Hatters rule FCIAC track; conference athletes geared for states

The Danbury boys team celebrates another FCIAC championship. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo

NEW HAVEN – The Danbury boys’ and girls’ teams both won team titles while Hannah DeBalsi of Staples, St. Joseph’s Jada Harris and Brien McMahon’s Eric van der Els were all double champions in individual events at the 2015-16 FCIAC Indoor Track and Field Championships.

Danbury’s Devonte Clarke on his way to a win in the 55-meter dash. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo

The way the two Danbury teams won their team championships were quite in contrast at Hillhouse High School’s Floyd Little Athletic Center on Feb. 4.

The Danbury boys utilized quality and depth to cruise to the title by scoring more than twice as many points as runner-up Brien McMahon while the Danbury girls had to win the meet’s final event to win their title by a scant 1.5 points over Ridgefield.

The quartet of Olivia Turk, Natalie Seipio, Samantha Vasquez and Leah Sarkisian teamed up to win the 4×400-meter relay with a time of four minutes, 8.77 seconds to give Danbury’s Hatters the necessary 10 points they got with the victory to pull out the girls’ team title.

Ridgefield, which led by 2.5 points going into the last event, placed third in the 4×400 relay and scored six points. Greenwich placed second in the event to prevent Ridgefield from winning the meet by a half point.

Danbury finished with 97 points, Ridgefield was runner-up with 95.5 and followed by Greenwich (61.5), Staples (45) and Trumbull (30).

DeBalsi scored 20 of those points for Staples when she won the 1,600-meter run in 5:10.08 and the 3,200 in 10:57.63 to add to the so many FCIAC individual titles she has collected in cross country and the indoor and outdoor track seasons throughout her fabulous career.

Reece Schachne of Staples was runner-up in the high jump (5-0).

Ridgefield’s Ava Kelley takes the baton from teammate Kasey McGerald during the Tigers’ win in the 4×800 relay. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo

Harris came very close to winning three events. She won the 55-meter hurdles in 8.26 and the high jump with a winning leap of 5 feet, seven inches. Harris also placed second in the 55-meter dash with a 7.44 that was just a mere 1/100th of a second behind the winning time (7.43) of Bridgeport Central’s Kanajzae Brown.

Trumbull distance runner Katelynn Romanchick also had an excellent meet as she won the 1,000 (3:06.56) and was runner-up in the 3,200 (11:27.9).

Emily Philippides of Greenwich scored 16 individual points when she won the 600 (1:38.02) and placed third in the 300 (43.2). Greenwich’s Lia Zavattaro won the pole vault (9-6).

Deanna Singewald of Norwalk won the 300 (41.5) and placed fourth in the 55 dash (7.61).

Claire Conley of New Canaan won the shot put (35.95).

Danbury got its lone individual victory from Caylea Landrie in the long jump (16.75).

The Hatters also utilized four runner-up finishes in individual events and victories in three of the four relays to snatch their crown.

Bridget Chiaravalle scored a dozen points for the champions by placing second in the 55 hurdles (8.44) and fourth in the 300 (43.28).

Warming up for the pole vault competition. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo

Before Sarkisian ran a strong anchor leg to get Danbury’s 4×400 relay team to the finish line first, she placed second in the 600 (1:38.67) and anchored the 1,600 sprint medley relay team that set a meet record time of 4:19.56 and included Saintphanie Porcenat, Rackell Souza and Seipio.

Danbury also got runner-up individual finishes from Erika Regus in the long jump (16-5.5) and Jessica Robbins in the shot put (33-0).

Sarkisian, Seipio and Porcenat were all on two winning relay teams. Porcenat, Chiaravalle, Zyniah Bunn and Jewel Ly were on the winning 4×200 relay team (1:46.65).

Ridgefield was led by individual runner-up finishes from Kelsey Bordash in the 1,000 (3:10.36), Casey MacDonald in the pole vault (9-6) and Kasey McGerald in the 1,600 (5:17.5).

McGerald also ran the leadoff leg on Ridgefield’s victorious 4×800 relay team (9:51) that included Ava Kelley, Katherine Jasminski and Julia Hergenrother.

Earthaiza Watkins of Stamford placed second in the 300 (42.91).

In the boys’ meet, Devonte Clarke won the 55-meter dash in a meet record time of 6.48 and was runner-up in the 300 (36.35) to lead Danbury to a record 17th FCIAC championship. The Hatters won their third consecutive conference crown, their eighth in the last 10 years and their 17th since they were co-champions with Staples at the 1992-93 FCIAC Championships.

Danbury racked up 117 points for the convincing victory. McMahon scored 56 points while the rest of the top five included Staples (46), Trumbull (39) and Greenwich (38).

Clarke’s winning time of 6.48 broke the old meet record of 6.6 that Greenwich’s Austin Longi set in 2013. Clarke may have been Danbury’s only individual champion but the Hatters won three of the four relays and had many athletes place high in individual events.

Terrell Cunningham placed second in the 600 (1:24.13) and he ran the anchor leg on two of those winning relay teams.

Danbury also got runner-up finishes from Jonah Hinh in the shot put (43-4.75), Tumani Edwards in the high jump (6-0), Nathaniel Llanos in the pole vault (12-6) and Jack Adamski in the 3,200 (9:23.38) while Chase Nalley placed third in the 55 high hurdles (8.46).

Leonardo Abreu, Daniel Campbell, Jake Roberts and Cunningham were on the victorious 4×400 relay team (3:33.94). The quartet of Tim Moore, Pedro Pereira, Bradley Fox and Campbell set a new meet record of 8:15.22 in the 4×800 relay. Edmond Olivacce, Sean-Michael Parkinson, Brian Gustavson and Cunningham were on the winning 1,600 sprint medley relay.

Adamski ran a great 3,200 race with a time of 9:23.38 that was faster than the previous meet record time of 9:24.63 that Darien’s Alex Ostberg set two years ago.

But it was van der Els who is the new record holder because the superb van der Els won the 3,200 in 9:18.56 for his second meet record of the evening. He previously won the 1,600 in 4:16.91 to shatter the old record of 4:24.66 that Ridgefield’s Will Bordash set in 2014.

Brien McMahon also got individual victories from Asderly Pierre Maintus in the 55 high hurdles (8.35) and Daniel Linehan in the 300 (36.5).

Israel Werner won the shot put (44-1.5) while James Lewis placed second in the 1,000 (2:36.41) and Zakeer Ahmad was runner-up in the 1,600 (4:29.21) to lead Staples to third place.

Tyler Gleen won the 600 (1:23.57) to help Trumbull grab fourth place by just one point more than Greenwich, which utilized individual victories from Safir Scott in the high jump (6-4) and Isaac Floyd in the long jump (22-6).

The other individual champions in the boys’ meet were Westhill’s Marc Deluca in the pole vault (13-0) and Wilton’s Aaron Breene in the 1,000 (2:35.11).

Lester Harris of Norwalk placed second in the 55 dash (6.65) and ran the anchor leg on the winning 4×200 relay team (1:35.94) that included Richard Celestin, Matthew Arguino and Kyle Fallon.

The other runner-up finishers in the boys’ meet were Darien’s Shelby Grant in the long jump (21-7) and Fairfield Warde’s David Harvey in the 55 high hurdles (8.42).