FCIAC’s track and field athletes close out spring season in fine form

NEW BRITAIN – Brien McMahon senior Eric van der Els set a meet record in the boys 1,600-meter race and Staples senior Hannah DeBalsi won the girls 3,200 final for the third consecutive year at the CIAC State Open Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Willowbrook Park to highlight the many top performances from FCIAC athletes at the state championship meets in early June.

Bridgeport Central senior Kanajzae Brown and Greenwich sophomore Emily Philippides joined DeBalsi as individual champions from FCIAC schools in the girls meet while Greenwich junior Safir Scott and Ridgefield senior Gabriel Altopp were the conference’s other boys individual champions at the State Open.

The FCIAC was very impressive at the CIAC Class LL Outdoor Track and Field Championships as conference teams finished in the top three places in both the boys’ and girls’ meets.

Ridgefield won the girls team title with 84 points. Greenwich snatched the runner-up spot with 77 points to finish just one point ahead of Danbury.

Danbury racked up 110.7 points to win its seventh boys Class LL championship since 2001 and its first Class LL title since 2009. McMahon was runner-up with 72 points. Ridgefield, which won in 2014 and ’15, placed third with 57 points.

It was a most dynamic performance by McMahon’s van der Els at the State Open when he won the 1,600 in 4:08.42 to break the old record of 4:11.97 that Danbury’s Willie Ahearn set in 2008. Ironically, that may not have been the best performance by van der Els this spring as he won the mile in 4:05.3 at the Danbury Dream Invitational in late May. Last year van der Els did not run the 1,600 at the State Open as he won the 3,200 with a 9:32.07. His junior teammate, Ajax Diamandis, placed second to him in this year’s State Open 1,600 with a 4:15.58.

In this year’s boys Class LL championship meet van der Els won the 1,600 in 4:12.58. Senior Daniel Linehan and freshman Justin Forde each scored 18 individual points with a victory and runner-up finish to help lead McMahon’s Senators to second place. Linehan won the 200 (22.61) and was second in the 400 (49.42) while Forde won the long jump (21-10.5) and was runner-up in the triple jump (45-1). McMahon senior Nicholas Petridis placed second in the 200 (22.62), just 1/100th of a second behind Linehan.

DeBalsi three-peated in the 3,200 at the State Open with a winning time of 10:33.26. Ironically, she got her fastest time of 10:21.86 in the only State Open 3,200 she did not win as a freshman in 2013 when she placed second to Westhill’s Claire Howlett, who won with a 10:20.03 that is still a meet record. Howlett and DeBalsi, who will soon be teammates at Stanford University, both broke the previous meet record in that race. The next year DeBalsi won with a 10:24.06 and last year she won in 10:28.76.

This year DeBalsi swept the 1,600 (4:59.54) and 3,200 (10:41.23) to lead Staples to sixth place at the girls Class LL championships with 39.5 team points.

Brown had the most individual points of any FCIAC athlete at the State Open as she scored 16 individual points when she won the girls 100-meter dash in 11.98 and placed third in the 200 (25.46). Brown swept the 100 (12.34) and 200 (25.58) at the Class LL championships.

Philippides won the State Open girls 800 in 2:11.9 for a nice improvement from her winning time of 2:14.56 at the Class LL meet. Also for Greenwich, sophomore Liz Zavattaro won the pole vault (10-6) and freshman Jordan Numme placed second in the 400 at the Class LL meet.

Danbury sophomore Leah Sarkisian was runner-up in the girls Class LL 800 (2:15.69) and then third in the 800 (2:16.0) at the State Open while her junior teammate, Bridget Chiaravalle, won the girls’ Class LL 100 hurdles (14.44) and was runner-up (14.55) at the State Open.

Ridgefield’s Grace Goodwin place third in the girls high jump (5-4) at the State Open after she was runner-up (5-2) at the Class LL meet. Also for Ridgefield at the girls Class LL meet, Alexandra Damron won the 400 (58.19), Casey MacDonald was runner-up in the pole vault (10-6) and Clara Lerchi placed second in the javelin (115-0).

Also from the FCIAC in the girls’ Class LL meet, Trumbull junior Katelynn Romanchick was runner-up to DeBalsi in both the 1,600 (5:11) and 3,200 (11:18.73) while Norwalk sophomore Penda M’Bengue placed second in the 100 hurdles (15.73).

Scott cleared 6 feet, 8 inches to win his State Open championship in the high jump as he went four inches higher than his winning jump of 6-4 at the boys Class LL meet, where he also placed third in the triple jump (44-6).

Altopp won the 3,200 (9:20.27) and placed third in the 1,600 (4:16.26) to lead two-time defending champion Ridgefield to third place in the boys Class LL meet and then he improved by nearly 13 seconds when he got his State Open individual title in the 3,200 (9:07.64).

Also for Ridgefield, Jack Weston won the javelin (181-2) at the Class LL meet and then threw it seven inches farther for his runner-up finish at the State Open, and Ian Mickool placed third at the State Open 3,200 (9:12.71).

Tumani Edwards and Devonte Clarke were individual champions and four teammates placed second in individual events to lead Danbury to its boys Class LL team championship.

Edwards won the triple jump (45-5.25) at the Class LL meet and then went an inch and a half farther to place third in the State Open. Clark won the 100 dash in 11.1 at the Class LL meet.

Jonathan Bartley placed second in the 300 hurdles at the Class LL meet with a 39.71 and then improved to 38.82 to also place second at the State Open. Danbury’s other individual runner-up finishers at the Class LL meet included Jake Roberts in the 800 (1:56.9), Judah James in the high jump (6-2) and sophomore Nathaniel Llanos in the pole vault (14-0). Jack Adamski placed second in the 3,200 (9:11.84) at the State Open for the Hatters.

Westhill’s Marc Deluca won the pole vault (14-8) at the boys Class LL meet and then cleared 14 feet to place third at the State Open. His junior teammate, Mekhi Barnett, was runner-up in the discus (136-8) at the LL meet.

Trumbull received a runner-up finish from sophomore Jack Jones in the long jump (21-9) at the boys Class LL meet and a third-place finish from Tyler Gleen in the 800 (1:53.07) at the State Open.

There were many more FCIAC athletes who placed very high in the boys and girls Class L championship meets.

Wilton junior Aaron Breene won the boys Class L 800 in 1:57.11 and then ran four seconds faster to place second at the State Open in 1:53.06.

Darien senior Armstrong Noonan swept the two distance events at the boys Class L meet, winning the 1,600 in 4:26.68 and the 3,200 in 9:31.1. Darien, which placed third in team scoring with 64.5 points, got runner-up finishes from Henry Vossler in the pole vault (13-0) and Kyle Fisher in the javelin (170-4). Wethersfield was team champ with 141 points and Manchester placed second with 69.

Fairfield Warde had a pair of Class L runner-up finishers in William Brisman (3,200 with a 9:34.45) and Biani Noubissi (discus, 131-9).

Claire Conley of New Canaan won the discus (109-6) and was runner-up in the shot put (36-6) while Darien’s Laine Blummer placed second in the discus (109-4) and fourth in the shot put (34-6) at the girls Class L meet.

NOTES: In addition to van der Els becoming a new State Open meet record holder, the former FCIAC boys who still hold meet records are Henry Wynne of Staples with a time of 1:50.63 in the 800-meter run that he set in 2013, and Westhill’s Chris Rough, who cleared 16 feet in the pole vault in last year. The former girls from the conference who still hold meet records are Howlett in the 3,200 (10:20.03 in 2013), Danbury’s Mary Kennen in the high jump (5-9 in 1983), Stamford’s Tynisha McMillan in the shot put (49-4 in 2006) and Ellie Gravitte in the javelin (145-9 in 2013).