During the first half of her senior year at Portland High School, three-season runner Kayla LaMalfa was unsure if she wanted to compete in college.
Then in April, she announced on Instagram, “So excited to announce my commitment to ECSU xc/track and field. Thank you to my family, friends and coaches for pushing me.”
LaMalfa said she came to the realization midway through her senior year that she had the desire to keep competing and will now make Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic her next destination.
“I love doing it, so I thought why not keep doing it for the next four years,” LaMalfa said of her decision.
LaMalfa added that the closeness of the track teams at PHS team and the fact that three of her Highlander teammates — Owen Delisle, Jake Thompson, and Lindsey King — all committed to ECSU made her decision easier.
“I’m really excited. There is a bond between us,” LaMalfa said about the Eastern-bound four. “As a team we are always so close and this cross country season was our best one yet. The team spirit this year was amazing.”
Deb Rooth, who coached LaMalfa during winter’s indoor track and field season, said that LaMalfa was the “glue that held the team together.”
“She is the kind of kid that I could always depend on. I called her my communication specialist. If I needed to communicate with the kids, I would tell her and she would make sure everybody knew,” added Rooth, who added that LaMalfa was willing to run any distance that team needed. “She is one of those kids that everybody loved.”
This past indoor season was a highlight for LaMalfa, who set personal-bests in the 3200 meters (14:00.49) to finish 4th overall at the Shoreline Conference (SLC) championship. At Shorelines, she also placed 4th in the 1000 meters.
During spring’s outdoor season, she set a personal-best mark in the 1600 meters (6:09.94).
She first started to take running more seriously following the COVID-19 pandemic, which washed away her outdoor season as a sophomore. She used quarantine to increase her running, improving her times as she coped with the stresses of the outside world.
“When I run, I feel free,” said LaMalfa, who also played the clarinet in the band at PHS. LaMalfa will study health sciences at Eastern as she joins a Warriors team under the guidance of first-year head coach David Nicholson, who was a former All-American runner at the school and a member of the ECSU hall of fame.
“It will be exciting to have that different experience with the whole different team,” said LaMalfa.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin