The Day's All-Area Girls' Track & Field Athlete of the Year: East Lyme's Savannah Soleau
The same things that make Savannah Soleau a standout in track & field at East Lyme High School, her athleticism and high-energy personality, make her one of the best volleyball players in the Eastern Connecticut Conference, as well.
"Freakish athletic ability," East Lyme volleyball coach Jack Biggs calls it.
Soleau was named The Day's 2022 All-Area Girls' Track & Field Athlete of the Year, the second straight season in which she's earned that distinction, having claimed All-New England honors with a sixth-place finish in the shot put and also excelling throughout the season in the discus and javelin.
She will attend Keene State College to play volleyball, but she has also been in contact with the school's track coach and plans to try her hand at both sports. Biggs is among those who believes she has the capacity for both things.
"One player I will always remember how she came along, how she ended her senior year the way she did ... and her personality," Biggs said. "No matter what she does, her personality will always put her ahead of the next person. She's high energy in whatever she does.
"We won the division championship, the ECC tournament and were on the cusp of winning another state title. Really good seniors, senior leadership. When I talk to college coaches about her I tell them, 'This player's the one that will help you the most just because of her personality.'"
Including volleyball, Soleau was 3-for-3 as a senior, helping lift the Vikings to a trio of ECC tournament championships.
A middle hitter/blocker for the volleyball team, she finished with 155 kills and a serving percentage of .833, earning first team Division I All-ECC honors. In indoor track, she was the ECC champ in the shot put (37 feet, 10 inches) and followed that with a Class L state championship in the shot put with a meet record 39-0. She was third in the State Open (36-0) and seventh in New England (37-4.5).
This spring, Soleau's best effort in the shot put was 39-4, giving her the top throw in Connecticut. She won the ECC shot put title (38-6.5) and was second in the discus (107-8) and second in the javelin (107-3), with the Vikings scoring 27 points in the javelin to virtually clinch the team championship. In Class MM, Soleau was second in shot and javelin and fourth in disc and at the State Open, she was second in shot, third in javelin and 15th in disc.
She competed at New Englands in shot put and javelin, with the javelin being somewhat new to her this season.
"I didn't know how to throw it until this year; I didn't quite get the knack," she said of the javelin, naming that and discus as her favorite events because they're a switch from the shot put, in which she has competed for so long.
Soleau, at 5-foot-8, isn't your prototypical thrower, nor is she your average size for a middle hitter in volleyball. She began throwing after track coach Carl Reichard, whose youth clinics Soleau attended when she was a kid, witnessed the force with which Soleau was tossing around a medicine ball one day in the weight room — "she explodes on things," Reichard once said.
"She came in and she was not the athlete that she is now," Biggs said. "That's what's cool about her: she trusts the process. Every year she got a little bit better. ... Her arm swing's really good. She can get up. Her athleticism takes over."
Reichard will have a more difficult time filling out the throwing events next season.
"Sitting down and scoring out the meet to figure out where you're going to get your points ..." Reichard said, commenting on Soleau's reliability. "There's a fair amount of pressure on her during the year. When you come around to championship meets, we never said, 'We expect you to do XYZ.' But she had a big PR in the javelin (122-4 at the State Open), she threw the shot well. I was proud of the way she handled the responsibility."
Soleau might venture into the heptathlon at Keene State. First, though, she'll join the volleyball team in August for the preseason.
"It was hard to decide track from volleyball," said Soleau, whose mom, Janelle, competed in track at the Division I level at Kansas. "I'm still able to do track (at Keene), but I enjoy volleyball very much. It's my sport. I love that it's not individual and there's other people working together.
"... I've known (Reichard) since elementary school. It was sad leaving. I'll go back next year to see everyone. I'm just glad we had a full, full season. I haven't had a full season like this since freshman year. New Englands, we didn't have them last year (due to the pandemic)."
Player of the Year - Savannah Soleau (East Lyme)
100, 200 meters - Nancy Inthasit (Stonington)
400 - Ava Pitruzzello (East Lyme)
800, 1,600 - Jordan Malloy (Bacon Academy)
3,200 - Avery Maiese (Waterford)
100 hurdles, 300 hurdles - Kmara Royster (New London)
4x100 relay - Stonington (Olivia Duhig, Helena Hoinsky, Hannah Andersen, Nancy Inthasit)
4x400 relay - New London (Leilani Robinson, Kmara Royster, Anissah White, Akheena Farrior-Parcak)
4x800 relay - Ledyard (Tori Schweitzer, Clare Inyang, Ella Stephenson, Kate Littler)
High jump - Kristen Goodrich (Lyman Memorial)
Pole vault - Alexis Boyer (NFA)
Long jump - Jasmyn Bransford (NFA)
Triple jump - Lauren Hinckley (East Lyme)
Shot put - Jen Whipple (Bacon Academy)
Discus - Hannah Graham (NFA)
Javelin - Sjodin Fedikovich (East Lyme)
Utility - May Inyang (Ledyard), Sophia Seguin (East Lyme), Maya Suarez (Montville)