Old Lyme’s Volkerts sprints to 100 dash title, one of five local athletes to win State Open titles
New Britain — Coach Aron D’Aquila calls it the “Old Lyme finish.” At the Wildcats’ track practices, they make a finish line that’s 5 meters past the normal finish.
“So you’re always running 100% through that line,” D’Aquila said.
At Monday’s State Open championship at Willow Brook Park, Old Lyme’s Jacob Volkerts won the 100 meters in a personal best 10.64 seconds and he did so by virtue of a photo finish. Volkerts topped Windsor’s Achillius White, who was the runner-up in 10.66.
Volkerts won one of two Open titles for the Wildcats, joining Chase Gilbert, who finished first in the girls’ 3,200 meters. It was one of a hefty seven championships on the day for local athletes, including Stonington’s Josh Mooney, who took titles in the 110 hurdles (state and State Open record 13.58), 300 hurdles and javelin.
The storylines were plentiful.
East Lyme sophomore Thomas Matlock saved his best for his final throw in the boys’ shot put, winning with a distance of 55 feet, 4.50 inches and then wrapping his parents, Jim and Kimberly, in a series of bear hugs.
New London sophomore Darielys Arnold, who was the eighth seed coming in, covered 18-4 on her first try in the girls’ long jump to wrap up the title in that event, edging Fairfield Ludlowe’s Tia Stapleton by half an inch.
And Gilbert, the Old Lyme freshman, won the 3,200 in 10:47.04 seconds, ahead of a charging Alexa Ciccone from Cheshire, who was the runner-up in 10:48.49.
Last season, Volkerts was eighth in Class S in 11.36 seconds. A wide receiver for the Valley Regional/Old Lyme football team, Volkerts then missed football season due to injury and sat out indoor track.
“A few weeks prior to this season, I decided I had to put some work in,” Volkerts said. “So I went with the coach from Bloomfield, the sprinting coach, worked with him for a little while. I learned a lot of stuff, how to mobilize myself.
“I just learned to stretch my hips because last year I didn’t stretch before any of my races but this year I did all that.”
Volkerts has surprised a few opponents with his evolution. He won the 2023 Class S 100 (10.86) and 200 titles (22.63). He was asked following his win at the Open if he continues to surprise even himself.
He pointed to the finish line clock.
“Right there ... 10.64, that was a PR for me,” Volkerts said. “I’m exceeding my own expectations. It’s awesome. Love it.”
Matlock, who has been throwing the shot since he was 8, said he was “scaring himself” Monday. Having turned in a personal best of 56-7 earlier in the season, he leveled off recently, which he said is to be expected.
He was second in the Eastern Connecticut Conference at 52-1 before winning the Class MM state championship at 53-10.
“You’ve just got to come back,” Matlock said of being tripped up at the ECC meet. “The longer you go, the longer you do the sport, you have more of a mental capacity. It is (nervewracking) but you’ve just got to block it out.”
Old Lyme’s Gilbert, meanwhile, was trying to block out Ciccone, from whom she couldn’t seem to gain any significant amount of separation. Gilbert, who ran the 4x800 earlier in the day, leading the Wildcats to a fifth-place finish, tried to take off for the last lap of the 3,200 only to see Ciccone take off with her.
“That was a little scary. Oh, my gosh,” Gilbert said. “I glanced at the shadows a bit and I took some looks behind me. I knew she was there and I knew she was there. It just pushes you.”
Arnold won the Class MM long jump last week at 17-3.75, nearly a foot short of her personal best, thus making her a lower seed for Monday’s competition.
Arnold, who doesn’t like to take practice jumps, instead just running though the board to get her footwork correct before she begins, landed her winning jump not long after getting off the bus. She also ran a leg on the Whalers’ 4x100 relay team which finished 14th. She skipped the individual 100 to focus on the long jump.
“I didn’t think my first jump was going to be that good to, like, win,” Arnold said. “I thought I was going to get third. The other girl (Gabriella Zeller from Lewis Mills, the top seed), she jumps like (18-9). I was like, ‘Yo, I’m not winning this.’
“(The jump) felt good. It felt perfect.”
Other top local boys’ finishers included Old Lyme’s Dylan Sheehan, second in the discus with a throw of 165-8; Waterford’s Evan Piotrowski, fifth in the 400 (49.21); and Norwich Free Academy’s Chris Amy, fifth in the discus (157-0).
East Lyme’s 4x800 team was fourth in 7:58.77 and the Vikings’ 4x400 team was fifth in 3:24.86.
For the girls, NFA’s Hannah Graham was third in the discus (117-4) and St. Bernard’s Payton Lowe fourth (115-0); and Montville’s Kamryn Plikus tied for fourth in the pole vault and NFA’s Alexis Boyer was sixth, both clearing 10-6.
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