FCIAC athletes shine at state track and field meets

NEW HAVEN – Brien McMahon’s Eric van der Els pulled off the amazing feat of sweeping the three distance races at the State Open, and the Danbury and Brien McMahon boys’ teams placed first and second, respectively, in both the state Class LL and State Open championship indoor track and field meets to highlight the many strong showings by FCIAC athletes and teams recently.

Danbury won the 2016 Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference State Open Boys Indoor Track and Field Championships by six points over McMahon on Feb. 20 at Hillhouse High School’s Floyd Little Athletic Center. The champion Hatters totaled 56 points, McMahon had 50 while Wethersfield placed third with 32.

The Danbury boys and girls both won team titles at the CIAC Class LL meet a week before the State Open at the same venue. The Danbury boys racked up 96 points, McMahon was runner-up with 58 and Glastonbury placed third with 49.

The FCIAC had the top two and four of the top five girls’ teams at the Class LL meet. Danbury won with 78 points while Ridgefield took second with 56. Glastonbury placed third with 51 while FCIAC members Staples and Greenwich tied for fifth with 29. Danbury had 30 points at the State Open to place fourth for the highest placing among FCIAC girls’ teams. Windsor totaled 57 to win by just one point over runner-up Bloomfield.

The FCIAC has had a strong run in recent years of boys and girls securing their legacies as being among the best high school distance runners in state history and van der Els has certainly earned himself that accolade. The superb senior won the 1,000-meter race with a time of 2:30.55 to beat James Lewis (2:32:29) of Staples by 1.74 seconds, he won the 1,600 (4:21.42) by 1.19 seconds over Haddam-Killingworth’s Cameron Garrelts (4:22.61), and van der Els won the 3,200 (9:29.22) by 1.1 seconds over Danbury’s Jack Adamski (9:30.32).

Staples senior Hannah DeBalsi has already been in that elite category of all-time state distance running greats with her excellence the past few years and she continued that by winning the 3,200 and placing second in the 1,600 (4:58.82) to Wilbur Cross senior Danae Rivers (4:53.88). DeBalsi won the 3,200 (10:44.13) by more than 15 seconds over runner-up Jenna Gasparrini (10:59.21) of Immaculate 365 days after DeBalsi set the State Open meet record of 10:40.55.

A week earlier DeBalsi was the only double individual champion at the 2016 CIAC Class LL Girls Indoor Track and Field Championships and she did that in dominant fashion as she won both of the two longest races by a little bit more than 17 seconds – winning the 1,600 in 5:02.09 and the 3,200 in 10:53.49. DeBalsi still has the meet record in the 3,200 with the astounding time of 10:19.26 she clocked two years ago as a sophomore.

The Danbury boys’ team utilized runner-up finishes from Adamski, Devonte Clarke in the 55-meter dash (6.51), and third-place finishes from Terrell Cunningham in the 600 (1:23.0) and sophomore pole vaulter Nathaniel Llanos (13-6) along with big points from its strong relay teams to win its sixth State Open in the last 10 years. The Danbury boys swept both the Class LL and State Open meets three straight times from 2007-09, and the Hatters also swept both meets in 2011 and ’14.

Jonathan Bartley, Sean-Michael Parkinston, Cunningham and Jake Roberts teamed up to win the 1,600 sprint medley relay in 3:39.92. Clarke, Bartley, Roberts and Cunningham combined to win the 4×400 relay in 3:29.14.

Chase Nalley, Adamski, Clarke, Cunningham and Llanos and the strong relay teams also led the way the previous week to help Danbury defend its Class LL crown.

The Hatters got individual victories from Clarke in the 55 dash (6.47) and Nalley in the 55-meter high hurdles (8.06), and runner-up finishes from Adamski in the 3,200 (9:32.62), Cunningham in the 600 (1:24.32) and Llanos in the pole vault (12-6).

Tumani Edwards contributed 10 individual points by placing third in the high jump (6-0) and fourth in the long jump (20-2) and Trevor Reed placed fourth in the 1,600 (4:27.75) for the champions.

In prequel to the State Open, Danbury also won the Class LL 4×400 and 1,600 sprint medley relay races. Leonardo Abreu, Bartley, Roberts and Cunningham formed the 4×400 (3:31.45) quartet while, Bartley, Parkinson, Roberts and Cunningham teamed up to win the 1,600 sprint medley relay (3:43.24).

Daniel Linehan and van der Els combined to score 42 of McMahon’s 58 points to lead the Senators to second place in the boys’ Class LL meet as van der Els racked up 26 points when he won the 3,200 in 9:27.76 after runner-up finishes in the 1,000 (2:35.15) and 1,600 (4:24.46).

Linehan scored 16 points when he won the 300 (35.88) and placed third in the 600 (1:24.56). A week later he got 16 more big points and lowered his times with runner-up finishes in the 300 (35.58) and 600 (1:22.42) at the State Open.

