By Special Correspondent John Altavilla
Southington’s Amanda Howe strolled around the grounds at the 2018 Middletown Varsity Invite on Saturday at Middletown High with her University of Iowa visor on her head and a smile on her face.
Hey, why not? For Howe, one of the great field competitors in recent state history, it’s just a reminder of what will be next for her – attending the University of Iowa in the fall. And her excitement is palpable.
“It’s so nice to compete and know where I am going to school,” said Howe. “It’s nice to know that the work I’ve been putting in for the last few years has all paid off and now I am going to a Division I school.”
For Howe and her Southington teammate, pole vaulter Megan Biscoglio, Saturday was just another in a startling line of superior performances this indoor and outdoor season that have put their program into sharp focus.
Biscoglio, who will go to UConn next year, won the pole vault with a personal record of 12-5, beating her closest competitor, Branford’s Bridget Wirtz, by over two feet.
Howe won both the shot put (40-00.50) and discus (142-08). Her victory in the discus was enormous; Middletown’s Veronica Meyer was second (108-00). Her effort was close to her 9th place finish at the recent Penn Relays with a toss of 144-08.
"Her persistence sets her apart,” said Connor Green, Southington’s coach. “You don’t become good at throwing events by just walking into the circle. It’s all about time and repetition over years. She has her ups and downs, like all athletes do. But that’s just a part of it. She responds after the fact and that separates the good from the great throwers. When you are knocking on state records, it’s a whole different ball game.”
Howe will spend the remainder of the outdoor season chasing the state record discus throw of 149-0, set in 2002 by Old Saybrook’s Karen Wyzykowski.
“The discus season has been going well,” said Howe. “I have consistently been over the emerging elite qualifying mark. So, for me, that’s pretty good for the middle part of the season. So, I am excited about the state open and the nationals.
“The state record is definitely one of my main goals. I know I can do it. I’ve done it enough times in practice. It’s just about relaxing and throwing the best I can. …A lot of times, I will wake up in the morning with the feeling that I can [break a record]. In a weird way, my nervousness does push me. I understand that sometimes they create a negative mindset, I’m not going to be able to do this, but it gives me the chance to prove myself wrong.”
For Howe, much of her motivation for the outdoor season has been overcoming her loss in the shot in the Class LL championships to Wilbur Cross standout Susie Okoli. And this is even after rebounding to win the State Open a few weeks later.
“Honestly, I am still trying to get over it because throwing is so important to me and you put in all the time to work out and then when you go to compete it doesn’t translate,” said Howe. “That’s why the mental part of it is so crucial. It’s hard to work your way past the crying. But once you compete long enough, you start to learn that every day is not a PR day. And even if things aren’t going your way, you basically need to suck it up and try to do your best.”
On Saturday, Okoli finished second to Howe in the shot (Howe’s throw was her first over 40 this outdoor season) and third in the discus.
“She [Okoli] was one of my biggest concerns in the shot,” said Howe. “She and I have competed in a very similar fashion in outdoor. I always have to look out for her, but it’s always good to have competition. It pushes you to do better. And when that competitor is right next you, it’s even better to push yourself. And we all get along and support each other. No one gives the other a cold shoulder.”
Meanwhile, Biscoglio’s performance in the pole vault was equally impressive, especially considering she is the defending state outdoor champion. She cleared 12-5 on her first attempt before finally failing at 12-7.
“My mindset was there, my warmups were not great,” Biscoglio said. “I had to do a lot of adjusting. But I tried to stay positive. I love to jump in the warm weather, but it takes some transitioning, like getting your breathing in order.”
Green said Biscoglio, a former gymnast, may have a future in coaching after her collegiate career ends.
“She’s a happy, highly motivated individual,” Green said. “She’s a captain who was picked for more than her ability to jump. He’s always the last person to leave, always asking if there is anything else she can do for the team. She will be a coach and a phenomenal one because of she can inspire people. …You can never put a limit on her performance because she always seems to overcome height.”
Still, Howe and Biscoglio haven’t been the only trendsetters on their team. Janette Wadolowski, who did not compete Saturday, has the state’s top throw (121-2) in the javelin this season at the Panther Invite.
“We have such great team spirit,” Biscoglio said. “We have such a great bond, everyone is cheering for each other. There is only positivity.”
And so, as the outdoor season works to its end, it might make sense to keep the eyes focused on Southington because you never know when another record will fall.
And look for the Iowa visor, when you are at it.
“Personally, I try not to think about things like that,” said Biscoglio about the attention Southington’s team attracts. “I just try to do what I need to do. It’s awesome to know that people are watching, but sometimes that can be intimidating, so I just do what I can and then enjoy it after the fact.”
The complete meet results are available for the Middletown Varsity Invite on the Results page sponsored by soundRUNNER Team Nights with stores in Branford, Fairfield, Glastonbury and Old Saybrook. The meet was held at Middletown High School in Middletown CT on Saturday, May 5, 2018.