The track and field team at Portland Middle School had a record-setting day at the 14th annual Connecticut Middle School Outdoor Track & Field Championship at Manchester High School on May 28.
Haydon Burke broke the school record in the 800 meters, running a 2:16.00 to soundly defeat runner-up Jake Cenatiempo of Woodbury.
Haydon’s brother, Breckin Burke, teamed with Nate Dietrichsen, Brady Daggett, and Josh Rosado to break the school record (4:13) in a 4x400 relay victory.
The Burke brothers then joined forces with Daggett and Dietrichsen to win the 4x800 meter relay.
The 4x100 relay, consisting of Connor Libby, Brody Quinn, Kylon Martinez, and Ryan Farley finished as the runner-up.
On the girls’ side, Cristina Austin set a new school mark in both the 800 meters (2:38.10) and the 1600 meters (5:46.73), finishing 8th and 11th, respectively.
Head coach Deborah Rooth said it was a core group of kids that made it a successful meet, adding, “I’m not easy on these kids, we train hard.”
The boys finished tied for 4th overall at the event, yet that doesn’t tell the entire story because the meet was officially canceled —due to weather concerns—before all the events were completed. The teams were permitted to return the following day to finish the meet, but those events did not count towards the overall team score.
The following day, May 29, Haydon won the 800 meters and the boy’s 4x400 relay was also victorious. If those events had counted towards the overall score, Portland would have finished in sole possession of third place.
Portland also went toe-to-toe and outperformed schools that were much larger than them. The top three finishers—Sage Park (Windsor), Illing (Manchester) and Timothy Edwards (South Windsor)—are all at least three times the size of Portland Middle School, which houses a little over 200 students.
At the championships, each athlete is allowed to compete in only two events and Rooth said the team emphasized relays, adding “Putting ourselves in relays makes us more competitive than running as individuals. That is where our strength is.”
A total of 56 public schools and club teams competed at the state championships, featuring track and field teams from all over the state.
Rooth, who coaches the middle school team with Mike Pelton, is also the indoor track and field coach at Portland High School during the winter months.
“I love to see these kids in both middle school and high school,” added Rooth. “It’s great seeing them grow into great athletes.”
Rooth said the middle school has been an ideal feeder system for the high school, which has become an annual contender in both the Shoreline Conference (SLC) and the Class S level at the state meets.
The PHS boys finished 3rd and the girls finished 5th at the SLC championship and both placed top-16 at the state meet this spring.
In previous years, the middle school track and field program has yielded as many as 80 kids and had 56 come out this year.
“[The program] gets a reputation. The other kids see the track kids winning and getting trophies and they want it too,” said Rooth.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin