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Athletes Aimed High at CIAC State Open Indoor TF Championship

Created at 2/19/2019 10:50 AM  by Marty Ogden 
Last modified at 2/19/2019 10:54 AM  by Marty Ogden 

MSR  Championships are a time when each athlete aims to reach their peak performance and Connecticut athletes certainly did that last Saturday at the CIAC State Open Indoor Track & Field Championship held at the Floyd Little Center in New Haven. The following contains several anecdotes that you might have overlooked in previous meet coverage.

Shot Put Circle Produced Enough Energy for Big Throws.

There was energy in the air at the far corner of the track where the boys and girls shot put was held. Senior Michael Browning of RHAM High School unleased a season best throw on his last attempt to reach 59’4.5”. The throw is currently ranked top-20 in the country, the farthest anyone has thrown since Andre Reid of South Windsor set the indoor State Open record of 62’2” in 2001. But that wasn’t the only excitement in the Shot Put circle as Windham High's Natanael Barbos-Torres popped out a five and a half foot personal record of 56’10.25” to take second place. While many throwers spend all season trying to learn the spin technique and stick with it during championship time, Barbos-Torres switched back to the glide for the Open and it paid off big time.

“The regular season was a time for him to explore since he’s already achieved All State last spring” said Windham head coach Zach Konopka. “Switching over to the glide was great because it helped him learn to rotate his hips.”

Natanael Barbos-Torres

Natanael Barbos-Torres of Windham - Silver Medalist at 2019 Indoor State Open Shot Put

Farther down in the standings veteran Jack Conley of New Canaan had the greatest series in his life with all six throws over 50 feet and a nearly five-foot PR of 54’11.5” to take fourth and qualify for the New England Championship for the second time in his career.

Not many freshmen ever qualify for the Open in the boys shot put, but Hillhouse’s Gary Moore Jr, placed ninth with a personal record of 49’5”. Moore, the son of Hillhouse coaches Gary and Michelle Moore, is now the top ranked freshman nationally in the shot. His throw on Saturday is nearly four feet further than Ohio’s Riley Laportene who has the second-best freshman throw in the nation of 45' 7”.

Susie Okoli of Wilbur Cross was ranked fourth going into the Open meet and came up with a personal best of 41’0” on her last attempt to earn the win. This was only the second time in her career that the senior had broken the forty- foot barrier.

Throughout both competitions athletes were all yelling and encouraging each other which made this one of the most competitive throwing competitions in several years. Four of the top six on the girls’ side and six of the top ten on the boys’ side set personal records. A great deal of this energy can be attributed to Bloomfield assistant coach Damien “Big Country” Larkins, who either through Bloomfield High or his private training business coached eight of the top 10 boys and six of the top 11 girls from the Open at one time or another. His enthusiasm for the throws has rubbed off on his pupils and throwing is making a resurgence in Connecticut.

“It’s exciting that to make New Englands for boys took 53-feet and 39-feet for girls”, Larkins said after the meet. “I’m happy throwing is getting some big-time respect. Hopefully with everyone working together it can stay at a high level.”


Extending their promotion of throwing in the state, Larkins and Coventry’s Bill Vanderrest have combined to host the Connecticut Weight Throw Championship at Bloomfield High School on Saturday, February 23, 2019. The Boys event will begin at 11:30 am followed by the Girls.

In conjunction with the championship, they are co-hosting a Weight Throw Clinic on Saturday February 23 starting at 10am at Bloomfield High School. Coaches from both schools, as well as top athletes from around the state, will be teaching interested athletes and coaches the technique used in throwing the indoor weight. At the end of the clinic, participants will be able to compete in a novice weight throw competition. All participants are invited to stay and watch the Connecticut Weight Throw Championship that will take place at the conclusion of the clinic. The fee will be $20 per athlete.

Any questions about the clinic should be directed to Coventry Coach Vanderrest at  and/or Bloomfield Coach Larkins at .


Girls Long Jump was Up in the Air

Usually in most events there are one or two favorites, but in the Girls Long Jump Championship event there were several athletes who had gone back and forth with each other this season which made the championship nearly impossible to predict. Chelsea Mitchell of Canton was one of four girls who had cleared 18-feet this winter but was a foot under that mark at the Class S championship which seeded her fourth at the Open. The junior has really come into her own this year and has improved her 55m dash time by two tenths of a second from last year which earned her third place in the event at the Open this year.

Explaining her improvement, Canton coach Tim O’Donnell said “this year she has become more consistent with approach and has been getting better height on take-off. Still, there is some room for improvement, but much better than last year where her height was more in line with first phase of a triple jump. In addition, she gets good advice and feedback from her sister Emily who is a sophomore at Muhlenberg, where she holds the school record in the outdoor LJ and was 4th in Centennial Conference last year.”

Chelsea Mitchell 

Chelsea Mitchell of Canton, winner of the Girls State Open Long Jump

One of the biggest surprises was from Hall senior Olivia Bowes who has had a bit of an up and down season. She was 2nd at the outdoor State Open and earned All New England with her 18’1.5” PR last spring. But she hasn’t broken 17-feet since the Yale Invitational and didn’t make the finals at the Class LL championship last weekend, finishing 8th with a 16’5” mark. Because the Class LL was so deep, she still received one of the 14 wild-card spots and made the Open where she was seeded 14th will no expectation of scoring. On what she thought was her last jump of the season, she soared to 17’1.25” to barely make finals and earn a 6th place medal and a chance to compete at the New England Championship meet on Saturday, March 2nd in Boston.

Olivea Bowes 

Olivia Bowes of Hall placed sixth in Girls State Open Long Jump


Boys 3200m: It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over

The Boys 3200m run produced one of the most exciting finishes of the day. The top five finishers were in contention with 300m to go. Right before the bell was rung, signifying the last lap, Amity’s Connor Visnic burst into the lead which grew to around eight or nine meters by the time he entered the final straight away. Then with a couple of yards to go before the finish line, the Amity senior celebrated his first State Open win with a fist pump, not realizing Xavier’s Robbie Cozean was sprinting like a mad man and edged Visnic for the win by .06 seconds to finish in 9:18.11. Both were flying on that last lap with Cozean running a 28-second last 200m and Visnic running nearly as impressive with a 29-second lap.

Boys 3200m run

Boys 3200m Run Official Finishline Photo courtesy of Northeast Sports Timing Service

All top five finishers in the 3200m also set personal records including State Open cross country champion Eli Nahom of New Milford (9:21.98) who took third, freshman star Aidan Puffer of Manchester (9:22.63) who was 4th and FCIAC 3200m champion Kedar Chavan of Fairfield Ludlowe who finished fifth in 9:25.04.


Robbie Cozean (Xavier) edged Connor Visnic (Amity) at the line of the Boys 3200m run at State Open. (Photo courtesy of John Nepolitan)


Saving the Best for Last - The Boys' 4x400m  

The Boys 4x400m relay featured all of the top six teams make significant improvements from their times at the Class meets, but none more than Ellington. The team of Daniel Broding, Jack Olender, Nicholas Sivo and Preston Aldrich already set their school record with their 3:33.81 at the Class M meet which had them seeded 7th going into the Open, which was only enough to make them seeded 7th, one place out of the fast heat. But thanks to the athletes not having to compete in 2-3 events they started with fresh legs. The result was a decrease in their time to 3:28.04 which was good enough for third place earning Ellington’s first trip to a New England Championship in the event.

As what happens in many meets, the chase for the championship title came down to the 4x400m. Last year Hall lost to Danbury by seven points. But according to Hall assistant coach Jeff Billing “if our team runs 2.03 seconds faster, we win the Open in 2018.” Flash forward one year later and Hall squeaked out their first ever State Open championship by a mere five points over Hillhouse. But the margin was even closer than that if you look at the 4x400m results where they took 2nd place ahead of a pack of other teams, all contenders for the title. Billing noticed how the tables were turned this year in their favor. “If our team runs 1.37 second slower, we don’t win” Billing said. “I can’t get over this, track is so awesome.”

boys 4x400m 

Hillhouse won 4x400m relay in final heat over Hall and Weston at 2019 Indoor State Open


Missing in Action

“You can’t win if you don’t play” is the slogan of the Connecticut Lottery. You have to be good AND lucky to score in the State Open. Four of Connecticut’s best athletes didn’t compete in the Open because of some bad luck. Justin Forde of Brien McMahon has already set the Connecticut state record in the triple jump this season and was close to the state records in the high jump and long jump. But an unfortunate injury right before the Class LL meet has sidelined him for at least three weeks. This may still afford him the opportunity to compete at New Balance Indoor Nationals if all goes well.

The week before the class meets, last spring’s State Open champion in the 400m Carly Swierbut of Newtown, came down with the flu and was not able to toe the line in either the 55m or 300m dashes. The senior, who has already committed to The College of William and Mary, was All New England last indoor track season and was highly ranked in the state this winter will have to wait until spring track get a chance at another state title.

When you compete in cross country, indoor and outdoor track, you are bound to get sick while you are in season. But for senior Robert Dillon of Shelton who was 6th last winter in the 3200m at the State Open, he was probably hoping for a cold to come up in early January. He was entered in the 1600m run, after finishing 4th in 4:26 at the Class LL championship but like Swierbut, came down with the flu at the wrong time. He missed school all week and couldn’t attend the meet.

Kate Wiser of Pomperaug was undefeated against Connecticut athletes this past fall winning every race up to New England’s and earning All-American with her seventh place finish at the Footlocker National Cross Country Championship. She began her indoor season winning the Yale Invitational with the state leading time of 5:01.18 in the 1-mile. Right before the SWC championships, the sophomore started feeling pain in her knee which was diagnosed as inflammation of the iliotibial band (IT band). Concerned with her long-term success, Pomperaug coach, Mark Goodwin encouraged her to go to physical therapy and skip the rest of the indoor season.


Rankings and personal records noted above are based on performance lists compiled at

You’ll may also want to view more than 1,600 photos in our just completed galleries from the 2019 CIAC State Open Indoor Track and Field Championship meet that are freely available from

The video gallery at MSR SmugMug and the playlist at our MSR YouTube channel currently contain Marty Ogden interviews of Michael Browning, Paige Martin and Chelsea Mitchell as well as top performers in the Girls Long Jump

Click to view the MSR SmugMug State Open galleries

Click to view the MSR YouTube channel State Open playlist

While there is no need to become a SmugMug member to view and download any photos, you must abide by the copyright notices explained on the Copyright Notice page.

Our good friend John Nepolitan was also at the meet taking his classic photographs of our top performers. View more State Open photos at his site

The complete meet results are available for the CIAC State Open Indoor Track and Field Championship on the Results page sponsored by soundRUNNER Scholastic with stores in Branford, Fairfield, Glastonbury and Old Saybrook. The meet was held at Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven CT on Saturday, February 16, 2019.

NOTE: publishes the results received/posted from meet directors and timing companies. If you don't see your results or if you think that the results are incorrect then ask your local coach to contact the meet director to send us the corrected meet results. Do not send an email to MySportsResults asking to correct the posted results.