It doesn’t matter if the girls track & field team at Glastonbury High School is inside or outside—chances are they will win a championship.
The Guardians followed up a Class LL outdoor championship in the spring with another title this winter, winning the Class LL Indoor Track & Field Finals on Feb. 11 at the Floyd Athletic Center in New Haven.
“This is a hard working group. They are there for each other and don’t take anything for granted,” said head coach Brian Collins. “They want to do the best they can and they want to see their teammates do the best that they can.”
From start to finish the Guardian delivered, tallying 91.50 points and scoring in 12 of the 15 events. They literally and figuratively ran away with the competition, besting runner-up Danbury by nearly 30 points.
“We have a very good blend of talented young ladies, who are similar but different,” added Collins. “They come from different grades and from different areas—as far as sprints, distance, throws, and jumps—but they all come together. We covered all the areas. Those fifth or sixth place finishes really add up.”
Freshman Brooke Strauss and junior Zoe Spann-McDonald earned individual championships during the meet.
Strauss won the 1000 meters (2:58.32), and also finished as the runner-up in the 1600 meters and 3200 meters. Spann-McDonald won the 55 meter hurdles.
Captains Molly Harding, Meghan Smith, Annika Hurley, and Ava Gattinella were major contributors on spring’s outdoor championship and were the guiding voices for the indoor team this winter.
Harding was new to the 55 meters, yet still placed as the runner-up in the championship meet, running a 7.40. After battling injuries last spring, she was happy to be back on the track.
“In outdoor I was injured for most of the season, so I didn’t get that opportunity and I feel like coming back my senior year I wanted to show the freshmen and underclassmen, as well as my peers, how to work hard and how to train. I wanted to be a good influence to them and someone they can look up to in the sport,” said Harding, who will run track at Yale University. “Across the board we are strong and our relays are strong. We can throw any combination of girls into any meet and can come out on top or close to on top. That’s really special.”
Smith was part of a talented group of GHS athletes who ran the 600 meters at the meet. Annika Paluska finished fifth, Smith sixth, and Alexandra Edwards was seventh in the event.
Smith said the group is hard working and challenges each other, “We spend a lot of time together because meets are super long and we practice every day for about two hours.
It’s important to put in the work at practice because your times get better.”
Hurley specializes in the 3200 meters, placing 12th at the meet. Strauss (2nd), Lucy Bergin (7th) and Olivia Dickson (14th), and Sarah Ongley (21st) also placed in the event.
The distance running group consists of many of the same names and faces that helped GHS capture a Class LL cross country crown this past fall.
“We almost always come with a strong distance group.” said Hurley, who added she liked training with a mixed group, “We get to work out with the sprinters, the jumpers, the throwers, and when everybody gets together it makes a really strong group. It’s a cool experience.”
Gattinella, a sophomore, is the only captain who isn’t a senior. She finished three spots behind Strauss in the 1000 meters, placing fourth. She was one of three Guardians runners to earn points in the event. Jackie Dudus (6th place) was the other.
Because indoor competition was halted last year due to Covid-concerns, Gattinella had only competed in outdoor running events at the high school prior to this winter.
“It was new running indoors, but I think I adjusted pretty quickly and I relied on my teammates. It took a few meets to adjust and after a little bit I got used to it,” said Gattinella, who added the closeness of the team helped the transition too.
Other GHS athletes to accumulate points during the class meet were Sarah Christina, who finished 4th in the pole vault, and Kate DeSousa, who placed fifth in the high jump.
The Guardians 4x200 relay team (Harding, Hannah Caiola, Riley Carroll, and Alayna Taylor) finished second and the 1600 sprint medley (Caiola, Carroll, Taylor, and Kelley MacElhiney) placed third.
The class championship was preceded by a Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) championship, which the Guardians dominated, beating second place Bloomfield by 55 points (126.5 - 71.5) to win conference title on Feb. 6.
Because of renovations and construction on the field house at GHS, the Guardians only had one meet at home this season. The home meet allowed the team to celebrate Senior Night, recognizing 13 seniors in a win over Windsor.
The meet also provided an opportunity for the younger athletes to showcase their skills at the home venue.
Collins said the team normally has four or five home meets, but the Windsor meet was the only opportunity to see the team’s depth, adding, “That meet was nice because we got a chance to see what they can do in competition rather than just practice. We find a lot of diamonds in the rough during a meet like that.”
The seniors also enjoyed the opportunity to cheer on the next generation.
“For the athletes that are on varsity we get to go to meets every week and compete but the best part was seeing the kids that may not have made it to that level getting an opportunity to compete,” said Hurley. “They come to practice, they put in the work every single day, and they show up. They deserved a chance, so I think that was special.”
Smith added, “It was nice because it was our Senior Day. Last year didn’t work out because of Covid, so it was great to have everyone in the gym to celebrate our seniors.”
All told, the team won every regular season meet before cruising to conference and state titles.
For Collins, who coaches cross country and both track teams, it’s yet another banner year.
“It’s a caring group. They don't rest on their laurels or worry about what happened last year,” said Collins. “Every day they competed and they earned this.”
Harding added, “Obviously the goal is winning and I feel like that is a cherry on top to have that championship and get those medals, but I feel like collectively our efforts together reflect more than just a state championship.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin