The boys indoor track and field team from West Hartford’s Hall High School earned its sixth consecutive state title at the Class LL Championships on Feb. 11, 2023.
By Howie Lam. Photos by Craig Rosenberg
They do it again!
The Hall boys get to call themselves state champions once again after scoring 96 points over Greenwich’s 38 points. Those 96 points were scattered across 13 of the 15 events and totals the most that the team has ever scored at a state championship, towering over last year’s 88 points and 2018’s 82 points. This is the team’s 10th consecutive state championship when indoor and outdoor are combined, and follows the CCC Championship the team won just two weeks ago.
In the 4x200m, Sam Sandler, Tommy Nash, Fareed Abu Rabia, and Aaron Sandler threw down a serious time of 1:34.35, a new season best which earned them bronze medals. Following in the 4x800m, Lucas Pyrro, Avery Allen, Vince Sullivan, and Connor Mayr battled to a respectable fourth place finish in a time of 8:42.12.
Every race this season, Joe Nham has improved in the 55m hurdles – and not by tiny increments. Nham went from 8.67s, to 8.48s, to 8.33s, to 8.07s, to 8.06s in the span of a little over a month. He broke the school record twice at the CCC Championships two weeks ago, and Saturday in the preliminaries Nham went sub-8 seconds, blazing to a time of 7.98s in the race, and winning the preliminaries. Just an hour later, Nham returned to become a state champion in the 55m hurdles with a lucky time of 7.77s, which punches a one-way ticket for him to the New Balance Nationals Indoor in Boston next month. Nham had struggled with heavy asthma and COVID over the summer and fall season, so conquering this feat meant a lot to him. “It’s crazy to see that just in a year, I went from running consistent 9.3s in the [race] to running a nationals qualifying time. For the coming weeks, I am excited to practice my speed and form. And most importantly, I am so excited to compete,” Nham says in his reflection of his performance.
Charles Cameron returned from a month-long injury recovery to run a time of 6.84s, earning him 13th place in the 55m dash. Shawn Middleton in his first indoor season was able to close with a new personal record of 6.86s.
In Hall’s deepest shot put team with nine state qualifiers, the results did not disappoint. Nick Xaiver led the blue wave, launching the shotput 46-04.50 feet for fourth place. Jacob Walters was not far behind in seventh and a distance of 44-09.25 feet.
“Today’s performance meant more than any track meet I’ve ever been to. It’s what I have been working towards this entire season. After underperforming two weeks ago at CCC’s, I felt driven more than I ever have been before to not just excel for myself, but for the team,” Walters said.
Miguel Herrera was right behind with a result of 44-04.00 feet. Izu Nwachuku was able to toss the 12-pound shot put 41-04.75 feet, with Josh Horenstein just 4 inches shy at 41-03.50 feet. Zahir Butler was two places behind in 15th with a distance of 40-05.00 feet. Mason Griffin was able to snag 21st overall with a distance of 38-06.50 feet, and Charlie Winokur threw 38-03.25 feet.
Senior Jack Pastor found himself in the fast heat for 1000m. Originally he meant to go out there and compete for a new PR, but little did he know that with so many people had pulled out from the race, he was in contention for putting points on the scoreboard, and so he did. Pastor led the race for the first three laps before battling in the last two laps for a sixth place finish in a time of 2:46.97.
The 600m put the team in a huge lead, scoring 18 points in an exciting 1-2 finish. Jonathan York, CCC champion, took the lead in the first lap, with his teammate Gabe Sisk trailing his footsteps. Through 300m, Sisk inched upon York and with 150m to go, Gabe took the lead and won in a time of 1:23.32, a new personal best, with York just behind in a time of 1:24.69. Jeremy Baun was able to place strong in his heat with a time of 1:31.08, a 13th place finish in the division. Connor Mayr followed right behind in a time of 1:31.39. Sophomores Seamus Deveney and Roman Tagliarini were able to close off their seasons in solid times of 1:33.46 and 1:33.89.
Colin Goldschimdt was able to score 8 points and a second place finish in the 1600m with a time of 4:26.15 after chasing down Parker Broderick from Fairfield Warde.
Liam Wright returned this year from tying the pole vault school record of 12 feet. This year, he was able to clear 13 feet at one meet in the beginning of the season breaking the school record and hasn’t been stopped since then. He cleared 13’6 in the following meet, smashing the record again at the CCC Championships, winning the event in a height of 14’. On Saturday, Wright was able to beat his original seeded placement to become runner-up in the event in a new school record of 14’6.
In addition, Mark Zadi went into the meet seeded 22nd overall in the long jump, but was able to score points for the team and ended up in sixth place with a distance of 19-08.50 feet. His teammate Jack Sauer jumped a distance of 18-08.75 feet, which placed him 15th overall.
Switching from the 1600m to the 1600m relay (200m-200m-400m-800m), Joe Nham, Tommy Nash, Aaron Sandler, and Fareed Abu Rabia were able to secure a third place finish in a time of 3:43.04, just barely missing the top two teams less than a second ahead.
Samuel Sandler was able to edge out Greenwich’s Gianluca Bianchi by one one-hundredth of a second in a time of 34.71s, becoming state champion and breaking the Class LL record that was previously 35.16s. Sandler said, “I look forward to doing the same thing we’ve been doing this entire season. Enjoying it. Competing and hopefully winning something like a State Open title.”
In the 3200m, Isaac Mahler led the way in the majority of the race but was outkicked in the final laps of the race, which earned him runner-up. Ethan Striff-Cave, not too far behind, was able to run 9:40.55 for fifth place and additional points. Ben Lewis placed eighth overall in a time of 10:01.76, with Donovan Connole cutting off time from his personal best to run 10:07.53, and Avery Allen right behind in 13th overall with a time of 10:08.31. Apurv Manjrekar closed off his senior indoor season with a time of 10:26.74, and after two weeks of battling sickness, Jonathan Pincus was able to end his junior season in a time of 10:30.27.
To close off the meet and secure the overall win, Aaron Sandler, Gabe Sisk, Jon York, and Sam Sandler were able to run a meet-record 3:26.66, adding 10 points and the 4x400m Class LL championship to the overflowing list of achievements at the meet already.
“Once again, I’m so proud of this team,” head coach Jeff Billing said. “As the weeks go by and the competition gets better and better, they keep raising their performances. Today it felt like throughout the meet the energy was just building and building. We set three meet records today, the 300m, pole vault, and 4x400m. In more than the 70-year history of LL indoor track, our team today set 20% of the meet records. It’s just astounding.”
The team now advances to the CIAC State Open Championship on Saturday, Feb. 18, back at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven, CT. The team returns as defending State Open Champions and will look to secure the championship trifecta once again.
To follow along, click on this link: https://live.athletic.net/meets/20153
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford! Click the blue button below to become a supporter of We-Ha.com and our efforts to continue producing quality journalism.