West Hartford’s Hall High School boys indoor track and field team won the Class L Indoor Track State Championship on Thursday, and the girls team finished in fourth place.
By Ronni Newton
Last year the Hall High School boys indoor track team was the underdog, the dark horse that wasn’t even on the radar until the team won the Class L Championship in dramatic fashion in the very last event of the meet – a photo-finish victory in the 4×400 by Connor Blodgett, a senior anchor of the relay team.
This year was completely different, but coach Scott Sampietro was just as excited and happy for the team that finished in first place Thursday at the Class L indoor meet at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven, giving Hall its second championship in a row after previously not having won the title since 1955.
“Last year everything had to go right for us to win,” Sampietro said Friday. “This year things really would have had to go wrong for us not to win.”
By the time the 3200m race began, Sampietro knew that Hall couldn’t be caught. The boys won the title with a score of 82, while second-place New Milford scored 37.
Hall was heavily favored based on seeding. “We had the top seed in the 1000m, and the top two seeds in the mile,” Sampietro said. “But we weren’t going to take anything for granted.”
And unlike other sports where the team can relax a bit after knowing that victory was at hand, in track and field you have to keep competing at the highest level possible, Sampietro said. “Even if you know you won, you have to still run really fast to make it to the next meet.”
Hall wanted to get as many athletes as possible qualified for the State Open, which is Feb. 17 back at the Floyd Little Athletic Center. The winners of each event in each class, and the next fastest/best 14 qualify, so Sampietro won’t know all of the qualifiers until the last class meet ends on Saturday night.
Miller Anderson, a junior who won the 1000m (2:37) is definitely heading to the State Open, as is junior Trey Cormier who won both the 1600m (4:28) and 3200m (9:36).
The 4×800 Relay team of Paul Chavey, Jake Rocheleau, Cole Canarie, and Muhammad Ali, which took the state title in 8:15, is also guaranteed a spot at the State Open, as is the first place Sprint Medley Relay team of Naji Middleton, Yovan Rivera, Mason Stabile, and Anderson, which ran 3:39, setting a new school record and breaking a 30-year Class L meet record.
Sampietro said that he thinks it’s likely that the 4×200 and 4×400 Relay teams will also qualify.
“Last year we weren’t even on the radar, but this year people had expectations,” Sampietro said. “It’s nice that we lived up to what people were thinking.”
The Hall boys also won the CCC meet on Jan. 27, and that was the first time the team had really competed all together.
“We really chased qualifiers this season,” said Sampietro, working to get athletes qualified in multiple events.
Sampietro was just as proud of the Hall girls, who surprised everyone with a fourth-place overall finish in Class L.
“We had two state champions,” he said, all of whom turned in season-best performances.
Junior Olivia Bowes, who was still recovering from a concussion and couldn’t participate in the CCC meet, won the Long Jump with jump of 17 feet, 2 inches, setting a new school record, and junior Taryn Smith won the High Jump with a jump of 5 feet.
The Hall girls also had three third-place finishes: sophomore Katherine George in the Shot Put (33 feet, 9 inches), junior Frankie Lynch in the 3200m (11:51), and the 4×400 Relay Team of Bella Livingston, Emily Mohler, Lexi Nieves, and Jess Mason (4:17).
On the boys side, other notable performances were turned in by:
- 4×200 Relay Team, third place: Naji Middleton, Yovan Rivera, Blake Morin, and Jason Farrell
- 4×400 Relay Team, third place: Naji Middleton, Cole Canarie, Muhammad Ali, and Jason Farrell
- Junior Muhammad Ali, third place in the 600m (1:26)
- Junior Dylan Rendon, third place in the 1000m (2:39)
- Senior Darrell Mickey, fourth place in the High Jump (5 feet, 10 inches) and seventh place in the Long Jump (20 feet)
- Senior Brandon Beecher, fifth place in the Shot Put (45 feet, 9 inches)
- Senior Willem Landis, fifth place in the 3200 (9:54)
The future continues to be very bright for the Hall boys, Sampietro said. He is hopeful that some team members will make it to New Englands, and he will also be taking some athletes to the New Balance Nationals at the Armory in New York City. Trey Cormier has already been invited to run in the New Balance Grand Prix in Boston.
And although the team will lose strong seniors like Middleton, Stabile, and Rocheleau, he said that many of the top athletes are just juniors.
“We’re going to be really good like this next year, too,” Sampietro said. Waiting in the wings are underclassmen who are ready to step in and fill the vacated roles.
“There’s a good, positive vibe” with the culture of the program right now, said Sampietro.
“Congratulations to head coach Scott Sampietro and the rest of the coaches: Everett Hackett, Betty Remigino-Knapp, and Mike Lage,” assistant coach Jeff Billing said in an email. “Really an incredible showing.”
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