1. CHS Softball Crowned Champs
Cromwell softball won the program’s first state title, ousting conference rival North Branford 3-0 to win the Class S championship at Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame field in Stratford on June 11. Standout pitcher Lily Kenney went all seven innings, allowing only one hit and striking out 11 to earn the championship game’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), while Malena Signorello and Victoria Wiatrak each connected on home runs to provide the offense.
2. WHS Skaters Ice State Title
The Eagles won the Division II championship, defeating North Haven 3-0 at People United Center in Hamden on March 21. It was the program’s first state title in 15 years, dating back to when they defeated New Milford in the Division III championship in 2007. Along with winning a championship, the Eagles also avenged a 4-1 loss to North Haven in February. Goalie Matthew Ruck was brilliant between the pipes, saving 28 shots to register a shutout against a normally high-octane offense that had scored at least one goal in the previous 23 games. Jack Millen, Colby Quinn, Will McCarter provided the goals.
3. Ice Hockey Title Triumph
Newington co-op ice hockey won the program’s third state championship in history, defeating Conard 3-1 on March 17 at the People’s United Center in Hamden. The Newington co-op—which includes players from Newington, Cromwell, Berlin, Canton, and Manchester— was the No. 2 ranked team entering the state tournament after winning 17 of 20 regular season games and then eliminated the Rocky Hill co-op in the first round, Staples in the quarterfinals, and Barlow co-op in the semifinals to reach the state title games. After falling behind 1-0 in the championship game, Tyler Leavitt tallied the equalizer for Newington and less than 20 second later Andrew Stribling scored the go-ahead goal for the Nor’easters. Stribling added an empty-netter in the closing seconds of play in regulation to put an exclamation point on the state title.
4. Speed Jumps Over Competition
Wethersfield High School’s Holden Speed completed the trifecta of triple jumps this spring, winning the event at the Class MM Championships, State Open, and polishing off his high school career with a victory at the New England Championships on June 11. Speed blew away the competition in the triple jump at the class meet and then set a personal-best mark in the triple jump at the State Open on June 6, covering 47’06.05, before winning at the New England title the following week. Speed is currently a freshman on the track and field team at Merrimack College in Mass.
5. Back-to-Back for Mercy Soccer
Mercy High School defeated Northwest Catholic 3-1 to win the soccer Class M state championship at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford on Nov. 19. Laney Smith scored twice and Katie Donlan added a goal as the Tigers from Middletown polished off an incredible 20-win season with their second straight state title, also finishing as the co-champion with Sacred Heart Academy in 2021.
6. Guerrera’s Gigantic Game
Rocky Hill’s football captain Frankie Guerrera had a night to remember, totaling 217 all-purpose yards and scoring six touchdowns as the Terriers beat Lewis Mills 42-7 on Oct. 28. Guerrera, who is also the team’s kicker, scored all of Rocky Hill’s points after going a perfect six-of-six on his extra point attempts. He finished the season with 132 total points, scoring 19 touchdowns and kicking 14 extra points as the Terriers finished 7-3 and won a conference title.
7. Xavier Wrestling State Open
Xavier High School’s wrestling won the State Open on Feb. 27, dominating the field by scoring 204 overall team points and besting runner-up Danbury by 59 points. Jackson Heslin (120 lbs.) and Thomas Lunt (220 lbs.) won individual State Open titles, while Maximum Morse (113 lbs.) took home second place and Dylan Levesque (138 lbs.) and Colin Loria (152 lbs.) won their third-place matches. For Xavier, who also won the Class LL title, the State Open victory was the program’s first in a decade, last winning in 2012.
8. Brush’s Hat Trick Perfect Season
Wethersfield’s Kathleen Brush scored three goals as the Eagles defeated Newington 3-0 at Cottone Field on Nov. 1. The win polished off an undefeated regular season for the Eagles, who wrapped up the Central Connecticut Conference-North. Allie Leahy dished out two assists with perfect lead passes to Brush and goalie Vanessa Venditti was flawless in net, making a handful of stops.
9. Black Jack! Panthers Win 21st Straight on Senior Night
Cromwell/Portland football held off Valley Regional/Old Lyme 28-27 in front of a packed house at Pierson Park on Oct. 28. It was the Panthers 21st straight win, a streak dating back to Nov. 27 of 2019. Playing Senior Night, senior defensive back Johnny Beltre deflected a pass in the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt to keep the streak alive. Alex McKiernan found the end zone twice, scoring on the ground and catching a touchdown from quarterback Cole Brisson, who also connected with Machi Campbell for a scoring strike. Freshman Tyler Cipolla also scored on a run, which started the Panthers rally after they fell down 21-7 in the second quarter.
10. 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 with a win over Joel Barlow on June 3. The Nor’easters won 14 of 17 matches in the regular season, 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. Michelle Novakova, Anusha Singh, Dianna Sliwinsky made all-conference following the historic season.