Also for McMahon in the boys’ Class LL meet: Nicholas Petridis placed third in the 300 (36.73) and Asderly Pierre Maintus was fourth in the 55 high hurdles (8.25).

Tyler Gleen of Trumbull won State Open 600 in 1:20.75 a week after he won the boys’ Class LL 600 (1:22.56) and ran a strong anchor leg on the winning 4×800 relay team (8:12.19) that included Dylan McEniry, Tyler Rubush and Taylor Auten. Trumbull had 28 team points while placing seventh in the Class LL meet.

Westhill’s Marc Deluca was the boys’ Class LL pole vault champion (13-0).

Zakeer Ahmad scored 10 individual points to lead the Staples boys to fifth place with 37 points in the Class LL meet. Ahmad was third in the 1,600 (4:26.6) and fourth in the 3,200 (9:41.21) as the FCIAC had 10 of the top 13 runners in that Class LL 3,200. Ahmad later placed third in the 3,200 (4:23.4) at the State Open.

Staples also got third-place finishes in the boys’ Class LL meet from Lewis in the 1,000 (2:36.2) and Israel Werner in the shot put (45-3).

Isaac Floyd placed second in the long jump (21-7.75) and Safir Scott was runner-up in the high jump (6-2) to help Greenwich place eighth in the Class LL meet with 25 points as Greenwich was the fifth FCIAC team among the top eight. A week later Floyd jumped a bit further to place third in the long jump (21-9) at the State Open.

Danbury’s superb sophomore Leah Sarkisian won the 600 in 1:36.42 and she ran a pair of strong anchor legs on two of Danbury’s three winning relay teams while helping lead the Hatters to the girls’ Class LL crown.

The champions also utilized indivual runner-up finishes from Saintphanie Porcenat in the 55 dash, Bridget Chiaravalle in the 55 high hurdles (8.58) and Jessica Robbins in the shot put (36-6.25), while Olivia Turk placed fourth in the 600 (1:40.52).

Sarkisian was joined by Porcenat, Rackell Souza and Samantha Vasquez on the winning 1,600 sprint medley relay team (4:21.13). Sarkisian combined with Turk, Natalee Seipio and Vasquez on the victorious 4×400 relay (4:05.58). The winning 4×200 (1:47.79) foursome consisted of Porcenat, Chiaravalle, Souza and Jewel Ly.

A week later at the State Open, Sarkisian placed third in the 600 (1:36.29) and again ran strong anchor legs as part of the same lineups on the runner-up 4×400 and sprint medley relay teams.

Greenwich has its own superb sophomore in Emily Philippides, who joined DeBalsi as the only FCIAC girls to win individual titles at the State Open. Philippides won the 600 in 1:35.72 a week after she was runner-up with a 1:37.08 at the Class LL meet. Greenwich pole vaulter Lia Zavattaro placed third with a vault of 9-6 at the Class LL meet.

Kanajzae Brown of Bridgeport Central won the girls’ Class LL 55 dash in 7.35.

Ridgefield received individual third-place finishes from Katherine Jasminski in the 600 (1:40.42), Anna Landler in the long jump (16-0) and Brianne McGill in the shot put (33-1) en route to placing second in team scoring in the girls’ Class LL meet.

Norwalk’s Deanna Singewald (41.93) and Stamford’s Earthaiza Watkins (42.57) placed second and third, respectively, in the girls’ Class LL 300. Gabi Galletta of Fairfield Warde was third in the girls’ Class LL 3,200 (11:34.28).

Jada Harris of St. Joseph had an excellent State Open as she scored 14 individual points by placing second in the 55 hurdles (8.48) and third in the high jump (5-6). A week earlier Harris singlehandedly led St. Joseph to fourth place in the girls’ Class M meet by scoring all 24 team points when she won the 55 hurdles (8.51), was runner-up in the 55 dash (7.65) and third in the high jump (5-0).

New Canaan’s Claire Conley was third in the shot put (36-10.25) at the State Open as she put the shot more than a foot further from the previous week when she won the shot put (35-9.5) as the only girl from the FCIAC who was an individual champion at the Class L meet.

Wilton junior Aaron Breene scored 18 points in the boys’ Class L meet when he won the 1,000 (2:35.87) and was runner-up in the 1,600 (4:35.1).

Darien received individual runner-up finishes in the boys’ Class L meet from Shelby Grant in the long jump (20-10.5) and Henry Vossler in the pole vault (13-0).

NOTES: Two former FCIAC athletes who still hold State Open individual meet records are Stamford’s Tynisha McMillan (46-11.75 in the girls’ shot put in 2006), Danbury’s Willie Ahearn (4:13.29 in the boys’ 1,600 in 2008).