The Hall boys indoor track and field team has once again been named State Open Champion, and the Conard girls team took fifth place Saturday in a highly-competitive field.
By Howie Lam. Photos by Craig Rosenberg
After an exciting day full of excitement and deep competition, the Hall boy indoor track team get to call themselves State Open Champions once again – earning several top finishes and setting a new meet record in the 4×400.
The boys were able to score 66 points – more than double runner-up Greenwich’s 30 points – for the second most amount of points a team has scored at a state open in the last 30 years. Hall’s girls team placed 17th overall, while the Conard girls team scored 30 points, which placed them fifth overall.
To start off the meet in the 4×200, Hall’s Sam Sandler got out to a speedy start which gave the Titans the early lead. Jon York was able to hold everybody off with another powerful leg of the relay. Fareed Abu Rabia was able to extend their lead, and anchor leg Aaron Sandler closed off the relay, winning the heat and placing fourth overall. Conard’s Jean Carlo Barquinero, Ryan Gillis, George Musto, and Giancarlo Fedolfi placed 11th overall in a time of 1:35.34 for the Red Wolves.
Lucas Pyrro, Avery Allen, Ethan Striff-Cave, and Colin Goldschimdt all ran monster races in the 4x800m to beat the Titans’ original seed of eighth place in the race to fourth place in a time of 8:15.40. The Hall girls relay team of Julia Zydanowicz, Maddy Peterson, Abby Sanderson, and Rylan Priest finished 14th in the state with a time of 10:20.90.
Joe Nham proudly represented Hall in the 55m hurdles, where he placed fifth in the preliminaries to advance into the finals, and then placed fifth in the finals in a time of 7.94s, advancing him to the New England Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston on March 4. Nham is the first individual in school history to advance to the championship in this event. Angela Dulnuan of Conard finished 19th overall in the girls’ 55m hurdles, with a time of 10.20s.
Liv Sherry of Conard ran in the front pack of the 1000m race for the first few laps, until the fourth and fifth lap where she ripped apart the competition, coming through the 800m in 2:18 and finishing out on top of the competition in first place with a time of 2:55.86. Sherry now advances to the New England Championships in hopes to become New England champion.
In the 600m, Hall’s York wasn’t in the fast heat, since the top six made it into the race and York was seeded eighth. That, however, didn’t stop York from winning the entire race. In a solo effort, York was able to pull away from everybody else immediately, coming through the first lap in a 25-second 200m, followed by a 520-second 400m, and to finally close off the last lap to win his heat in 1:23.49. “I’m just happy to be back, healthy, and with all of my best friends” said York. He had a very rough start to the beginning of the season with a hamstring injury but was able to bounce back to become CCC Champion in the 600m, runner-up at Class LL, and now State Open champion.
Hall teammate Gabe Sisk stepped onto the track for the fastest heat in the 600m race and took the early lead in the race after battling against Tolland’s Noah Perryman in the first 150m of the race. Sisk was able to win his heat in a time of 1:23.52, which meant that out of the slow heat, York was able to win the 600m. This wasn’t the first time this has happened either; last year, York ran the 300m – winning his heat in a time of 35.67s which gave him the overall win over the fast heat winner, Lewis Mills’ Michael Johnson, who ran 35.92s. Hall gapped the field in the team competition after going 1-2 in the 600m, which earned them 18 points.
Conard’s Tess Sherry fought hard in the girls 1600m, and placed second overall in a time of 5:02.56, about a two-second personal best.
Audrey Kirkutis scored big points for the Red Wolves, winning the girls high jump by clearing 5-06.00 feet. The reigning New England indoor high jump champion, who will be competing in track and field at Princeton University next year, she came into the State Open with a win at last week’s Class LL meet, even though she jumped far below her record of 5-07.00. Kirkutis also placed sixth overall Saturday in the long jump with a distance of 16-10.50 feet.
Also in the field events, Hall’s Anna Sicilliano improved her personal best indoors in the shotput from 34’ 9.5” to a monstrous 38’ 7.5”, which grabbed her the runner-up medal and a new huge personal best, while her teammate, Nick Xaiver, closed off his indoor season with a shot-put throw of 42-11.00 for 16th place. Sasha Belabe represented the Red Wolves in a 10th place finish for the girls’ shotput, throwing 33-06.25 feet.
Rowan Ivens finished 13th overall in the girl’s high jump for the Titans, clearing 4-10.00 feet, and just barely missed her personal best.
Liam Wright earned third place and six points for the Titans, in a jump that cleared 13-06.00 feet. This would have been one-and-a-half feet over the school record of 12-00.00 feet that was tied by Wright last year, but now Wright has soared over 14-06.00 feet. Wright looks forward to his exciting performances outdoors, and said, “I’m ready for a chance to redeem myself at nationals. I underperformed at the opens and know that I will put in full effort to ensure that I improve. For outdoors I plan to break the outdoor school record of 13-00.00 feet while also trying some other events.”
Hall’s Tommy Nash, Aaron Sandler, Gabe Sisk, and Fareed Abu Rabia collectively dominated their heat of the 1600m Sprint Medley Relay (200m-200m-400m-800m). When Sisk received the baton for his 400m leg, he was in last place. By the end of his leg, Sisk had handed off the baton first. Abu Rabia was able to win their heat in a tough fight against Fairfield Warde and Shelton, winning their heat in a time of 3:40.83 and while it wasn’t enough to beat Ridgefield’s time in the slow heat, it placed the Titans second overall in the race and put down even more points to extend the team’s lead. The Conard girls (Annabel Tracy, Gracelyn Williams, Keira Jennings, and Liv Sherry) finished sixth in the 1600m relay in a time of 4:23.64, earning them a point as well.
Hall’s Sam Sandler, who will compete for Southern Connecticut State University next year, returned from the 4x200m to try and win the State Open title for the 300m. However, in a thrilling race last week at the CIAC Class LL Championships, Sandler was barely able to edge out Greenwich’s Gianluca Bianchi to win by 0.01 seconds, which meant that this race was going to be very close. In what was one of the most exciting races this season, Sandler finished runner-up in a time of 35.00s to Bianchi in first.
Isaac Mahler and Ethan Striff-Cave powered through the 3200m and were able to finish third and 10th in the race with times of 9:23.89, and 9:46.35 respectively. This race was a huge personal best for Mahler, and as he advances to the New England Championships in a few weeks, he thinks he is the fittest he’s ever been. Mahler said, “I’d say it’s the best it’s ever been, every race is faster than the last and feels better too, just about getting into competitive races and competing to my max, and all the races left this indoor will allow me to do so like opens.”
Katie Moskal, Lauren Moskal, Sarah Punt, and Maya McMillian closed off the Hall girls state open championship with a 12th place finish in the 4x400m in a time of 4:19.17. “This indoor season I absolutely fell in love with track and every aspect of it. I even learned to love the nerves before every race. We worked so hard all season which constantly decreased our times and it’s fulfilling to see the hard work pay off,” Punt said reflecting on her first indoor track season.
To cap off the day, the Hall boys team won the 4x400m relay in a new State Open record time of 3:24.88, smashing the old record by just under half a second. “Wow, still feeling in my head even though it was yesterday!” Sandler, who ran the anchor leg, remarked Sunday. “Jon York, Gabe Sisk and Fareed Abu Rabia, and I know that we could defend [the 4x400m title] and we did. Let alone breaking the record. We have our little team talk before the race and tell each other we know what we need to do and we go out and follow through with our plan!”
“What a day! This team is simply incredible,” head coach Jeff Billing said. “Their performance cemented their legacy as the best Hall track and field team ever, and one of the best track and field teams in Connecticut history. Capping it off with the fastest 4×4 in State Open history was the perfect ending to a near perfect team performance,” Billing said.
Teams and individuals that placed sixth place or higher in their events – other than the pole vault and sprint medley relay – will advance to the New England Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston on March 4. And in the coming weeks, most teams will also be preparing to send their top athletes to the New Balance Indoor Nationals at The Track in Boston.
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