11. Centurelli’s Complete Game Carries Terriers
Ben Centurelli pitched a complete-game shutout as Rocky Hill baseball eliminated St. Joseph 1-0 in the opening round of the Class M tourney on May 31 at Griswold Middle School. Jack Pawlich provided the offense by delivering a line drive shot down the left field line, scoring Jaiden Reyes from second base. The state tourney triumph marked the Terriers third memorable game in a matter of weeks, also earning a walk-off win over New Britain on Senior Night thanks to an RBI single from Tyler Carlstrom and them shutting out Lewis Mills at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in the regular season finale on May 25.
12. Revengeful Panthers Win SLC
Cromwell boys’ basketball defeated Morgan, 55-39, to win the Shoreline Conference Championship and avenge the Panthers’ only regular season loss. Gianluca Albert was named the SLC Player of the Year after draining four three-pointers and scoring a game-high 23 points in the title game. It was the defense that put the clamps on the conference championship, limiting the Huskies from Morgan to a signal bucket in a decisive third quarter in which Cromwell held a 17-2 scoring advantage.
13. Zocco’s Freebie Sends Nor’easters to Mohegan
Karissa Zocco hit a free throw in the closing seconds to lift Newington girls’ basketball over E.O. Smith in the Class L semifinals at Plainville High School on March 14. Lilly Ferguson tied the game with a three-pointer in the closing minute, paving the way for Zocco to seal the game with the free throw on the ensuing possession. The win propelled the program to the state championship for the first time since 1993.
14. Pettaway Nets 1,000
Middletown High School’s Tyah Pettaway had a Valentine’s Day netted her 1,000th career high school point as the Blue Dragons celebrated Senior Night by beating the visiting Spartans of Lewis Mills on Feb. 14 in front of a packed house of family and friends at Middletown High School. Pettaway scored a game-high 26 points, including 19 in the first half, and broke the four-digit scoring barrier with 7:19 left in regulation when she drove around two defenders and hit a running bank shot from the left side.
15. Perry Sweeps Shot Put
Rocky Hill’s Marina Perry won the State Open in the shot put on June 6. The victory completed a clean sweep in the shot put for Perry, who won the conference, class, and state finals in the event over the course of a two-week period. She also won a conference title in the discus and javelin during spring’s outdoor track season. Perry is now a freshman thrower for the track and field team at Central Connecticut State University.
16. Dramatic Opener for WHS Football
Wethersfield football won what turned out to be a crucial season-opening game at Windsor, defeating the Warriors 21-20 on Sept. 9. Quarterback Cam Righi ran for two touchdowns and threw another to Ethan Lemos to provide the offense. Wethersfield’s defense sealed the game when Luke Whitaker and Noah Pasquaretta combined to stuff a two-point conversion late in regulation.
17. Bolhke Siblings Tear Up Trails
The brother-sister duo of Michael and Katie Bolhke each yielded championship results in 2022. Michael, who is now a freshman at George Washington University, had several top-five finishes during the cross-country and track seasons and then ran a personal best (14:39.94) to win the CT Distance Festival on April 22. Katie won the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) championship on Oct. 18 and is in the middle of her senior year at NHS where she still has the indoor and outdoor track seasons to add more hardware to her mantle.
18. Bayek Bests Competition at States
Rocky Hill’s Braydan Bayek won the cross-country Class M state championship, running a 16:16 and beating runner-up Liam Fedigan of Johnathan Law by 20 seconds at Wickham Park on Oct. 29. Bayek had a memorable senior year on the trails, placing fourth overall at the State Open and then setting a personal-record by running a 15:47 at the New England Championship.
19. NHS LAX Adds Pair to 100-Goal Club
Newington girls’ lacrosse added two names to the program’s 100-goal scorers. Morgan Hellman first reached the triple digit mark during a victory over Watertown on May 19. On May 25, Hailey Gaydos netted her 100th goal as Newington defeated Tolland in the Nor'easters’ regular season finale. Both earned all-state in the spring as Newington won a conference title.
20. NHS FB Beats Eagles
Newington football defeated Wethersfield 17-14 to win the 46th annual Thanksgiving Classic at Cottone Field on Nov. 23. Playing in his final game, senior quarterback Paddy Brown rushed for a touchdown and threw a scoring strike to Akari Rosemond as Newington upset a Wethersfield team that had only lost once in their previous nine games. Brown, who is also the team’s placekicker, made both of his extra points and kicked a crucial field goal before the defense secured the victory when Chase Leonard intercepted a pass late in regulation. Newington now holds a 25-20-1 advantage in the series, which first started in 1976 with Newington winning the initial battle 24-22.
21. Reilly Sisters Net 10 goals
Carly and Lenna Reilly, sisters on Cromwell High School’s lacrosse team, combined to score 10 goals (five each) as the Panthers defeated Haddam-Killingworth 12-11 in a barnburner on May 12. The sister provided the bulk of the offense, but it was junior Bridget Russ who scored the decisive goal to earn the team their second victory of the season.
22. NHS Baseball Defeats Rival at Dunkin’
Newington baseball defeated Wethersfield 6-1 at Dunkin Donuts Park on May 23. Gavin Gray pitched a gem at the gorgeous venue, striking out a handful and allowing only two hits in five solid innings. Austin Howe led the offensive charge with a pair of hits, including a home run in the sixth inning. The Nor’easters broke the game open in the six inning with four runs, highlighted by a two-run blast by Howe.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin