Schools Sports

West Hartford Track and Field Teams Cap Off Remarkable Seasons at New Balance Nationals Outdoors

The Hall boys earned All-American honors with a new school record in the boys 4x800m in a time of 7:42.24. Pictured, from left: Jon York, Gabe Sisk, Jacob Szalewicz, and Connor Mayr. Courtesy photo

Following success at the state tournament, State Open, and New England Regional competition, multiple athletes from both West Hartford’s Conard and Hall high schools competed at the New Balance Nationals last weekend.

Sports reporting is sponsored by Keating Agency Insurance

The Conard girls (Daphne Brewer, Annabel Tracy, Liv Sherry, Tess Sherry) placed thirteenth overall in the sprint medley relay in a time of 4:05.85, a Connecticut No. 1 time. Courtesy photo

By Howie Lam

For most high school teams, track and field falls short in popularity, with many athletes defaulting to lacrosse, tennis, or baseball. Luckily, West Hartford finds itself as a hub for running, as runners range from little kids who participated in the recent Celebrate! West Hartford FUNd Run, to adults who train with the Fleet Feet marathon program, and everything in between. Not only that, but both public high schools in West Hartford have developed a unique culture within their communities through the track and field programs.

This past weekend marked the end of the 2024 outdoor track and field season, as both Hall and Conard sent a handful of athletes to compete in the New Balance Nationals Outdoor meet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at one of the most prestigious and renowned track and field venues, Franklin Field.

The Titans started the weekend strong, as the boys 4x800m placed sixth overall, with a new school record of 7:42.24, following an afternoon full of thunderstorms and pouring rain which delayed the meet multiple hours. Jacob Szalewicz led off, and eventually was boxed in, however, he found ground to surge in the last 200m to pass the baton to Jonathan York, who is attending Princeton University next year for track and field. York had the fastest split between the quartet, as he handed off to Connor Mayr in a blistering 1:53.66. Mayr held the lead for 200m until he was passed, after which he battled the teams ahead before Gabriel Sisk (UMass Lowell commit) finished the job. This race edged out the previous record, held by Trey Cormier, Muhammad Ali, Dylan Rendon, and Miller Anderson, set in 2019.

Szalewicz, who had a breakout season, dropping multiple-second personal bests in all of his races, recapped his outstanding, and unfortunately last season at Hall. “At the beginning of the year, I set my goals of what I wanted to accomplish, and I achieved everything I could have dreamed of. The hard work paid off, and in the end, I was able to consistently run some great times, so I’m very pleased with that.”

The Hall girls placed 18th in the Championship 4x800m with a new school record time of 9:18.13. L to R: Abigail Sanderson, Madeline Peterson, Lauren Moskal, Rylan Priest. Courtesy photo

Shortly after, the Titans continued the heat as the girl’s 4x800m shattered their 4x800m record as well (by nearly 8 seconds, in a time of 9:18), and placed 18th in the competition. Abigail Sanderson finished off a blazing junior season with a new personal best of 2:16.98 before she handed off the baton to Madeline Peterson held a strong position, as Peterson produced a new relay personal best. University of Chicago track and field commit Lauren Moskal assisted in maintaining position before anchor and George Washington University track and field commit Rylan Priest brought it home with a split of 2:16.24.

As Priest reflected on her final season, she remarked on the culture and strong bonds with the team. “The team camaraderie has been amazing this year with such a strong senior class… I was striving for goals beyond myself. … Although I will miss my Hall girls, I’m excited to get stronger and create lifetime bonds at GW!”

Freshman phenom Alexandra Golder began the season with outstanding times which only dramatically progressed as the season continued, before she dipped way under the 60-second barrier in the open 400m at the CCC Championship, with a time of 58.89. This past weekend, Golder improved on that record once more, with a time of 58.81 which placed her 21st in the freshman girls 400m.

Alexandra Golder placed twenty-first in the Freshman Girls 400m, in a new school record time of 58.81. Courtesy photo

The field events excelled, beginning with Hall’s Anna Siciliano, who threw her shotput and discus for the final time in the Hall singlet, as she placed 17th in the shot put, with a distance of 41 feet, 1.5 inches in addition to a throw of 122 feet, 9 inches which placed Siciliano 43rd in the hammer throw.

Looking forward, the Yale University commit is ecstatic to be a part of their track and field team. “… I can’t wait to be surrounded by a coach and other women who are totally dedicated and knowledgeable about the sport, and eager to improve.”

Nicholas Xavier, who plans to throw next year at Central Connecticut State University, finished off his career at Hall in Philadelphia, with 155 feet, 4 inches for the hammer throw (12 lbs).

Hall’s Jacob Walters began the season on the hunt for the school record, which he broke at the dual meet against Farmington. At the time, Walters took the record from his teammate, Dominic Roussos, who obtained the record the week prior. Throughout the season, Walters and Roussos battled in dual meets and invitationals, ultimately bettering the seasons of both athletes. This past Sunday, Walters completed an amazing career at Hall High School, with a 13th-place finish in the javelin championship, throwing 182 feet, 1 inch. Walters plans to attend the University of Alabama next year, as “[he] looks forward to competing in college. It’s always been a dream of mine to represent my college through athletics, however, I never could have imagined it would be through track and field.”

Walters’ teammate, Liam Wright, placed 25th in the boy’s championship pole vault, as he cleared 14 feet, 9 inches for his best on Saturday afternoon. Wright, who began his athletics career through gymnastics, found himself in freshman year participating in pole vault. As the years went on, Wright drastically improved, with his first breakthrough being indoor track sophomore year when he cleared 12 feet and tied the school record at the time. Wright can now easily say he owns both records, with bests of 15 feet 6 inches in both indoor and outdoor track, as he moves on from Hall and onto Columbia University, where Wright will be continuing his athletic pursuits.

“I am really excited for what’s to come. Training at the collegiate level is something not many people get the opportunity to do and I can’t wait to start training at Columbia. We’ll see what events I’ll be doing, but regardless I’m looking forward to the challenge that is being a Division 1 student-athlete,” said Wright.

Madeline Peterson returned just a few days after she earned her spot on the school record board to compete in the championship javelin throw. Peterson threw slightly off her best, with a final best distance of 114 feet, 6 inches, as the result placed her 34th overall.

To close off the weekend for the Titans, Jacob Szalewicz, Jonathan York, and Gabriel Sisk stepped on the track once more for the boy’s 4x400m, however now the trio was joined by Hall’s record-breaking pole vaulter, Liam Wright. Before this championship, the fastest time so far was from the Class LL Championship in which the squad became Class LL champions in a time of 3:22.38. On the national stage, the four athletes finished 16th, with a season’s best time of 3:18.12.

“What’s meant most is the close friends I’ve made along the way. Racing sucks sometimes, but we are all in it together and it builds tight relationships. … I didn’t run as fast as I wanted, but being able to compete with the boys is what mattered”, said York as he reflected on his senior season.

The Conard Red Wolves also had themselves a weekend, which began with the sprint medley relay (200m-200m-400m-800m), as the four athletes placed 13th in a time of 4:05.85, which is the fastest time run by a Connecticut team this season. Daphne Brewer, Annabel Tracy, and Liv Sherry collectively ran 1:53.46 for the first half of the race, and Tess Sherry was able to bring home the bacon for Conard as she was not only able to find ground and move up a spot but also split a time of 2:12.39 for the final 800m.

Conard’s high jumper and New England Indoor Champion Lizzy Bidwell took to Franklin Field and finished off her season 21st in the high jump championship, as she cleared a height-best of 5 feet, 3.75 inches.

Both Liv and Tess Sherry returned the following days to compete in two more events, the championship 800m and the championship mile. The 800m and the mile were filled with the nation’s top athletes, however that was no pressure for either, as in the mile, Tess and Liv finished 21st and 23rd, in times of 4:49.25 and 4:49.80, respectively, which just missed the school record, owned by Tess, of 4:49.20. On the final day NBNO in the 800m, Liv placed one spot ahead of Tess, in 45th and 46th place, this time in 2:11.74 and 2:11.91, respectively. These performances in the 800m once again place them second and third on the record board, with the record being 2:11.45 from Tess.

The Hall boys finished their regular season undefeated 7-0, as well as CCC West Champions, Class LL Champions, and finally a third-place finish at the State Open Championship. The Hall girls went 6-1 for their regular season record, only losing to Glastonbury.

The Conard boys finished 4-3, with losses to Glastonbury, Simsbury, and Hall. In addition, the Conard girls also finished 4-3, with losses to Glastonbury, Avon, and Hall.

Both the Hall and Conard girls teams were runners-up in the state championships, with Hall coming in second in Class L and Conard in second place in Class LL.

As this marks the end of the spring season for both schools, they plan on beginning their training as they move into the 2024 cross-country season. Rising Hall High School senior, Jayden Lin, is incredibly excited for what’s to come.

“Track holds a special place in my heart when it comes to running fast times, but cross country is where it’s really at with the team bonding. The cross-country team is the beginning of all the culture and I’m very excited to be with the group one last time!”.

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