By Special Correspondent John Altavilla
Since 1931, by which time competitors were sporting state-of-the-art shoes designed by German innovator Adolf Dassler – the founder of Adidas – the Greater Hartford Outdoor Track and Field Invitational has attracted some of the top high school athletes in Connecticut.
And so it was again Saturday at East Hartford High School, the 87th version playing out on a cold, rainy miserable day that had both runner and thrower seeking shelter under umbrellas and sweatshirts.
It was a day for great individual accomplishments with Ellington senior Megan Knowling, just hours after her prom, winning the girls’ long jump, high jump and triple jump.
Bulkeley sophomore Terry Miller took the girls’ 100m, 400m and 200m dashes, the 200m in meet record time (24.58).
Tolland’s Stephen Sutton won the boys’ 1600m and 800m runs, Somers Kyle Raymond the girls’ 1600m and 3200m runs, Northwest Catholic’s Lorenzo Garcia took the boys’ triple jump and 110m hurdles, University’s Kymali Hay the boys’ 200m and 400m dashes and Wilbur Cross’s Susie Okoli the girls’ shot put and discus throw.
The overall team championships were won by the Glastonbury girls (89.50) and Bristol Central boys (97.50). The Large School division trophies were awarded to first place Glastonbury girls and runner-up Trumbull while Bristol Central boys led second place East Hartford team. The Small School division trophies were claimed by Berlin girls in first followed by Ellington as the Tolland boys took home top honors over runner-up Northwest Catholic.
But it was also another stellar afternoon for RHAM’s boys and girls programs, led by another strong performance by junior Michael Browning, who won the shot put (47-10.5) and discus throw (with a PR of 141-07).
And the girls 4x100m relay, currently the top seed in Class MM (49.63, the sub-50 time in the division), won its event in 50.38.
RHAM’s relay team of Katie Kingsley, Molly Mackay, Madison Czarnecki and Bridget Lalonde has already broken a 27-year-old school record in the event (49.63) while Lalonde, just a junior, who runs the anchor leg, snapped the 27-year-old school mark in the 200m (24.71).
“They all are just really dedicated, hard-working girls,” said Amy Huhn, RHAM’s girls coach. “They are motivated to come out on top in the states.”
The previous record in the 200m belonged to senior Torrea Thornton (25.21) in 1991. Thornton was also on the 4x100m team that set its school mark (50.25) in 1991.
“Coming off the indoor season, I had very high expectations for myself,” Lalonde said. “I hadn’t set the school records for the 100 or the 200 last year, but I was very close. That was the goal at the start of the season; to at least break the 200 and try to close in one the 100. I broke the 200 last weekend and we broke the 4x100. It was an exciting day. The team has been so encouraging this season. We are all trying to push each other in different ways. I like the dynamic so much. We are all so excited.”
“It’s crazy to think those records had been held so long. But we’re not going to stop here. We’re seeded first right now for Class MM [in the 4x100] and we’re trying to win that championship. We practice handoffs every day. And we have little things here and there that we still need to tune-up.”
On Saturday, Lalonde finished second to Miller in the 100m (12.61) and 200m, despite again running her PR (24.71). She and Miller are currently ranked first and second in New England in the 200m according to Athletic.net rankings.
“I’m really excited to see where this takes me,” Lalonde.
As for Browning, the state’s Class M and State Open indoor champion in the shot put, this weekend’s events were his first invitationals of the year. Browning is recovering from the flu, which sidelined him for a week earlier the season.
On Friday, Browning, a junior, had won the shot put (51-10.5) and came in 17th in one of his other events, the hammer throw (131-07) at the 12th Irv Black High School Invite in New Britain.
Browning won the Greater Hartford shot put with a throw of 47-10.5 and the discus throw with a PR of 141-07. Browning also came into the week ranked fifth in the state in the hammer throw (137’5).
“I think I have the potential to make some pretty good throws in discus,” said Browning. “I have to get mentality right.”
Despite the success, Browning, who has always seemed to understand where he stands technically, was not overly satisfied.
“It’s hard for me right now. I don’t want to make any excuses, but I am not throwing as well as I should be,” said Browning, whose top outdoor throw in the shot this season was 53-2 on April 24.
“It’s all about training and we’re starting to get the work in now. The weather has been a bit inhibiting and I had the flu which kept me out for a week and kind of through me off a little. I’ve just been trying to get my technique back; my weight is shifting forward. But starting from last week and here on out, I’m going to have some solid practice time. Going seven days a week right now.”
Browning said his goal for the outdoor season, aside from winning another two championships, is to throw 60.
“That’s not out the realm of possibility for him,” said RHAM boys coach Mike Fogarasi. “Remember, he threw 60-feet [59-06.5] indoor this season.”
Browning’s sports career started as a three-sport athlete (basketball, soccer and track) until his focus began to change when won a state championship in the shot put in seventh grade.
After hiring a private coach, Browning watched his distances increase incrementally as a freshman (41') and sophomore (48').
By that point, Browning and his family had already decided his best chance to earn and athletic scholarship was as a field star.
The complete meet results are available for the 87th Greater Hartford Outdoor Track and Field Invite on the Results page sponsored by soundRUNNER Team Nights with stores in Branford, Fairfield, Glastonbury and Old Saybrook. The meet was held at East Hartford High School in East Hartford CT on Saturday, May 12, 2018.