Being a collegiate athlete comes with many challenges, particularly as a freshman.
For Caitlin Gallagher, a 2021 Glastonbury High School graduate, her freshman year at Bryant University started with a major obstacle.
Gallagher earned all-state honors in field hockey during her final two season at GHS, becoming a team captain for a Guardians team that won 22 games and lost only once in the regular season during the two years.
During that time, Bryant’s field hockey head coach Joppe De Vries recruited Gallagher to the university and shortly after Gallagher committed, De Vries stepped down from her position in May of 2020
Assistant coach Laura Gebhart took over the head coaching duties and then only a few weeks before Gallagher’s freshman season was set to begin, Gebhart left the university to take an assistant coaching job at Penn State – her alma mater – leaving the program in limbo on the brink of the first game.
“It was tough, but it was also one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had,” recalled Gallagher. “I made connections with new girls and new coaches, and I made friends that I know will last forever.”
Gallagher, who described herself as “easy going”, said that the previous challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic helped prepare her for the unexpected.
She again took what felt like lemons and turned them into lemonade, thriving during her first season in Smithfield, RI.
Gallagher started all 18 games for the Bulldogs, immediately producing on the field and making the Northeast Conference (NEC) academic honor roll.
The chaos of the coaching situation created the ultimate learning experience as first-year head coach Jillian Coppola took over the program in August of 2021 and guided the young, hungry Bulldogs through the transition.
After losing the first 14 games of the season, the team finished strong by winning two of their final four games, shutting out both Merrimack and Long Island.
Gallagher, who tallied her first point with an assist on Oct. 29, said the adjustment – both mentally and physically – going from high school to Division I athletics was difficult.
She recalled having a “holy moly” moment in the team’s season opener at Providence College.
“It was a lot faster; the field hockey was insanely fast. The girls were bigger, the girls were stronger. I wasn’t much of a push-and-shove kind of girl and I was getting shoved all the time,” recalled Gallagher. “I thought something needs to change here, so I focused a lot in the weight room. I focused a lot on getting faster and by the end of the season I felt comfortable in my position.”
As she prepares for her second season at Bryant, she had a chance to reflect on what the last five years have meant to her as a person.
The first time she picked up a field hockey stick was the first day of try-outs as a freshman at GHS. From that point on, field hockey has changed her entire outlook on the world.
“For me the sport goes so much deeper than picking up a stick and ball. I think my leadership ability has grown the most. I would have never spoken up. I would have never put my ideas forward in middle school and elementary school. I was the shy little girl that was always around my parents,” said Gallagher. “It helped me realize that I have a voice and helped me develop a work ethic”
She added that she uses that same work ethic on and off the field, saying, “Nowadays I am at the field five or six hours a day. I lift, I run, I do everything I can. I think that will take me further than even the next three years at Bryant and hopefully this will all translate to the workforce.”
Because of how much field hockey has changed her, she added that she wants to help expand the sport.
Field hockey has been around for hundreds of years, but wasn’t introduced in the United States until the early 1900s. It took almost 80 years for the sport to gain traction nationally before its popularity rose after the U.S. sent a team to the Olympics for the first time in 1984.
Now, many high schools and colleges have teams, yet Gallagher would like to see the sport expand even more through youth programs and additional feeder systems.
“I would love to see field hockey grow and become more competitive throughout everywhere, especially in Connecticut. I think it has grown and there are a lot of great girls throughout Connecticut, but I still think it has room to grow,” said Gallagher, who competed on club teams throughout high school.
She said the coaches she had in high school, led by current GHS head coach Maureen Perkins made “the biggest impact on my life”, adding, “Glastonbury field hockey was the best four years of my life and I couldn't ask for a better team or coaches. Once I graduate college I would like to increase the field hockey in Glastonbury. I want to have little girls have that same experience that I got to have.”
But before she can do that, she has three years left at Bryant to help the Bulldogs become conference contenders.
Gallagher, who had yet to declare a major but is leaning towards marketing, was named a team captain for the upcoming fall season.
She is using the summer to increase her skill through additional field work and time in the weight, also working with fellow captains and best friends Grayson Green (senior) and Lotte Guitink (junior) to prepare the team for what looks to be a fruitful fall.
