The Day's All-Area Boys' Track & Field Athlete of the Year: Stonington's Josh Mooney
Josh Mooney, a junior, is ranked 11th in the nation among high school decathletes, having won the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference title in the event on June 15 with a Stonington High School record of 6,331 points. Of the 10 people with a higher score than Mooney this season, five are seniors.
Stonington coach Ben Bowne predicts Mooney's phone will start ringing sometime soon with college recruiters, a few Division I luminaries having already followed him on Twitter and Instagram.
And yet Mooney, the Class M javelin and State Open 110-meter hurdles champion and the state's best decathlete, competing over a wide spectrum of 10 events during two interminable days in June, is about as low key as it gets.
"That's what makes him successful," Bowne said of Mooney's even temperament. "Negative emotional stuff can spiral out of control. When he went down at nationals (clipping a hurdle and falling during the national semifinals for the 110 hurdles), I was like, 'Are you OK?' He said, 'Yep.'"
"I always try to be (low key)," Mooney said. "It's worked for me until now, so why change it?"
Mooney was named The Day's 2022 All-Area Boys' Outdoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year, as well as being honored as The Day's 2021-22 All-Area Boys' Athlete of the Year at a banquet June 28 at Lake of Isles.
Mooney's accomplishments are boundless, including his time playing football for the Bears in the fall. He led Stonington to state championships as a team in indoor and outdoor track and in the two track seasons combined he won four Eastern Connecticut Conference individual titles, two state championships, a State Open title and was second in New England in the 110 hurdles this spring. He competed in the national championship during both seasons.
Yet many of his individual spoils could have been awarded from a dizzying nine-day span which included the decathlon title.
On Saturday, June 11, Mooney was second in the hurdles in 14.28 seconds and eighth in the javelin at 170 feet, 11 inches, at the New England championship meet.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, he competed in the decathlon at New Britain's Willow Brook Park, five events each day spanning from 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m., winning the 100 meters and the 110 hurdles and finishing second in the field of 57 athletes in the long jump, shot put and javelin.
The following weekend, Mooney and his teammates were back in action at the New Balance Nationals at hallowed Franklin Field in Philadelphia. In the championship division of the 110 hurdles Saturday, Mooney ran a 14.35 in the opening round, placing him 18th and qualifying him for the semifinals, where he was disqualified after clipping the ninth hurdle and falling. The following day, he placed 22nd in the championship flight of the javelin with a throw of 166-2.
Winning the decathlon was arduous, a feat Mooney calls "my biggest achievement to date."
"I kind of woke up the morning after and was a little tight, but I think when I really felt it was the day after and the day after and the day after," Mooney said of the decathlon. "... I think it's a half hour in between events; I really focus on eating and making sure I have enough water. I also made sure I sat in the shade.
"I think the 400 was probably the hardest one. I think pole vault's fun. Last year (the pole vault) wasn't so much fun because I didn't do very well. Knowing that I was going to clear a couple heights, it was fun. I was a lot better at pole vault this year. I did it during one meet during the season and I cleared 10 feet. I think I just needed to get through that block in my head where it was scary because it wasn't really."
Mooney said he doesn't get too pumped up after a win — "I'm just kind of relieved," he said, "like a weight's been lifted off my shoulders."
It is Mooney's quiet, respectful demeanor which has given him a following of sorts.
"So many people come up and talk to me about him," Bowne said. "He's such a nice kid. There's a woman who works for the CIAC, she does all the checking in, she asks me, 'What's Josh doing today? I'm always rooting for him.'"
Mooney, who is 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, was originally a soccer player, then switched to football in middle school. He played offense, defense and special teams for the Bears last year, even kicking, before suffering a concussion in Week 5 and missing the remainder of the football season.
He'll likely skip football as a senior to focus on preparing for track. Mooney, in fact, was scheduled to start his preparation soon after the end of the spring season, although he was looking forward to a couple weeks off.
Mooney started competing in track as a freshman, joining his brother, Chris, who was also a hurdler and a decathlete. Chris finished 18th in the 2021 CIAC decathlon (4,544 points), with Josh second (5,507).
"I think I knew I was going to do track but he really pushed me to hurdle," Mooney said of his brother. "I didn't really want to hurdle. I think my athletic ability kind of came my sophomore year. Freshman year everything was kind of just like low key. Sophomore year I kind of picked it up."
Of his plans for the summer, Mooney said: "I'm gonna work. I'm gonna have to find a job. Then at some point I'm going to get back into training. I've never actually had an off-season, so this will be new (without football in the fall). I'll probably start with just the lifting and running and I think eventually I'll start getting all the equipment and start pole vaulting, start throwing disc. ... I'm definitely happy that the season's over. It was a long grind. I'm going to take my few weeks off. But I'm excited for the next season. I love it."
Player of the Year - Josh Mooney (Stonington)
100, 200 meters - Dangelo Aristilde (NFA)
400 - Evan Piotrowski (Waterford)
800 - Ryan Orr (Stonington)
1,600, 3,200 - Ryan Gruczka (Stonington)
300 hurdles - Glendon Dawson (NFA)
4x100 relay - NFA (Dangelo Aristilde, Stephen Lee, Jeremiah Paul, Aldon Dawson)
4x400 relay - East Lyme (Lucas DeNucci, Shawn Henning, Kai Ritz, Brendan Fant)
4x800 relay - Griswold (Michael Strain, Jacob Strain, Lucas Strain, Benjamin Jeffs)
Stonington (Anders Dahl, Jason Morse, Ryan Orr, Ryan Gruczka)
High jump - Jayden Desilus (NFA)
Pole vault - Nick Vogel (East Lyme)
Long jump - Jacob Lenz (Ledyard)
Triple jump - Michaelly Luc (NFA)
Shot put - Jordan Ribeiro (NFA)
Discus - Dylan Sheehan (Old Lyme)
Utility - Thomas Forde (Fitch), Jake Martino (Bacon Academy), Justin Thuotte (Lyman Memorial)