers guy.
He found his passion by plowing through statistical data for his fantasy football team and eventually progressed to spending hours researching high school track and field information.
“I’ve always been into that,” Hammond said. “(Fantasy football) is where I got into the cross-section of numbers and sports. It’s really relevant in track, too. Everyone’s performances are quantified with a number. It’s just really interesting to me.”
Given the amount of research that Hammond does, he says he underperforms in fantasy football.
That’s certainly far from that case in high school sports.
Hammond is having a dream senior season.
He won a state championship as a member of the boys’ soccer team last fall. In the winter, he had team as well as individual success during the indoor track season. He won the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II, Class M, State Open and New England titles in the 1,000 meters as well being a part of the Class M-winning, meet-record-setting sprint medley relay team for the Bears.
For his impressive performances, Hammond was named The Day’s 2020 All-Area Boys' Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year.
The only disappointment for Hammond was not getting a chance to compete in the nationals, which ended up being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I literally couldn’t have asked for it to go any better, obviously except for nationals being canceled,” Hammond said. “I’m so grateful how everything turned out. Everything pretty much went as planned, if not better. I’m really proud of the season.”
Hammond is much more than just a star athlete. He’s a respected leader, caring and supportive teammate and all-around good guy. He’s smart, too, as he’s headed to Cornell University in the fall. He’ll run track and major in industrial and labor relations.
“You couldn’t have picked a better person,” coach Ben Bowne said of the All-Area selection. “He’s a great role model. … He’s such a great young man. Take the talent away, he’s still an awesome person.”
From Hammond’s first race as a freshman, Bowne could tell he was blessed with talent.
What separates Hammond from many others is his ability to sharply focus on everything from his workouts to his diet.
“He really focuses on every single detail and does a good job with it and he’s disciplined,” Bowne said. “And that makes a huge difference."
Hammond also has a fierce competitive spirit. The best competition brought out the beast in him.
His times improved in every major meet.
“I get more excited for each meet as it gets more and more competitive, for sure,” Hammond said. “My coaches, especially coach (Jeff) Parkinson, do a really good job of tapering down and having me peak for championship season, so I was really ready for those final meets and I was in the best shape of my life.”
At the ECC championship, Hammond won the 1,000 and 1,600, breaking a 23-year-old ECC record in the former with a time of 2:32.84, while leading the Bears to a fourth straight Division II title.
Hammond lowered his 1,000 mark at the Class M meet, winning in 2:30.02, and also ran a leg on the meet-record setting sprint medley relay team (3:37.90). He captured his first State Open title in the 1,000 in 2:28.66.
In the New England championship, Hammond held off a stiff challenge from Shane Grant of Walpole, Massachussets, to finish first in 2:28.12. He broke his own school record and registered the third best time in the nation.
Hammond used a strong finishing kick down the stretch to nip Grant (2:28.38). He learned a valuable lesson from the outdoor season last spring when two runners passed him toward the end of the State Open 800, forcing him to settle for third.
“That’s the best accomplishment of my career so far,” Hammond said. “I’m really proud of it.”
Hammond hopes he hasn’t run his last high school race. The spring season is on hold. He’s running to stay in shape.
There’s other things that he’d like to accomplish.
As his senior project, Hammond is interested in doing research on building an indoor track in Stonington. He sees a significant need in the area for a facility.
His plan is to work with Daniel McFadden, a member of the town’s Economic Development Commission.
"I just wanted to do something I’m really interested in,” Hammond said. “I figured that could be something that would be really cool. I’ve always wondered, is it feasible to have an indoor track around here and would it be good for the town? I was just really interested in finding that out.
“The project is on hold for now. Hopefully, everything gets figured out and I’ll start working on it soon.”
When asked if he’d be surprised if Hammond actually finds a way to have an indoor facility built, Bowne said: “Absolutely not. He and his mom are legitimately thinking about how they can get it done, what sites we can look at, what businesses we can get involved and what’s the economic feasibility of this.”
You can bet Hammond will be crunching some numbers to try to figure it out.
The Day's 2019 All-Area Boys' Indoor Track & Field Team
Player of the Year — Rhys Hammond (Stonington)
55 meters — Dangelo Aristilde (NFA)
300 — Andrew Cote (NFA)
600 — Chase Flynn (Stonington)
1,600 — Ryan Gruczka (Stonington)
3,200 — Dylan McGuire (NFA)
55 hurdles — Osaretin Osagie (NFA)
4x200 relay — NFA (Osaretin Osagie, Dangelo Aristilde, Daniel Eggler, Nazaiah Paul)
4x400 relay — Stonington (George Limberakis, Andrew Castagliuolo, Chase Flynn, Rhys Hammond)
4x800 relay — East Lyme (Finn Power, Ben Rukundo, Fisher Macklin, Chris Abbey)
Sprint medley relay — Stonington (Christian Hudson, Andrew Castagliuolo, Chase Flynn, Rhys Hammond)
High jump — Justin Costick (NFA)
Pole vault — Jack Bazinet (NFA)
Long jump — Michael Vincent (Waterford)
Shot put — Thomas Joyner III (Fitch)
Utility — Jared Lovell (Waterford), Marquis Whyte (New London)
Stories that may interest you
Griswold High School's Matthew DePonte was going to compete for the golf team this spring for the first time before the season was canceled. He is an ECC Division III first team all-star at tight end in football, a member of the indoor track team and was a CIAC scholar-athlete.
Catie Shannon and Sophia Jones put in a full day of running through their Norwich neighborhood on Monday and Tuesday. Shannon, 18, and Jones, 15, ran 24 miles in 24 hours.
Waterford senior pitcher Rachel Miller helped the Lancers win the CIAC Class M state title last season and earned all-state honors. She was also a captain for the volleyball team, which won its first ECC tournament title in the fall.