“I think next year is looking pretty positive. We have a team of people that want to be better and want to grow,” said Gallagher. “We wanted to see last season go better, we wanted to have a winning record, but it just didn’t happen. Now we want this team to have the best year possible for our seniors and everyone involved.”
Despite experiencing a roller coaster of a first year at Bryant, Gallagher added that she wouldn’t want it any other way and believes the challenges of last season will make the team stronger this fall.
Warren Channing will play lacrosse at Eastern Connecticut State University. Channing is picture during the team's Senior Night in May with his parents David and Debbie Channing.
Warren Channing, a recent-graduate of Glastonbury High School, will continue lacrosse career in college.
“Excited to announce my commitment to Eastern Connecticut State University. I would like to thank my coaches, family, and friends, who have helped me throughout the process,” Channing posted on social media.
Channing became a scoring threat this past spring, possessing a powerful shot and relentless intensity as one of the Guardians starting attackers.
Glastonbury won 13 games this spring, including a 12-4 win over Simsbury to capture the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC)-Central Championship.
“Our lacrosse guys have become brothers,” said Channing, who added that all of the athletic programs at GHS are one big family. “We have the 12th Man and literally every sport is competitive and all the athletes are really good people.”
Lacrosse head coach Scott Hinchey praised Channing’s ability to get off his shot off, adding “His biggest strength was the work that he did on his own.”
Hinchey recalled Channing honing his craft in the offseason and consistently staying after practice to work on his game.
College lacrosse became a reality for Channing following his junior season. He suffered an injury as a freshman and then had his sophomore season washed away because of the Covid-cancellation.
Channing recalled the team coming back in 2021 with a renewed sense of appreciation, adding “It was just exciting to get out there and compete again.”
He caught the eye of Hinchey and the coaching staff during spring try-outs as a junior and two years later he is committed to playing the sport for at least four more years.
Because of the way his high school career started, Hinchey said Channing’s “best lacrosse is in front of him.”
During his time at GHS, Channing also helped the field hockey team film their games in the fall and was part of the Interact Club at GHS.
Outside of school he enjoys playing golf and basketball.
At Eastern, he will join an up-and-coming Warriors team led by head coach Marc Graham.
“I was touring a couple of schools and it was the one that felt like home,” Channing said, who liked the Willimantic location because of its proximity to his hometown and the surrounding universities where many of his friends are going. “I’m excited to play at the next level. There is always more that you can learn and I just want to play against better competition.”
Dan Cantafi pitches for the Glastonbury American Legion 19U team on June 20 as second baseman Drew Curto looks on
Glastonbury’s American Legion 19U baseball team has all the tools in place, now they just have to fine tune some things to make a tournament push.
Entering the week the team has lost 10 of 13 games, yet five of those losses have been by a single run.
Last week the team took undefeated Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland (RCP) to the limit for the second time, before losing 5-4 on June 20.
“We hit well up and down the lineup, we are averaging 11 hits a game,” head coach Brian Suriner said. “We’re working on our defense. It’s good, but not great yet. To beat teams like this we need to play better defense.”
In the loss, Glastonbury took a lead in the bottom of the first on an RBI-single from Jack Petrone, which drove home Jayden Sgro.
After falling behind 2-1, Elliot Hamilton tripled in the 5th inning, sending home C.J. Butera to tie the game.
RCP again regained lead in the top of the 6th before Glastonbury rallied one more time when Drew Curto tripled in the bottom of the inning prior to Owen Peterson sending him home with a single to knot the game at three.
After RCP scored on a sacrifice fly in the top of the 8th, Glastonbury was unable to capitalize with runners in scoring position.
All told, Glastonbury stranded 14 runners in defeat.
Dan Cantafi started the game of the mound for Glastonbury, pitching five innings, allowing five hits and two earned runs. Collin Martin relieved Cantafi in the 6th inning, taking the loss despite two solid innings of work.
Suriner called the rivals from across the river “disciplined” and he hopes that his team can start winning some of these close contents for the stretch run in July.
“We have a bunch of kids from the high school team that went to the state semifinals, so we have a lot of talent and we just have to put it all together,” added Suriner. “If we can string together some wins, which I think we will, we’re going to be a tough out when the tournament comes around.”
The team has also faced a gauntlet of a schedule. Five of the team’s losses have been to RCP and Middletown Post 75, who have a combined record of 23-0 at the conclusion of last week.
“We’re playing well enough to be in close games against good teams,” added Suriner. “This is a bit of a building block for next year, but if we get into the tournament we will be a tough out.”
Bacon’s Martino Does It All
When it comes to track and field there is literally nothing that Bacon Academy’s Jake Martino can’t do.
Martino, who specializes in throwing events, finished 8th out of 50 of Connecticut’s best high school athletes in the decathlon at Willow Brook Park in New Britain on June 15.
The decathlon is a grueling 10-event challenge, featuring the 100 meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meter run, 110 meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1500 meter run.
It was the second straight year that Martino competed in the decathlon, finishing 7th as a sophomore last spring. He improved his overall score by nearly 300 points this spring, scoring 5253 points opposed to 4961 a season ago.
Martino said he prefers the decathlon to individual events because it encompasses everything that track and field has to offer, adding, “I enjoy seeing how I can get better. Last year was my first time doing it and I love to see my improvement from last year until this year.”
He set personal-best marks in five of the ten events and placed top-six in three events, taking 2nd place in the discus and 6th in both the shot put and the 100 meters. He also shaved 10 seconds off his time in the 1500 meters from a season ago.
June was a particularly busy month for Martino, who competed in three local championships, a regional championship, and a pair of national events.
During the Class MM finals on June 2, he won the discus championship. Despite battling windy and rainy conditions, Martino managed to top runner-up Matthew Smith of Lewis Mills by 14 feet.
Martino described the throwing title as “a crazy relief”, adding, “I didn’t expect that to happen until my senior year. I was really happy to see that I was able to throw good enough in the rain to win. It was great.”
Martino had previously broken the school record in the discus during a regular season meet, topping the previous mark of 149 feet by three feet.
He also excelled in the javelin, throwing a personal-best 153’10” at the Eastern Connecticut Conference (ECC) Division championship on May 23.
Immediately following the decathlon, Martino hopped in his car and drove south to compete at both the New Balance Outdoor Track and Field Nationals at the University of Pennsylvania and the Adidas Nationals at the University of North Carolina. The events officially ended his junior season at Bacon.
Martino’s dedication to his craft is second to none. He began learning to throw the discus, javelin, and shot put with his neighbor Peter Walsh, who graduated this year.
The two would practice a variety of throws in the backyards of their family homes before joining the track and field team in middle school.
Fitness became a passion as early as the third grade for Martino, who said, “I wanted to be No. 1 in all the fitness tests in elementary school.”
He had a pull-up bar in his room and would do body weight exercise, like push-ups, to train.
Once in high school, Martino took his training to the next level and began to study YouTube videos on how to properly execute each throw, slowing down the videos so he could master the technique and body movements.
His freshman outdoor track and field season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Martino used that time to get bigger, stronger, and more explosive by working out at his home gym in his basement. He began to refine his body, focusing on his core and training his fast-twitch muscles.
The film study combined with his tireless work on the track and in the weight room transformed him into a champion thrower by his junior season.
“In my opinion it’s second to the most important thing beside technique,” Martino said of his time in the weight room. “If you can learn to work out and push yourself in the gym as hard as you push yourself on the field you’ll see a difference. There is a complete difference between an athlete that works out and an athlete that doesn't, no matter what sport it is.”
This summer he will continue to compete, unaffiliated to the school, at local and regional events.
He said he will lean towards “decathlon-focused” training in the offseason and has set some lofty goals next season.
“Personally I would love to break a few more school records,” said Martino, who is eying the 100 meter dash record and the javelin mark. He also said he wants to further his discus record, hoping to surpass 165 feet.
He added that his ultimate goal is to go Nationals for the decathlon and eyes a top-five finish.
Taylor and Jordyn Fitch, fraternal twins from RHAM, are each headed to play college softball. Taylor will play for the University of Hartford and Jordyn will play for the University of St. Joseph.
Jordyn and Taylor Fitch have basically been inseparable since birth. The fraternal twins reached nearly every childhood milestone together and have completed athletically alongside each other since they could walk.
The sisters are now both headed to West Hartford to continue playing collegiate softball, but for the first time they will be at different schools.
Jordyn will attend the University of St. Joseph and Taylor is headed about three miles southwest to the University of Hartford.
“It’s a small school, which I really wanted,” Jordyn said of her decision to go to USJ, “Also, the team and the coaches were so nice. It felt like home.”
For Taylor, she wanted something a little bigger and UHart’s campus is about four times the size of USJ.
“I was definitely debating on going with my sister because obviously I wanted to stay with her, but I went to visit and the team was great and the campus was perfect,” said Taylor.
The Fitch sisters each played major roles for the RHAM softball over the years, both playing various positions. Taylor settled in as the team’s catcher the past two seasons and Jordyn continued to move all over the field, including pitching several times.
Head coach Raymond Bell said the sisters had a chemistry that went well beyond balls and strikes.
“With Jordyn I never called pitches; I left that up to Taylor because she knew her so well. You kind of just let them roll,” stated Bell.
The twins were the only two seniors that Bell had on his roster this past spring and he added that they were both incredible leaders, who each had “unique strength” on the field.
Taylor was more explosive at the plate and Jordyn served as the ultimate utility player, winning the Coaches Award for her flexibility to wear multiple hats.
“Jordyn learned how to adapt and make adjustments to do what is best for the team. She always put the team first,” added Bell. “She never hesitated or questioned what we asked her to do.”
Taylor led the team in both hits and runs scored (22 each) and also smacked three home runs while earning All-Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) honors this spring.
Jordyn scored a dozen runs and drove in seven more, while also winning three games and losing none from the mound as the Raptors won 15 of 20 regular season games to qualify for the state tournament.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for the sisters, who grew up in East Hartford before the family moved to Andover in the third grade.
Their father, Ryan Fitch, is the longtime wrestling coach at the high school and was an influence behind them playing sports.
After playing soccer for a couple of years, both began to focus solely on softball.
They each said they will miss playing for the local community, but are eager to attack the next challenge.
Jordyn, who has a passion for photography, will major in elementary education as she joins a Blue Jays program that won 75% of their games this past spring.
Jim McKinnon is entering 18th season leading the Blue Jays and is the winningest coach in program history, compiling 320 wins.
“I’m looking forward to meeting new people,” Jordyn said of her next destination, “It’ll be a new atmosphere and I’ll be on my own.”
Taylor, who enjoys the outdoors, will study psychology and join the Hawks who are coming off a 13-win season in a transition year as the university moves from Division I athletics to Division III status.
She said that it will be sad to split from her sister, but added that the proximity of the two schools will make it easier, saying, “We get to grow apart together.”
David Donahue, the ECFL's most valuable offensive player last summer, will return to quarterback the Northeast Bulls. The Bulls are a semi professional football team that plays their home games at Glastonbury High School.
The Northeast Bulls, a semi-professional football team, is returning to Glastonbury High School to play their home games this summer.
The team’s home opener is this Saturday, June 25, against the Southington Valley Vipers. Kickoff is 5:30 p.m.
Owners Lester Maldonado and Mike Wade are co-founders of the team, which made their debut in the East Coast Football League (ECFL) last summer.
The ECFL is a full-contact adult football league featuring 23 teams throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine. The teams are separated into two conferences and four divisions by region with the Bulls belonging to the East Coast Division within the East Coast Conference.
“The biggest difference this year is that nothing is given. Last year we were a startup team and running with the punches and this year we came out and recruited,” said Maldonado. “When these guys come out they are competing with each other. They are putting in the work.”
Wade added, “After owning a team for a year we know the skill players will come. We really focused our offseason on recruiting linemen. In semi-pro it is hard to find linemen and it’s hard to find good ones.”
Both owners said Glastonbury made a great home-base for the team a season ago and Wade worked again with Anna Park from Glastonbury Parks and Recreation to work out another Saturday summer schedule at GHS.
In the inaugural season, the Bulls advanced to the championship game before losing to the Hartford Rebels in the title game.
This year the goal is to get over the hump with a bolstered roster and revamped coaching staff.
Maldonado wore multiple hats last season, serving as an owner, head coach, and defensive coordinator. Along with being a first-year owner, Wade also played.
Both owners plan to play this summer and have turned the coaching duties over to Brett Harding and his staff, which includes offensive coordinator Dominic Colavito and defensive coordinator Justin Camp.
Harding said his top priority is to have a disciplined team, adding, “Even though this is semi-pro and we want to have fun, we also have a job to do. I hold every player accountable for their actions.”
Harding was the league commissioner a season ago and had previous coaching experience with the CT Mustangs in the ECFL. He’s implemented his high-velocity offense and a “secret” defensive approach that he said will be unveiled once the games start.
Returning quarterback and offensive captain David Donahue welcomes the up-tempo approach, which will include a no-huddle offense.
“It can give us a benefit because we can see what the defense is doing and adjust from there,” said Donahue, was the league’s most valuable offensive player a season ago after throwing 26 touchdowns. “It has made us way more flexible. Now we have the ability to attack the weaknesses.”
Donahue added the chemistry is already better this season and his grudge with the Rebels from Hartford is personal.
Along with losing to them in the championship game last summer, he also previously was the quarterback of the Mustangs, who were eliminated from the playoffs by the Rebels the previous season.
“We got a ton of new players and maintained our core from last year. It’s championship or bust this year,” said the 26-year old signal caller, who has been playing with Maldonado and Wade since he first started playing semi-pro football.
“They have done a great job. This is one of the best organizations that I have ever been around.”
Captaining the defensive side will be Keiynan Butler, who returns for his second season with the Bulls after being honored the division’s best defensive back last summer.
“The biggest difference I see is the chip on our shoulder. It left a sour taste in our mouth after the championship game,” stated Butler. “We have to come back and get it right this time around. Everyone has a drive and a motor on defense.”
Butler, who played football at East Hartford High School before graduating in 2015, said that many of the players have been playing with or against each other dating back to youth football.
“It’s good to reunite with those players from childhood,” Butler added.
Taking care of things behind the scenes is the team’s general manager Victoria Ryan, who took over the role this summer.
Ryan’s responsibilities are multifaceted. She organizes practices, makes preparations for game days, supports ownership, and has previously coached with Harding so she will step in and run the offense when needed.
“We are planning and executing up until the last minute. Our players shouldn’t miss a beat and they should be so focused on football and everything else should be taken care of,” said Ryan, who praised Maldonado and Wade. “They are super dedicated owners. They are hands-on in all aspects, on and off the field.”
The team kicked off the 2022 season with a 38-12 victory at Kenney Park in Hartford on June 18. Donahue threw three scores to three different receivers (Jumel Maldonado, Parker Rowley, and Jordan Ware), while Amari Osbourne and Vinny Marciano added touchdowns on the ground.
Wade added that the team will play “meaner and aggressive” this season and hopes the community will come out and support the team.
“I see the future in Glastonbury. The town is getting to know us a little bit more,” added Wade.
The owners expect nothing short of a championship with the improved roster and coaching staff this summer
Harding agrees, adding, “It’s way more professional than people think. People think it is just a flag football thing, but it’s not. If you come, you’ll be really surprised.”
Along with the game this Saturday, the Bulls also have a grudge game scheduled for July 9 against the rival Rebels (5:30 p.m.)
Tickets for home games are $10 with free admission for children 10-and-under. Active military or those who had previously served can purchase tickets for $5 with proper identification.
The owners said they are still looking for additional sponsors. For more information on the team or for a full schedule, visit the league’s website at www.ecfl.us or follow the Bulls on Instagram or Facebook.
Historic Season for NHS Tennis
Girls’ tennis at Newington High School had a season for the ages, advancing to the state championship match for the first time in history of the program.
The team won 14 of 17 matches, finishing in a three-way tie for the Central Connecticut Conference-(CCC) North championship, before eliminating three state tournament opponents en route to the state title appearance.
Head coach Sean Hussey said the team’s success was so much more than wins and losses.
“It’s a very united group and the things that we’ve done as a team off the court, to me, is even bigger than even what we do on the court,” said Hussey.
Along with having the most successful season in program history, the Nor’easters gave back to multiple charities by running fundraisers throughout the season, which benefited the local food banks, the Special Olympics, and other organizations.
On the court, it was a vast group of seniors that powered the team, led by captains Anusha Singh, Michelle Novikova, and Vidisha Thakkar.
Singh filled the role as the No. 1 singles player, Novikova the No. 2 singles, and Thakkar was a “spirit-type leader” according to Hussey, who added “[Vidisha] is a natural leader, who gets everybody motivated.”
Singh took on the opposing team’s best singles players in every meet for a second straight spring.
“I feel like we are all so close. A lot of the people on varsity now started playing as freshmen and we have all come a long way,” said Singh. “We worked really hard and put in the effort. We all did it together and that made us even closer.”
Singh was a doubles player as a freshman and – following a year lost to the COVID-cancellation – she returned as a junior in the top role.
“It was an adjustment because you are playing the top player from each high school, but I got a lot more comfortable with it. I found what tactics could help me out,” added Singh.
Novikova, who served as the No. 3 singles player in 2021 before moving up a slot this spring, was incredibly consistent and won every regular season match over the past two years.
“I feel like even though it’s an individual sport we are all here supporting each other. We play as one team together. It’s one big family,” said Novikova. “We have set high standards but most of the time we reach them.”
Novikova added that one of the team’s main goals this spring was to beat Rocky Hill, who went undefeated in 2021 and won the conference outright.
On May 18, Newington achieved that goal by edging Rocky Hill (4-3) in a match that eventually gave the Nor’easters a share of the CCC-North crown.
The meet with Rocky Hill ultimately came down to the No. 3 doubles match where Newington’s duo of Alyssa Dugas and Julia Montgomery defeated Lejla Beskovic and Briela Santos (7-5, 6-3) to wrap up the road win.
“We knew what was at stake. We lost to Rocky Hill three years in a row and this squad felt it. They really wanted to win that match,’ recalled Hussey. “It was a great match and a beautiful day to play tennis. [It was] extremely competitive and fortunately this year we were able to come out on top.”
Two days later, the team failed to wrap up sole possession of the conference championship by losing to Wethersfield (3-4).
However, following an opening round win over RHAM in the state tourney, the Nor’easters avenged the loss to their neighbors by eliminating the Eagles (4-3) in the quarterfinals.
Singh, Novikova, and Diana Sliwinski won singles matches, while Dugas and Montgomery again secured the match by winning in doubles play.
The team then knocked out Joel Barlow in the semifinals behind individual wins from Novikova and Sliwinski, and doubles triumphs by Dugas / Montgomery and Rebecca Fisher / Ella DePase.
Fisher and DePase – the team’s No. 2 double team – scored the team’s only win in the championship match loss to Guilford.
Hussey said his robust senior class made the historic season special, adding, “They led the charge and kept the group cohesive. All the girls, especially the captains, rallied the troops and pushed them to be their best.”
He added that the departing seniors “cherished every moment” because of what they had been through in regards to the previous headships and said the entire team was responsible for the championship effort.
“In tennis you might feel like an individual out there but every point counts towards a team win, so you really have to rely on everyone around you,” said Hussey.
Senior Spotlight: Holden Speed
Wethersfield senior Holden Speed completed the triple crown of triple jumps this spring, winning the event at the Class MM Championships, State Open, and New England Championships.
Speed, who only began jumping competitively a year ago, ended his productive high school athletic career as both a state and regional champion.
“It was a personal goal to win all three,” said Holden, who began to master the technical jump as a junior and quickly gained confidence in his first meet. “I knew from that moment that I could do something great and accomplish that goal.”
Speed has been a jack of all athletic trades during his time in Wethersfield. Along with becoming a state champion jumper, he also was part of relay teams during the indoor and outdoor track season and was an all-conference football player in the fall.
As a sophomore on the gridiron, Speed contributed as a rangy cornerback and wide receiver during the Eagles playoff appearance in 2019. After a year lost to the COVID-19 cancellation, he returned as an explosive and bulked-up edge rusher, who had seven tackles-for-loss (four sacks) and seven quarterback hurries in only five games this season.
Unfortunately, his senior season on the gridiron was cut short due to a concussion he suffered midway through the season. He used the disappointment of the season-ending injury in the fall to fuel his motivation during both the indoor and outdoor track & field seasons.
“It was a bad time,” recalled Speed. “I’ve learned a lot from it and took what I learned into track season. I like to think I bring the same energy into track that I do football.”
He said his dedication to the weight room was beneficial for both sports, saying, “I think the weight room is the most important part of any sport.”
Speed’s grind in the gym made him a state champion, yet another injury almost prevented the opportunity. This spring, he suffered a pulled hamstring prior to the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) meet and turned to WHS athletic trainer Scott Applebaum, who he credited with his speedy recovery in time for the state meets.
“He helped me tremendously,” Speed said of Applebaum. “I did a few sessions with him and gave me all the stretches and he was able to work on it. He made it 100% better.”
Applebaum’s physical therapy worked wonders, allowing Speed to perform at his best on the biggest stages.
Speed blew away the competition in the triple jump at the class meet and also finished 3rd in the long jump on June 1. He then set a personal-best mark in the triple jump at the State Open on June 6, covering 47’06.05”, before polishing off his high school athletic career with the New England title the following week.
Over the last year, he improved his triple jump by over a dozen feet. He said jumping, just like any athletic achievement, comes down to both the physical and mental part of training and competing, adding “I definitely have come a long way. I owe it all to the gym, that’s where it became a reality.”
Speed, who graduated from WHS last Saturday, will continue to jump competitively at Merrimack College where he will study health sciences with the hopes of one day becoming a personal trainer or athletic trainer.
“I want to give back to the same community that I was part of,” said Speed, who was also part of a hiking club at WHS. “I’ll definitely miss the environment in sports, whether it was football or track in Wethersfield. It’s a very distinct environment that you won’t be able to get anywhere else.”
He added that he looks forward to the increased competition at the next level as he joins the Warriors track and field team in Andover, Mass.
2016 GHS graduate Ryan Bagdasarian, pictured with his parents Bonnie and Dean Bagdasarian, after Eastern Connecticut State University won the Division III baseball national championship on June 7.
Ryan Bagdasarian is leaving college on the ultimate high note.
Bagdasarian, a 2016 Glastonbury High School graduate, was the starting center fielder for Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) baseball team that won the 2022 NCAA Division III national championship on June 7.
The national title ended a remarkable year for the Warriors of Willimantic, who won 49 of 52 games.
For Bagdasarian, who had previous collegiate stops with the University of Connecticut-Avery Point and a brief stint at UConn’s Storrs campus, the championship was a Hollywood-style sendoff.
“It’s the most perfect way to end it,” said Bagdasarian. “I was thinking about trying to play somewhere again next year if we didn’t get it done this year, but I threw that out the window after the final out.”
Bagdasarian transferred to Eastern in the heart of the Covid-pandemic during the spring of 2020 and began to make an impact on the fields once competition resumed in the spring 2021, starting 34 of 35 games and earning All-Little East Conference (LEC) and was an ECSU Outstanding Scholar-Athletic award winner.
After playing with the New Britain Bees last summer, Bagdasarian returned for his final season at Eastern with a group of like-minded seniors eager to shake off disappointing exits during both the conference and regional tournaments the previous spring.
Eight of the nine Warriors who started this season were either seniors or had graduated from college earlier this year. The experience paid dividends as the team won 23 consecutive games to close out the season.
“There was a lot of leadership. We are a pretty old class and we’ve played with each other for the last two and a half years,” stated Bagdasarian, who said the sting of close losses in the conference and regional tournament a season ago were still fresh in the player’s minds.
Bagdasarian said the turning point this spring was following a loss to Rhode Island College on April 23. The defeat was the first game of a double-header against the Anchormen of Rhode Island and the Warriors would get immediate revenge with a resounding 15-3 win in the nightcap.
From that point on the belief built and the wins piled up—and never stopped.
“We had great practices and worked really hard on some small things. Our offense and our pitching staff just picked it up and it was kind of like we were untouchable,” recalled Bagdasarian.
The Warriors won the final nine games of the regular season before breezing through the LEC tourney—sweeping four opponents by a combined score of 35-8—to capture their first conference title since 2016.
After defeating Swarthmore College and Middlebury College in the regionals and Rowan University in the super regionals, Eastern qualified for the national tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Once in The Hawkeye State, they would eliminate Baldwin Wallace University and LaGrange College in the first two rounds of the national stage, setting up a best-of-three series with the reigning champions from Salisbury University in the title tilt.
The defending champs from Maryland would prove to be no match for ECSU, who swept the first two games.
In the championship clincher, Bagdasarian’s single in the third drove in two runs, which proved to be the difference in a 3-2 win, fittingly at Perfect Game Field.
During the 23 games winning streak, Bagdasarian and the team began to get superstitious and refused to break routine.
Some players would listen to the same music prior to games or had the same pre-game rituals, while others refused to change their socks.
For Bagdasarian, he refused to cut his hair and felt the need to play Wordle every day during the 45-day winning streak.
“I thought that was one of the keys and now I can stop playing [Wordle],” joked Bagdasarian, who added his hair has never been this long. “It’s so cool to have those kinds of superstition and the only reason they are ending is because you’re going out on a high note.”
The superstitions may have stopped but the legacy of the team will live on. The 23 straight wins tied the program record for most consecutive victories and the national title was only the fifth in the history of the program, the first since 2002.
Bagdasarian led the team in hits (73), scoring 56 runs and driving in 51 more. He played in 51 of 52 games despite battling Anterior Crucial Ligament (ACL), shin, calf, and quad issues this spring.
“We had a ton of guys battle through a ton of injuries and we were all just there to pick each other up,” recalled the 24-year-old.
For Bagdasarian, the team was a family in more ways than one. His cousin Mark Bagdasarian, a Wethersfield High School graduate, was a freshman on the team this spring.
“I have kind of taken on the big brother role,” said Bagdasarian. “He’s just a great guy to be around. He’s always in high spirits.”
Bagdasarian leaves ECSU with a degree in Business Administration and his long term goal is to be project manager or own his own construction company.
For now he is letting his body rest, plans to get his hair trimmed, and is still relishing what happened during an unforgettable spring.
“It kind of happened so fast. Five month worth of baseball and it goes by like it’s a week,” said Bagdasarian, who added that he’ll never forget the little things, like the long bus rides with his teammates. “You really just have to appreciate those moments. We had a great season, and won a ton of games, and I met some of my best friends and played for a great coaching staff.”
He has considered playing Twilight League Baseball at some point this summer, but Bagdasarian said it will be hard to have a better baseball exit, adding, “You leave going as far as you can with one of the most dominant teams in Division III baseball history. It’s pretty cool.”
Mary McKiernan, a 2022 graduate of Glastonbury High School, will continue to play ice hockey at Assumption College in Worcester, MA.
McKiernan, who first started playing ice hockey at the age of three, was a four-year starter for the Storm co-op ice hockey team—which includes players from Glastonbury, East Catholic, South Windsor, Tolland, and Rockville.
Storm head coach Frank Usseglio praised McKiernan, calling her “an extremely selfless player.”
McKiernan starred as an all-state defender for Usseglio and was also impactful on the offensive end this past winter, filling to fill a team need and scoring a dozen goals.
Usseglio referred to her as “clutch”, saying most of her goals were either game-tying or go-ahead goals late in regulation.
“She is a great person and great leader,” added Usseglio. “She is a natural defender and has the ability to score and make plays when it counts.”
The Storm won 14 games this season, advancing to the semifinals before losing to the eventual state champions from New Canaan.
Following the season, McKiernan earned her second straight all-state selection and all-conference selections.
McKiernan said she loved the dynamic of the co-op team, adding. “It’s not just Glastonbury, it’s other towns too so you get to meet a lot of other kids.”
McKiernan was also an all-conference player on the lacrosse fields at GHS, starring as an attacker this past spring
She said she chose Assumption because of the competition, size of the school, and the proximity to home.
At Assumption, McKiernan will be part of the foundation of the ice hockey program. The Greyhounds are slated to be elevated from a club sport to an official NCAA Division II varsity sport with official competition scheduled for the fall of 2023.
“I’m just excited about the college experience,” stated McKiernan. “Most kids don’t even get to that level, so being able to do that is such an honor.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin