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    Wednesday, May 22, 2024

    H.S. girls’ track & field / 2024 preview capsules

    Old Lyme’s Chase Gilbert competes in the 4x800 relay at the CIAC State Open Track and Field Championships at Willow Brook Park in New Britain last season. (Peter Huoppi/The Day)
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    New London’s Darielys Arnold finishes first in the 4x100 meter relay during the Eastern Connecticut Conference Track and Field Championships last season. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Waterford’s Avery Maiese competes in the 4x800 relay at the CIAC State Open Track and Field Championships at Willow Brook Park in New Britain last season. (Peter Huoppi/The Day)
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    Norwich Free Academy’s Hannah Graham warms up at the shot put duringtThe Eastern Connecticut Conference Track and Field Championships last season. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Following are the 2024 high school girls’ track and field preview capsules:

    ECC

    Division I

    East Lyme

    Coach: Carl Reichard (46th season)

    Key returnees: So. Samantha Bednarz (throws), So. Cate Bustamante (sprints, hurdles), So. Allison Caskey (sprints, hurdles), Sr. Neva Flickinger (sprints), Sr. Aubrey Jorgensen (sprints, javelin), Sr. Elise Jorgensen (sprints), Sr. Lacey-Lee Keramidas (jumps, throws), So. Rachel Quadrato (sprints), Sr. Abigail Rodes (sprints), So. Joselyn Salerno (hurdles, pole vault), Sr. Elianna Wallace (throws).

    Top newcomers: Fr. Teagan Czaja (hurdles, pole vault), Jr. Hope Dowling (sprints, jumps), Jr. Kate Erikson (sprints), Fr. Taylor Filosi (hurdles, pole vault), Fr. Katelyn Haynes (hurdles, pole vault), Fr. Shilo Nucci (sprints), Fr. Mckenzie Watkins (hurdles).

    Outlook: The Vikings are young, with many athletes who are unproven, but Reichard has been impressed with the effort and enthusiasm. Keramidas finished in the top five in three events at the ECC indoor meet (high jump, pole vault, shot put) and East Lyme will build from there.

    Fitch

    Coach: Laurel Holubecki (1st season)

    Key returnees: Sr. Tahjanae Knight (sprints), Sr. Hannah Warner (sprints), Jr. Jayla Robinson (sprints), Jr. Hannah Thomas (hurdles), Jr. Emma Ford (middle distance)

    Top newcomers: Fr. Akira Gregor (sprints).

    Outlook: Thomas qualified for the nationals indoors in the hurdles, winning the ECC Division I title in that event as well as leading the Falcons to a victory in the 4x180 relay. Knight, Warner, Robinson and Gregor will make up the 4x100 relay team, which Holubecki believes has the potential to be the best in the ECC, and Warner will also join the 4x400 team. “We are also very eager to see how our sprinters perform in their open events,” the coach said, “as we feel we have several competitive athletes that are projected to do well this season.”

    NFA

    Coach: Jeff Wadecki (1st season)

    Key returnees: Sr. Hannah Graham (shot put, discus), Sr. Lily Gilbert (pole vault), Jr. Riley Davis (sprints), Sr. Sofia Ayer (distance), Jr. Elya Anor (pole vault), Sr. Caroline Holmberg (sprints), Sr. Fabiola Nelson (jumps), Sr. Samantha Schies (pole vault), Jr. Kaitlyn Titus (hurdles, jumps).

    Top newcomers: So. Trinity Ambruso (pole vault), Fr. Paige Brayman (distance, pole vault), Fr. Keyshalee Torres (sprints), So. Lindsey Silva (discus), So. Fiona Hood (javelin), Fr. Brinlee Davis (throws), Fr. A'Charee Sampson (sprints), Sr. Maniese Nelson (throws).

    Outlook: The Wildcats had a magnificent indoor ECC championship meet, winning with 147 points behind individual titles from Gilbert (pole vault) and Graham (shot put) and getting relay wins from the 4x720 and sprint medley relay teams. Davis is the defending ECC 400 champion outdoors and was a member of the winning 4x400 relay team, while Graham won the shot put and the discus. “This team should compete for the regular-season title and the overall championship,” Wadecki said. “The team looks to have several individual athletes and relay teams that will compete at the state level.”

    (Woodstock Academy also competes in Division I.)

    Division II

    Bacon Academy

    Coach: Jeffrey Brunoli (4th season)

    Key returnees: Jr. Avery Anderson (distance), So. Lorelei Romasanta (distance), Jr. Juliana Martino (long jump), Jr. Emilee Pac (high jump), Jr. Zoe Carlson (hurdles), So. Taryn Gray (sprints), Sr. Leah Hochholzer (throws).

    Outlook: Anderson is the defending ECC Division I 1,600-meter champion, while the Bobcats also had success during indoor track, finishing third in the Division II championship. Brunoli believes this season looks promising for Bacon.

    Ledyard

    Coach: Dave Tetlow (51st season)

    Key returnees: Sr. Sam Doran (long jump, middle distance), Sr. Keara Opalenik (jumps, hurdles), Sr. Emily Peckham (distance), Sr. Anessa Robertson (throws), Sr. Ella Stephenson (sprints, middle distance), Sr. Avery Widlicka (distance), Jr. Trinity Cason (sprints, javelin), Jr. Adelaide Culligan (hurdles), Jr. Emma Golembeski (hurdles), Jr. Juliette Hammer (hurdles), Jr. Kate Littler (distance), Jr. Bella Schweitzer (jumps), Jr. Josie Withbroe (distance), So. Jeannie Drummond (pole vault), So. Maggie Dykes (sprints), So. Terri Foster (hurdles, pole vault), So. Aubrey Good (relays), So. Gaby Rader (throws), So. Lillian Wiers (javelin), So. Kylie Witherill (hurdles).

    Top newcomers: Jr. Eva Lasisomphone (discus), Jr. Najeily Sanchez (discus), So. Rylee Donovan (javelin); Fr. Lia D'Amato (sprints), Fr. Eva Di Garbo (pole vault), Fr. Savannah King (sprints, relays), Fr. Nicole Opalenik (hurdles, relays), Fr. Hayley Peckham (high jump), Fr. Olivea Shelton (high jump, sprints), Fr. Fionna Woody (distance).

    Outlook: Littler is the defending ECC Division I 800-meter champion, as well as leading the 4x800 team to victory along with Doran, Stephenson and Withbroe. Tetlow also expects Littler to be a strong contender in the 2,000-meter steeplechase during the postseason, having finished second last year. The Colonels have a number of elite athletes that the coach expects to make a strong showing in the state Class MM meet, State Open and perhaps New Englands.

    New London

    Coach: Natalie Bowens (3rd season)

    Key returnees: Jr. Darielys Arnold (sprints, long jump), Jr. Tatianna Pemberton (sprints, triple jump), So. Olivia Crane-Benjamin (distance).

    Outlook: Arnold, The Day’s reigning All-Area Girls’ Track & Field Athlete of the Year, was nursing an injury during the winter season, but finished first in the long jump at the recent Bellringer Invitational to start the spring. Arnold won the 100 (12.63 seconds), long jump (17-11) and was part of the winning 4x100 relay team, as was Pemberton, at last year’s ECC Division I championship. Arnold also won the Class MM and State Open long jump titles.

    Stonington

    Coach: Megan Chapman (3rd season)

    Key returnees: Jr. Peyton Vanderstreet (distance), Sr. Alexa Williams (sprints, middle distance), Sr. Addison Labbe (middle distance, hurdles), Sr. Madelin DeLaura (distance), So. Molly Musselman (middle distance).

    Outlook: Stonington should have the middle distance to distance events covered, as Vanderstreet finished an impressive third at the ECC cross country championship and Musselman was 13th, while Vanderstreet added a league title in the 3,200 indoors. “This is such a talented and committed group of girls,” Chapman said. “We are really excited to see where they go.”

    Waterford

    Coach: Jay Criscuolo (1st season)

    Key returnees: Jr. Avery Maiese (distance), So. Elle Dibuono (middle distance), Sr. Lexi Collins (sprints), So. Ava Tucker (sprints), So. Sarah Davidson (throws).

    Top newcomers: Fr. Lilyana Davis (sprints), So. Lucy Walker (throws).

    Outlook: Maiese is one of the league’s elites in the distance events winning the ECC 3,200 meter title during outdoor track last year and the 1,000 and 1,600 indoors. Dibuono is also coming off a breakthrough indoor season, in which she won the 600 at the ECC Division I and Class M championship meets. Criscuolo is hoping the Lancers will be competitive in the division and at the state level.

    Division III

    Griswold

    Coach: Kelsey Tobler (7th season)

    Key returnees: Jr. Emily McDonough (sprints), Jr. Olivia Ryley (middle distance), So. Ryley Hubert (distance), So. Sophia Wooten (middle distance), So. Madison Pudvah (throws).

    Top newcomers: Fr. Emily Eliasson (middle distance, long jump), Fr. Paige Vreeland (middle distance, javelin), Fr. Karis Haggan (middle distance).

    Outlook: Tobler calls this team “young and determined,” with no seniors at all on the roster. McDonough was second indoors in the long jump in the ECC Division II meet and Hubert was 11th in the league at the ECC cross country meet. Tobler believes that the team will be competitive both at the league and state level.

    Montville

    Coach: Joel Finnegan (22nd season)

    Key returnees: Sr. Mikayla Cusati (throws), Sr. Sage Gressly (distance), Sr. Chloe Hammer (throws), Sr. Keira Paradis (throws), Jr. Brenna LaBranche (jumps), Jr. Katherine Myjak (multiple events), Jr. Isabel Northrop (multiple events), Jr. Mackenzie O'Donnell (middle distance), So. Ashlynn Audoin (throws), So. Tiana Bamber (sprints), So. Evelyn Granskog (hurdles), So. Valencia Osabutey (throws), So. Kamryn Plikus (jumps), So. Melinda Siismets (jumps), So. Adeline Smith (sprints), Hannah Suarez (jumps).

    Top newcomers: Jr. Mackenzie Payne (throws), So. Alec Bedingfield (throws), So. Sienna Gressly (distance), Fr. Shamalia Baptiste (middle distance), Fr. Peyton Cook (sprints).

    Outlook: Montville finished with 182 points to outgun Lyman Memorial at last year’s ECC Division III-IV championship meet, getting wins from Northrop (100 hurdles), Suarez (high jump) and Hammer (javelin) among returnees. The Wolves followed that with an ECC Division II indoor title, edging Ledyard 99-97.5, highlighted by wins from Northrop in the 55 hurdles and the high jump. Plikus is on the elite level state-wide as a pole vaulter, jumping a career-best 11-0 indoors. Montville is young, but seemingly has enough top performers to continue its roll. The Wolves will be led by captains Gressly, Myjak and LaBranche.

    (Killingly, Plainfield and Windham also compete in Division III.)

    Division IV

    Lyman Memorial

    Coach: George Gray (15th season)

    Key returnees: Sr. Ella Caplet (sprints, middle distance), Sr. Allyssa Judd (middle distance), Jr. Laurelin Boyer (jumps, pole vault, hurdles), Sr. Hailey Litwin (throws), So. Hazel DeLucia (distance), So. Sylvie Hiltz (distance, middle distance), Jr. Kayla Osga (distance, middle distance).

    Top newcomers: Fr. Addison Cone (sprints), Fr. Grace Dunnack (sprints), Fr. Talia Dunphy (middle distance), Fr. Luci Gardella (middle distance), Fr. Taylor Lawrence (sprints, relays, jumps), Fr. Marissa Litwin (sprints), Fr. Cayleigh Petrucci (sprints, throws).

    Outlook: The key losses are quite significant, with stars Leah Comeroski (ECC champ in the 200, triple jump, 4x100), Magda Carpenter (4x800 relay) and Gabriela Dinisoe (4x100, pole vault) all graduating. But Lyman returns 400 meter champion Caplet and three people who contributed to a Bulldogs relay sweep at last year’s ECC meet in Caplet, Hiltz and Judd, in addition to DeLucia, who was the ECC cross country champion. Said Gray: “We are going to utilize the enthusiasm from our newcomers to help the team expand its depth in many events and rebuild. We have some new talent that will help the program to grow.”

    St. Bernard

    Coach: Ray Forrester (12th season)

    Key returnees: Sr. Sienna Sferrazza (sprints, jumps), Sr. Uliana Pokutnia (sprints, jumps), Sr. Audrey-Jane Turner (distance), Jr. Mia Klewin (distance), Jr. Kerri Loughlin (distance), So. Vanessa Colla (sprints, jumps), So. Abbey Egan (sprints, jumps), So. Martha Hammond (distance), So. Liberty Frechette (hurdles, jumps), So. Micayla O’Brien (hurdles, jumps), So. Emily Peckaitis (hurdles, sprints).

    Top newcomers: Sr. Olivia Mayorga (distance), Jr. Maeve Surprenant (sprints/throws), Jr. Violet Kunka (distance), Fr. Ava Kobyluck (hurdles, sprints), Fr. Emmalynn Koning (throws), Fr. Salmata Bangura (throws), Fr. Kimberly Acosta (throws).

    Outlook: The Saints lost one senior from last year in Payton Lowe, although Lowe was a valuable contributor, winning the ECC shot put and discus title. Sferrazza and Pokutnia will be cornerstones of this year’s team, according to Forrester, with those two having combined with Egan and Suprenant to win the ECC 4x180 relay title indoors, and Turner will be counted on to bring a young distance team to the forefront. “With the addition of an extremely strong freshman class, this will help move the Saints forward toward the future,” Forrester said.

    Wheeler

    Coach: Katie McGuire (1st season)

    Key returnees: So. Sophie Zichichi (distance), So. Kaitlyn Kumpf (middle distance), So. Kylie Melia (middle distance), So. Lily Vaillancourt (middle distance).

    Top newcomers: Jr. Carissa Browne (middle distance), Jr. Arianna Page (throws).

    Outlook: Zichichi, Kumpf, Melia and Vaillancourt make up the Lions’ 4x800 relay, while the team also has a number of individuals who have placed at the ECC level in the distances to middle distances. Zichichi was second in the 3,200 and third in the 1,600 at last year’s ECC outdoor meet, Kumpf second in the 1,600 and Browne was second in the 1,600 and third in the 1,000 at the league meet indoors. McGuire is looking forward to Wheeler being able to compete in more events as the team expands.

    (Putnam and Tourtellotte also compete in Division IV.)

    Others

    Grasso Tech

    Coach: Elizabeth Wallace (7th season)

    Top newcomers: Fr. Alyssa Lombardi (200 meters).

    Outlook: The Eagles, who lost Connecticut Technical Conference 800 champ Kylee Morrison, will be inexperienced, with underclassmen joining the team for the first time, but Wallace is looking forward to the season.

    Old Lyme

    Coach: Jan Merrill-Morin (1st season)

    Key returnees: So. Chase Gilbert (distance) Jr. Zoe Eastman-Grossel (sprints, hurdles), So. Serena Mazzi (sprints), Jr. Kate Walsh (middle distance), Jr. Tabitha Colwell (sprints, jumps), Jr. Lana Lopes (sprints, jumps), So. Maggie Thuma (throws).

    Top newcomers: So. Gabby Field (middle distance), So. Charlotte Spiegle (sprints), Fr. Maddy Stiles (sprints).

    Outlook: Two of the Wildcats’ marquee athletes, Gilbert and Eastman-Grossel, had their indoor track seasons derailed by injuries, but the duo is set to compete this spring. Gilbert was last year’s State Open champion in the 3,200 in 10:47.04, while the pair combined to win four Shoreline Conference titles. Despite missing Gilbert and Eastman-Grossel indoors, Old Lyme finished second in the Shoreline, highlighted by individual wins from Mazzi in the 55 dash and long jump and Walsh in the 600. Merrill-Morin, meanwhile, the former Olympic runner from Waterford and a veteran coach of 35 years, joins the coaching staff at Old Lyme for the first time. “Though a smaller team this year, we are hoping to show strong efforts on the track and in the field,” Merrill-Morin said. “We have high aspirations for the championship season.”

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