It was a banner year for FCIAC track trio

Henry Wynne, who will compete at the University of Virginia this year, leads the pack during the 1,600-meter run at the FCIAC indoor track & field championships in February. (Dave Stewart/Hersam Acorn Newspapers Photo)

It was a year of unprecedented and spectacular success by three distance runners from the FCIAC in which they produced performances that rank among the best ever in state history.

Though any argument of the sort is subjective in nature, Henry Wynne of Staples concluded his career in which the plausible argument can be made that he is the best high school male distance runner ever from Connecticut.

As for Westhill’s Claire Howlett and Hanah DeBalsi, they did an excellent job of pushing and pulling each other to great performances in the longer distance races of championship meets this past spring and they’re looking forward to continuing to set personal records and cement their own legacies. Howlett was a junior and DelBasi just a freshman.

Wynne was honored as the Gatorade Connecticut Athlete of the Year in for boys outdoor track and field while Howlett was also so honored in girls track.

The achievements by Wynne are almost countless, but perhaps his major highlight was when he was included among the best high school milers in the country with an invitation to the Boys High School “Dream Mile” race at the adidas Grand Prix meet on May 25 at Randall’s Island, N.Y. Wynne placed second to Ben Saarel of Park City, Utah and set a new Connecticut record with his time of 4:05.04. Saarel won with a 4:02.72.

That was the only race Wynne competed in during his senior year that he did not win. He was also the state’s Gatorade Athlete of the Year in cross country, having defended his FCIAC championship as the first of several more victories in championship meets.

Later during this past spring season Wynne won the mile at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor meet with a 4:07.84. His state record time at the adidas Grand Prix ranked as the fourth fastest in the United States among high school runners during the past outdoor season and his winning time of 1:49.93 in the 800-meter run at the New England Championships ranked No. 5 in the nation.

Wynne, who will soon enroll at the University of Virginia, swept the 800 and 1,600 races at the FCIAC, CIAC Class LL and State Open Championships.

The excellent seasons had by both Howlett and DeBalsi were certainly due, in large part, to them bringing out the best of each other in the late-season championship meets.

It first began at the 2013 FCIAC Girls Outdoor Track and Field Championships on May 21 at Danbury High School, where DeBalsi and Howlett placed first and second, respectively, in both the 1,600 and 3,200 runs. DeBalsi set meet records in both events, winning the 1,600 with a 4:54.59 and the 3,200 with a 10:25.18.

Nine days later at the CIAC Class LL championship meet DeBalsi and Howlett each won a race and were runner-up to each other in the meet’s two longest races at Willowbrook Park in New Britain. DeBalsi won the 1,600 in 4:55.64, which was just .61 of a second faster than Howlett’s time of 4:56.25. Both of them blew away the rest of the field and ran faster than the old meet record of 4:57.88 that Glastonbury’s Lindsay Crevoiserat set in 2010.

Later in the meet Howlett won the rematch as she won the 3,200 with a 10:58.68 while DeBalsi placed second with an 11:01.04. Former Ridgefield High great Heather Stephens still owns the meet record of 10:47.72 that she set in 2008.

Howlett’s consistent peaking throughout the postseason continued as five days later, June 4, at the same venue at the State Open, she put forth a pair of incredible performances while sweeping the 1,600 and 3,200. And DeBalsi ran nearly as well as she was runner-up to Howlett by slight margins in both events.

Howlett won the 1,600 with a time of 4:53.97 while DeBalsi was just .58 of a second behind her with a 4:54.55. Howlett and DeBalsi then both amazed the crowd when they ran away from the field in the 3,200. Howlett won in 10:20.03, DeBalsi was runner-up with a 10:21.86 and they both shattered Crevoiserat’s year-old record of 10:35.02.

It was that incredible meet by Howlett that was integral in her being selected as the Gatorade Connecticut Athlete of the Year in for girls outdoor track and field. The Gatorade award won by Howlett and Wynne recognizes outstanding athletic excellence along with high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the track. Howlett has drawn the interest of many colleges with top running programs, including several Ivy League schools.

DeBalsi added more postseason achievements as she won the 3,200 at the New England Championships with a time of 10:10.26 that shattered the old meet record of 10:19.09 that Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk, Maine set in 2011. DeBalsi’s time was the fourth fastest in the nation at that point and it was the third fastest 3,200 all-time for a 15-year-old.

Sure enough, it was indeed a year of elite distance running from three FCIAC athletes which has never been seen before in the same given year and may never be seen again.