February might be a short month, but it was a big month for Glastonbury High School senior Hannah Caiola.
On Feb. 9, Caiola committed to run track next fall for Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) and then ran lead for the GHS 1600 Sprint Medley Relay (SMR) team that won the State Open in New Haven on Feb. 19.
Caiola joined forces with Alayna Taylor, Riley Carroll, Ava Gattinella to create a fast foursome that was seeded fourth coming into the State Open before blowing away the competition with an event-best 4:23.06, edging runner-up Bethel (4:24.29) and top-seed Greenwich (4:24.58), who finished third.
“It was my last race ever at Hillhouse and it’s really important for me to do great,” Caiola said of the relay race at the Floyd Little Athletic Center at Hillhouse High School. “We all talked before the race and we said let’s give it our all.”
Caiola was also the lead on the Guardians 4x200 relay team—teaming with Taylor, Carroll, and Meghan Smith—that placed fifth.
The competitive sprinter said she likes leading the relay off, adding, “I find that being the first leg is my strength. I like to start and I like competition, I just go for it.”
Because of COVID protocol and other factors, the SMR relay team had several lineup changes this year. Caiola said that the quartet at the State Open put in a lot of work in practice prior to the final meet, adding that the key to a successful relay team is chemistry and handoffs.
“Unity is the strongest part. Creating a strong relationship with one another, you really need that,” said Caiola, who enjoys the feeling of winning as a relay team. “It’s the success of all of us together, so that’s really nice and it shows that we are collective and unified as a team. I really like that about our team. We’ve gotten really close throughout the season.”
The State Open success produced more hardware for the Guardians, who won the Class LL title as a team on Feb. 11.
Caiola now turns her attention to the outdoor track season this spring where she will look to follow up on her fifth place finish a year ago in the 200 meters, which she calls her favorite race.
Because she is an outdoor enthusiast, she prefers the spring season to the winter season and is looking to potentially rewriting the program’s record books in the 200m.
“My goal is to break the school record,” added Caiola, who currently has the second-fastest time in program history when she ran a 25.64 last spring. “I want low 25 or maybe break 25. If I keep doing the work I am doing now and have the right mindset, I think I can do it.”
As a freshman, Caiola joined the GHS crew team but quickly realized her passion was on land and not on the waters.
“I found that rowing was not my strength. We would always run to the boat house and we would do workouts where we would run all the time. I found I enjoyed running,” she said. “I tried indoor [track] my freshman season and absolutely loved it. I’ve made so many close friendships.”
The transition to the track has proven to be invaluable and will be a major part of her next journey at SCSU.
In the fall, she will join an Owls team guided by longtime head coach Melissa Stoll Funero and an experienced staff who have solidified the program as one of the best in Division II.
Staying in Connecticut was important for Caiola, who explored schools down south before narrowing her choices to SCSU and Sacred Heart. Ultimately, it was the comfort of Southern that won her over.
“I chose them because of the running program and it specifically supported my major,” added Caiola, who will major in Elementary Education. “When I went on my official visit, I felt supported and I met the team and got to go to the practice. I loved it. It reminds me of the program we have here and the coaches at Southern really remind me of the coaches I have here.”
Caiola added that SCSU’s track & field travel schedule will allow her to see other parts of the country, yet allow her to have her base close to home.
“I get home sick. It was important that I’m here to see my family and friends once in a while,” she said.
Outside of athletics, Caiola is part of the Big Siblings program at GHS, which mentors and helps incoming freshmen get acquainted with the school. She is also part of Advisory, where she creates lesson plans that prompt kindness and positivity around the school. She said that Advisory is excellent training for her desired major in college.
In her downtime she is an aspiring photographer, saying, “I really enjoy going around and photographing life.”
GHS's state champion 1600 Sprint Medley relay team (l-r) Riley Carroll, Alayna Taylor, Hannah Caiola, and Ava Gattinella. Caiola, a senior, has committed to run track at Southern Connecticut State University this fall.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin