Brylee Montanari, Nicholas Rivard-Lentz, and Kylee Gravel at the Indoor Track & Field all-state banquet. The three were each selected at Rivereast Standouts of the Year.
It was an amazing year for local teams and athletes at the four local high schools: Bacon Academy High School, East Hampton High School, Portland High School and RHAM High School. For the first time since the COVID cancelations and restrictions, complete conference and state tournaments were played, and state champions were crowned across the state. Throughout the year, the Rivereast recognized weekly standout athletes, so now we present the first annual Rivereast Standout Athletes of the Year.
Boys Cross-Country - Liam Calhoun (RHAM): Calhoun broke numerous running records this year, including the 5k mark in fall when he ran a 16:26 at the State Open at Wickham Park in Manchester on Nov. 5. The departing senior, who will run at Wesleyan University, went on to break a half dozen other records at RHAM during the outdoor and indoor track seasons throughout the winter and spring.
Girls Cross-Country - Jordan Malloy (Bacon Academy): Malloy wrapped up an incredible cross-country career by placing 3rd at the Class M championships at Wickham Park in Manchester in November. During her four years at Bacon, Malloy won a pair or Eastern Connecticut Conference (ECC) cross-country title and numerous races during indoor and outdoor track season. Malloy will run for Stonehill College in Easton, Mass.
Football - Teddy Williams (Portland): Williams was named as one of the Top 25 football players in the state by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association after starring as a three-way player for the Cromwell/Portland co-op team that won the Class S state championship. Whether it was on offense, defense or special teams, Williams shined – scoring 30 touchdowns, including a dozen trips to the end zone during the team’s four-game title march through the playoffs.
Boys Soccer - Aidan McLoughlin (Bacon Academy): McLoughlin earned all-state and was selected as an Eastern Connecticut Conference (ECC) First-Team All-Star after thriving as a dominant defender and so much more for the Bobcats, who advanced to the Class M quarterfinals in the state tourney. The recently graduated senior will continue his soccer career at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts.
Girls Soccer - Kendra Schoeps (Portland): Schoeps earned all-state and first-team All-Shoreline Conference (SLC) after captaining a Highlanders team that finished as the runner-up in the conference tourney. The senior, who will attend the University of Vermont, was also named one of Portland High’s scholar-athletes for her outstanding work on the field, along with excellence in the classroom and community.
Girls Volleyball - Sarah West (RHAM): West, a junior, helped the Raptors win a state championship in the fall, leading the team in kills (284) - averaging three per set - and was second on the team in blocks (64). She earned all-state for her efforts and duplicated that achievement in the winter by also making the all-state basketball team.
Boys Basketball: Eli Evison (Portland): Evison made all-state and was named to the first-team All-Shoreline Conference after averaging 15.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game as Portland won a pair of state tournament games to reach the quarterfinals in Class S. The departing senior was also part of the Highlanders state championship golf team, finishing 7th individually overall at the state tournament. He will play basketball at Eastern Connecticut State University.
Girls Basketball - Valerie Luizzi (Bacon Academy): Luizzi was a team captain and floor general for a Bobcats team that won 18 of 20 regular season games and advanced to the state championship game. The senior, who will play basketball at Keene State, averaged 14.8 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game, and a team-high 3.3 assists per game. She was also the team’s best defensive player, averaging an eye-popping 3.5 steals per contest.
Gymnastics - Sydney Nalette (RHAM): Nalette, a recent graduate of RHAM High School, competed for Patti Dean’s School on Gymnastics in Hebron, posting incredible scores across the board. Despite the school not having a team, the graduating gymnast was coveted by multiple colleges across the country, ultimately choosing Simpson College in Iowa where she will continue her high-flying career for the next four years.
Boys Indoor Track & Field - Nicholas Rivard-Lentz (East Hampton): Rivard-Lentz won the Shoreline Conference champions and the Class S championship in the pole vault, also finishing as the runner-up at the State Open. The senior took his talents to new height during the outdoor season this spring, vaulting a personal-best 14’3” at the New England championships in June. He will attend the University of Connecticut.
Girls Indoor Track & Field - Brylee Montanari (East Hampton): Montanari, a senior, won the 55-meter hurdles and placed 5th in the 55-meter dash at the Class S championship this winter, helping the Bellringers to a runner-up finish at the event. Montanari will continue her track and field career at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
Boys Wrestling - Zackary Kanaitis (RHAM): After winning a state championship in 2021, Kanaitis had another incredible year on the mat, which culminated with a runner-up finish at the Class L finals in the 138-pound division. The recent graduate, who won his 100th match during his senior season, will attend Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston where he will major in architecture.
Girls Wrestling - Emma Heslin (RHAM): Heslin made history, becoming the first female wrestler in school history to win a state title when she defeated Elena Quintaro of Southington at the State Invitational in February. Heslin – who will wrestle at Western New England University – along with her brother Jackson Heslin (Xavier High School), also became the first brother and sister duo to win wrestling state championships on the same day.
Cheerleading - Sierra Koss (Portland): Koss was named first-team All-Shoreline Conference and then became the first cheerleader at PHS to be named all-state since 2015. The recent graduate will attend the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford.
Boys Golf - Luke Stennett (Portland): Stennett followed up his fantastic freshman year with an even better sophomore season, finishing at the medalist in each match as the Highlanders went undefeated as a team and won both the Shoreline Conference (SLC) championship and Division III state championship. Stennett tied atop the leaderboard at both the SLC and state championships, helping Portland repeat as champions in both events.
Baseball - Jack Novak (Bacon Academy): Novak did it all for the Bobcats, leading the team from both the plate and mound this spring. The senior led the team in hits (34), RBIs (34), and home runs (7), and finished tied for the team-lead with 24 runs scored. He was also the team’s ace, winning eight of his ten starts, pitching five complete games and one shutout, while striking out a team-high 72 batters. Novak, who made all-state this spring, will play baseball at Mitchell College.
Boys Lacrosse - Sam Blumberger (Bacon Academy): Blumberger is headed to play soccer Bloomsbury College, yet the multi-sport star ended his illustrious high school athletic career with an all-state season on the lacrosse fields this spring. The senior scored a team-best 53 points, netting 25 goals and a team-high 28 assists. Not too shabby for a second hobby.
Girls Lacrosse - Sarah Newton (Bacon Academy): Newton scored 82 points, scoring team-high 60 goals and dishing out 22 assists during an all-state spring. The recent graduate also scored her 100th career goal during the season and will now play lacrosse at Springfield College.
Boys Outdoor Track and Field - Jake Martino (Bacon Academy): Martino broke the school record in the discus and won the Class MM championship in the event in June. The junior also represented the school in the decathlon in New Britain on June 15, finishing 8th out of 50 athletes.
Girls Outdoor Track and Field - Kaylee Gravel (East Hampton): Gravel won the 800 meters at both the Shoreline Conference finals and the Class S championship, running a personal-best 2:20.53 at the class meet on May 31. The recent graduate will now run competitively at Central Connecticut State University.
Softball - Hadley Marchand (RHAM): Marchard served as the team’s pitching ace, winning a dozen games from the mound, allowing only 67 hits and striking out 165 batters. The junior also drove in a team-high 21 runs and smacked five home runs on 22 hits. Her efforts earned her all-state, along with all-conference honors for a second straight season.
Boys Tennis - Patrick Gavrylchuk (East Hampton): Gavrylchuk was the Bellringers No. 1 singles player, performing at a high level as East Hampton won 10 of 14 regular season meets and a tourney qualifying match over Cromwell. The senior defeated Cromwell’s No. 1 singles player Tyler Daniele (6-3, 6-1) to secure one of the Bellringers five wins in the tourney match.
Girls Tennis - Addison Brown (RHAM): Brown made all-conference, teaming with Grace Baran to create a dynamic doubles team that was nearly unbeatable. Along with doubles duties, Brown helped captain a Raptors team that reached the second round of the state tourney. The graduating senior will attend Central Connecticut State University.
RHAM’s Sarah West (left) and Liam Calhoun were named the school’s athletes of the year. They also made the first annual All-Rivereast in their respective sports.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin