GHS girls indoor track and field captains (from left) Ava Gattinella, Annika Paluska, Kelley MacElhiney, and Anna Hilary helped lead the Guardians to a third straight Class LL championship on Feb. 11.
The championships keep rolling in for the girls indoor track and field team Glastonbury High School.
A third straight Class LL championship on Feb. 11 was the latest title for a Guardians squad that recently captured a fifth straight conference crown earlier in the month.
In the Class LL triumph, the Guardians cruised to victory by leaving second-place Greenwich in the dust (89-61) and finishing 37 points ahead of third-place Conard.
Head coach Brian Collins said the three straight championships are a combination of talent and hard work.
“We get a lot of great kids and they put the time and effort in and the coaches put the time and effort in,” stated Collins. “They’re all different pieces of the puzzles and they all fit well together.”
Collins added that the program’s prolonged success can be attributed to strong leaders, in and out of competition.
This year the Guardians have four team captains that embody what the program is all about.
Senior Kelley MacElhiney, along with juniors Anna Hilary, Annika Paluska, and Ava Gattinella have assumed the captain’s chairs this winter.
“I feel like we all come together and work so hard through the years,” stated MacElhiney. “We have great coaches and great support around us. We just show up to every practice and know what the goal is at the end of the day.”
Hilary said there is a “sense of family” within the team, adding, “We all just want everyone to do their best.”
The captains each played pivotal roles in the latest state championship.
Paluska won the 600 meters, breaking a school record in the process, running a 1:35.99. Her time topped the previous record set by Molly Harding, a 2022-graduate who is currently running for Yale University.
Paluska said that the competition and comradery in practice allows the team to thrive at the meets.
“There is such positive energy from the team and support from everyone. We can feed off of that and it helps us work hard and have success in the big meets,” said Paluska, who also joined a pair of champion relay teams.
The 4x400 team of Paluska, Gattinella, Jackie Dudus, and Riley Carroll breezed to victory, finishing over a second ahead of the team from Greenwich.
Paluska then joined forces with Gattinella, Carroll, and Jenna Fradin to break the Class LL record in the Sprint Medley — running a 4:17.05 and topping the previous mark of 4:17.55 held by the another GHS foursome that stood since 2011.
The 4x800 relay team of MacElhiney, Dudus, Jackie Caron and Lila Garbett also won handily.
Gattinella said the relays are the most fun, but noted that the athletes are solely focused on how they can best support the team
“We just do whatever we can do collectively to maximize our points,” stated Gattinella, who placed fourth overall in the 600 meters with a time of 1:37.48.
Sophomore sensation Brooke Strauss again led the team in the distance departments, winning the 1,000 meters and the 1,600 meters, along with placing 2nd in the 3,200 meters.
MacElhiney finished moments behind Strauss in the 3,200 meters, placing third overall.
After battling injuries a season ago, MacElhiney has taken her running to another level as a senior.
“I feel like I am at my strongest right now,” stated MacElhiney, who is entering the back nine of her high school track and field career. “It is definitely a little nostalgic. I’m trying to soak in every moment and not take anything for granted.”
As always, the team also did damage in the field.
Hilary placed fourth in the pole vault, while Anna Morris finished fourth in the shot put.
Sophomore Eloise Mulready took fifth in the high jump.
Hilary admitted the team does think about keeping the championship traditions alive, yet also said the team uses the past championships as fuel.
“We do feel the pressure, but we want it for ourselves and want our hard work to pay off,” added Hilary. “It’s about keeping up the legacy.”
Over the last 18 years, the program has either won or finished as the runner-up in 13 seasons and has never gone more than two consecutive years without a title.
“You don’t want to be the team to break the streak and we know we are good enough to keep it going,” stated Gattinella.
The team closed the local winter season with a runner-up finish at the State Open, placing behind only Bloomfield on Feb. 18.
MacElhiney, Caron, Dudus, and Garbett combined to capture a State Open championship in the 4x800 relay.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin