West Hartford’s Hall High School boys outdoor track and field team won the 2023 State Open, and there were notable performances from the Hall and Conard girls as well on Monday, including a State Open title for Conard’s Tess Sherry.
By Howie Lam. Photos by Craig Rosenberg
That completes the trifecta!
The Hall boys track and field team has seen tremendous success throughout the spring season – going undefeated against all of the teams in its conference during the normal season, capturing the CCC West Championship title two weeks ago, and just last week defending their CIAC State Class LL Championship title.
Defeating every team in the state, the Hall boys were able to earn this title for the first time in school history. This win for Hall means an undefeated year, completing the trifecta of State Open titles in all three seasons for the 2022-2023 year: in cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field, as well as CIAC State Class LL titles and CCC West Conference titles. Only two other teams in state history has ever completed the trifecta – Danbury’s team in 2007-2008 and Xavier more than 20 years earlier, in 1986-1987.
With a final score of 64 points on Monday at Willowbrook Park in New Britain, the Titans held off runner-up Windsor by over 20 points in the outdoor State Open to further an already historic season.
To start the electric meet, the boys 4x800m took on a tough field to place fifth in a collective time of 8:00.50. Sophomore Jacob Szalewicz ran a strong leadoff leg, handing off to Avery Allen in eighth place. Allen got out hard to try and close the gap, and was able to further the baton to Ethan Striff-Cave in sixth place. Striff-Cave moved up one more place before anchor leg Gabriel Sisk closed to advance the relay team to the New England Championships this weekend.
Last week, junior Jonathan York out-leaned Greenwich’s Gianluca Bianchi to win the Class LL 200m title and became runner-up in the 400m. This week was no different, as York got out hard in the first part of the 400m, gaining on Gianluca, battling him down the homestretch to lose by just 0.02 seconds as Gianluca out-leaned him in the one-lap race. However, York still broke the school record that was set just last year in a new time of 47.87 seconds.
Not too long after, York and Bianchi returned in the 200m. York came off the first turn super smooth, pulling away from the rest of the field and running a state-leading, school-record-breaking time of 21.39 seconds and earning the State Open Champion title for the 200m over Bianchi, who was second in 21.55.
Senior captain Samuel Sandler finished in third for the 400m, running a season-best of 48.73 seconds behind York. Sandler placed 15th in the 200m, just shy of his season-best for the race in a time of 22.31 seconds. “My strategy for the 400m was what I did last year at Opens. Sit and kick. I got the time that I wanted and I’m very happy about it,” said Sandler.
While the senior closed off his last meet in Connecticut in the Hall singlet, he’s not leaving the track as this fall he willl attend and run for Southern Connecticut State University. “I’m gonna try to put on some big performances for the coming years. Really excited for it,” Sandler said.
Hall’s Isaac Mahler sailed away with the 3200m State Open title, winning in a ridiculously-blazing time of 9:06.91 for the junior. Mahler trailed Simsbury’s Luke Davis for the majority of the race before Davis fell short in the last few laps, and also held off Staples’ Ben Lorenz who sat on Mahler’s shoulder for the first seven laps of the race before Mahler pulled away on the bell lap to take home the title.
Mahler’s teammate, senior Colin Goldschmidt, smashed his personal record for a new best of 9:19.06 for fourth place and five points for the Titans. Goldschmidt unleashed a 63-second last lap and closed his last half-mile in 2:13.
Over in the field events, Liam Wright placed first in the boys pole vault, adding 10 more points to Hall’s team total. Edging out Staples’ Derek Amlicke, both athletes cleared 14-06.00 feet but Wright was able to win over Amlicke by number of misses leading up to the height.
Jacob Walters went into the open being seeded 11th overall in the boys javelin, but with a throw that amassed 153-03.00 feet, Walters was able to earn another point for the team and place eighth overall in the meet. Dominic Roussos was not far behind Walters, launching the javelin 145-09.00 feet for 11th place.
Now it was time for the most exciting event of the entire meet – the 4x400m.
Thomas Nash, Samuel Sandler, Gabriel Sisk, and Jonathan York collectively worked together to bring home another State Open title for the relay. For the first three legs of the race, Hall was not in first place but rather chasing down the fastest leg of another team – but when it came to anchor York to chase down Windsor’s last runner, he was ambitious and determined. All the way until the last 50 meters, Windsor had the lead before tightening up in the last bit of the race that allowed for York to edge out the team.
Hall won in a new season-best relay time of 3:18.84, ahead of Windsor’s 3:19.02.
Hall’s girls team also had a couple notable performances from the State Open meet on Monday. Julia Zydanowicz, Madeline Peterson, Abigail Sanderson, and Rylan Priest collectively ran a season-best of 9:30.53 for the girls 4x800m relay, placing fourth overall and qualifying the team for the New England Championships at the end of the week. This performance by the squad is now ranked second all-time in school history.
Lauren Moskal, Zydanowicz, Kathryn Moskal, and Priest barely missed qualifying for the New England Championships in the 4×400, running 4:02.91. The four placed sixth in their heat – but an even faster time of 4:01.80 came from the slower heat produced by the Conard girls team of Liv Sherry, Daphne Brewer, Macy McPhee, and Tess Sherry – earning the Red Wolves a spot in New Englands.
Tess Sherry also earned 10 points for the Conard’s girls team – which finished seventh overall with 24 points – taking the individual State Open title in the 1600m against many fast competitors. Among the many girls in the heat, Newington’s Katie Bohlke and Branford’s Lucy Moran gave Sherry a run for her money, taking out the race fast and coming through in about 2:25 through the first half mile. On the last lap, Sherry took off and was able to win the race in a time of 4:48.77, now within two seconds of the school record set by Chloe Schrimegour just two years prior to Sherry’s race on Monday.
Her twin sister, Liv Sherry, raced against a deep pack in the open 800m, battling against E.O Smith’s Gabriella Hernandez, and fell behind in the last 20 meters to earn a silver medal runner-up finish in the half-mile. Liv finished in a time of 2:12.64, just a few ticks behind Hernandez’s 2:12.42.
Audrey Kirukutis, coming off a first-place finish in the Class LL championship last week, earned a spot in the New England Championship on Monday, clearing a height of 5-02.00 feet in the girls high jump and scoring three points for the Conard girls. Lizzy Bidwell placed 14th in the high jump, clearing 5-00.00 feet. Bidwell doubled back to the triple jump, where the Red Wolf placed seventh in a distance of 35-08.00 feet.
Kirkutis’ younger brother, Michael Kirkutis, was able to clear a new personal best of 6-00.00 feet in the boys high jump. Also in the boys high jump, Anthony Catanzaro cleared 6-00.00 feet for 12th place.
Bloomfield, with 53 points, won its first girls outdoor track and field State Open title since 2017.
Every relay and individual who placed sixth and higher automatically qualifies for the New England Championships this weekend. The meet will take place in Bangor, Maine, as the track and field meet looks to determine who is the fastest and strongest team in the New England region. To follow along, click here (live.athletic.net) on Saturday morning to find the entries as well as live results of the meet to check on throughout the day.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story indicated that Danbury was the only team in Connecticut to win the “trifecta” of State Open championships prior to Hall. Xavier also did it in 1986-1987.
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