FCIAC track and field stars shine at Nationals

Brien McMahon senior Eric van der Els became a national champion in record-setting fashion while Staples senior Hannah DeBalsi also set a state record and earned All-American honors after putting forth excellent efforts in their respective 5,000-meter races at the recent 2016 New Balance Indoor Track and Field Nationals.

In the boys’ 5,000 race, van der Els won with a time of 14:42.41 to break the old state record of 14:44.16 that Glastonbury’s Donn Cabral set when he won eight years ago.

DeBalsi placed fourth in the girls’ 5,000 with a time of 16:32.26 that was slightly more than 19 seconds faster than the previous state record of 16:51.88 that was set by Glastonbury’s Lindsay Crevoiserat at the 2010 Nike Indoor Nationals. DeBalsi now has three state indoor track and field records – also owning the 2-mile (10:12.95) and 3,200-meter (10:19.26) records. She also became an All-American for the third time, having previously earned those honors with high finishes in the 2-mile and 4,000-meter distance medley relay in 2014.

DeBalsi and van der Els were previously two of the several athletes from the FCIAC who had strong performances at the 29th Annual New England Interscholastic Boys’ and Girls’ Indoor Track and Field Championships that took place in late February at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Boston.

DeBalsi pulled off the amazing career feat of becoming a four-time New England champion in the 2-mile race when she won her fourth consecutive 2-mile race by more than 34 seconds with her time of 10:29.46. Runner-up Jacqueline Gaughan from Exeter High School (N.H.) had a 10:53.59. DeBalsi won her first New England 2-mile title as a freshman in 10:39.43, as a sophomore DeBalsi established her meet and state records of 10:12.95, and last year she won in 10:26.09.

In the boys’ two-mile race, van der Els placed second with a season-best time of 9:11.02. David Principe Jr. from La Salle (R.I.) won with a record time of 8:59.05.

Trumbull’s superb junior Tyler Gleen became the New England 600-meter champion with a 1:19.89 as he barely nipped Rodney Agyare-May (1:19.92) from Burncoat (Mass.). Danbury’s Terrell Cunningham (1:21.46) placed fourth.

Jada Harris from St. Joseph was another FCIAC athlete who is a New England champion as she won the 55-meter hurdles in 8.19 to lead a 1-2 finish of Connecticut hurdlers as Vickie Milledge (8.27) of Simsbury was runner-up.

Tim Moore, Trevor Reed, Terrell Cunningham and Jake Roberts of Danbury teamed up to win the 4×800 relay with a season-best time of 7:55.28.

Danbury’s Devonte Clarke placed fourth in the 55-meter dash (6.56) and he also teamed up Jonathan Bartley, Roberts and Cunningham to place fourth in the boys’ 4×400 relay.

Greenwich’s Safir Scott cleared 6 feet, 5 inches in the boys’ high jump to place third and his teammate, Isaac Floyd, placed sixth in the long jump (21-3.5).

Any athlete who placed among the top four earned All-New England honors.

Eric van der Els of Brien McMahon at the FCIAC track and field championsips. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo