What started out in 1979 as a one-year event to honor Coach Dan O’Grady’s 50-year coaching career at Danbury and Lasalle (RI) high schools, has turned into an annual meet that is a highlight on the Connecticut track and field scene. From nationally ranked performers to athletes in their first competition, the O’Grady Relays has it all. The 39th edition will take place Saturday and with the forecast predicting a 50-degree day with some winds, there is a solid chance for some significant performances will be achieved. (Editor’s note, due to the poor weather the Friday meet events had been cancelled with the Girls’ Pole Vault added to the Saturday order of events.)
Coach Dan O’Grady
The girls distance medley features Danbury, Trumbull and Greenwich, three of the top six cross-country teams in the state and it should be a barn burner. All three could go under the New Balance Nationals Outdoor qualifying standard of 12:30 and there is an outside chance that Greenwich’s meet record of 12:22 from last year could go down.
The boys DMR has three teams that have solid 1600m-anchors that have earned all- state status this year. Danbury will probably lead off with New England 800m indoor record holder Malcolm Going (1:50.85) and anchor with indoor Class LL 3200m champion Jacob Hefele. East Lyme has Sam Whittaker running the anchor who was All New England this past indoor season in the mile and ran a 4:18 at New Balance Indoor Nationals. Shelton brings a solid team anchored by Robert Dillon who was 3rd in the cross-country State Open as a junior.
The best part of O’Grady Relays is you need more than one superstar to do well, but when you have three superstars on a three-person relay, a team can really stand out. Ridgefield’s Emma Langis, Carolyn Donovan and Grace Michalowski are currently ranked 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the state over 300IH. If you combine their personal records, you have a team time of about 2:20, which is nearly 7 seconds better than Windsor’s meet record set in 2016.
The boys 4x100m relay brings together Greenwich, Bloomfield and Danbury; the three of the top six fastest teams in the state this season. Depending which personal are running in the relay, this could be anyone’s race.
Ridgefield, Danbury and Trumbull girls qualified for New England Championships in the 4x800m relay during the indoor season and they will meet up again for what could be another fast go-around the larger oval. These FCIAC rivals have been pushing themselves to superior performances and Saturday will be another chance for these three great programs to duke it out.
Danbury and Staples boys have had a rivalry that can’t be matched by many teams. The Wreckers made the New England Indoor Championships once again this winter in the 4x800m with a 5th place finish at the State Open, while Danbury’s team ended their season with an 11th place finish that day. But the Hatter’s have an ace up their sleeve if they put in Malcolm Going, who could possible knock 15 seconds off their best time from the indoor season. Basically, Staples must have a good 7 or 8 second lead for their anchor if they hope to make it to the winner’s circle.
Bethel High School was gracious to host the 39th O’Gradys this year when it was determined that Danbury High’s track was no longer fit to compete on after nearly two decades of hosting hundreds of meets, both large and small. Several years ago, Bethel made major improvements to their facility which has allowed them to also host major meets. The one drawback is the fact they don’t have a water jump pit so the ever-popular steeplechase was removed from the event list. In its place, meet director Rob Murray decided to replace it with the 3x3000m relay like the meet had in its early years.
This distance event hasn’t been held since the late 80s, but the meet record may still be tough to beat. One member of Roger Ludlowe’s girls’ team that set the record was Ruth Philp who set the state 3200m record in 1984 that held for nearly three decades until the great Hannah Debalsi broke it in 2013. On the boy’s side, Staples set the record in 1983 and were led by Roy Mascolino, who still holds the state record in the 10,000m run. So, the runners on Saturday will have some of the greatest runners of the past to chase.
Whether or not the old record goes down, this should still be an awesome race. Leading the field on the girl’s side will be State Open and New England cross country champion Kate Wiser of Pomperaug. While Wiser missed most of this indoor season due to injury, if she is healthy, the sophomore should run the fastest individual time of the day.
The boy’s race will feature a rematch of the FCIAC indoor meet with 3200m indoor champion Kavir Chavan of Fairfield Ludlowe once again battling it out with FCIAC cross country champion Andrew Malling of New Canaan.
The action in the 4x200m relay should be hot for both genders. Windsor had the fastest time this winter running a 1:42.42 at NBNI and they were also New England champions. But Bloomfield is sending their top two sprinters, Terry Miller and Jillian Mars, who did not run the event together due to commitments in other events. Add Danbury with a healthy Natalee Seipio, who was injured at the end of this winter season, with Alanna Smith, last year’s middle school state champion in the 100m and 400m, and you have the makings of a very competitive field. In fact, all three teams could go under the NBNO championship qualifying time of 1:43.80.
Danbury and Bloomfield 4x100m Relay teams in action.
Bloomfield and Greenwich boys went 1-2 in the 4x200m relay at the State Open and New England during indoor track with both teams breaking 1:30 on the small oval. Danbury continued to improve in post season invitationals and eventually ran a 1:31 to become the 4th fast time in Connecticut. It can be anyone’s race on Saturday and if the weather cooperates three teams could earn their tickets to the national meet.
The Pole vault has been Weston’s best event for over a decade, and they have won the O’Grady Relays the past six years. With junior Elise Russell as the top seed at 11-ft, sophomore Lucy Fine at 9’6” and freshman Evelyn Miano at 8’6”, the Trojans might be able to add several more O’Grady pole vault medals to their collection in the near future.
Weston’s Katie Ryan attempt during Indoor season.
The Weston boys had four athletes qualify for the State Open in the pole vault indoors, so they have a chance at joining their ladies and sweeping the gold medals in the event. With the latest change in addition of the Girls event before the Boys event on a single runway the coaches must decide which two athletes will compete in the relay instead of the 3-person team. Athletes will need to choose their heights carefully since O’Grady rules only have 5 total jumps in the competition per athlete.
The boys shot put could have one of the most dominate teams to ever compete in the O’Grady Relays. Bloomfield has three boys who have thrown over 52-feet this season. The War Hawks are led by All-New England thrower Aaron Williams and he is reinforced by Nicholas and Michael Campbell, who are also ranked in the top six throwers in the state.
Bloomfield could also set another record in the boy’s discus. Williams, Nicholas Campbell and Erris Samuels have season bests that would combine to improve their own meet record by nearly 30-feet.
Another meet record that might go down could be in the girls triple jump. St. Joseph High School claims three of the best jumpers in Connecticut with Olivia Johnson coming in as the top seed at 36’9”. With Kayla Clark and Nia Christie jumping 35 and 33-feet respectively, they are within range of Torrington’s 10-year-old meet record of 104’6”.
While the day is supposed to be about relays, the individual competition in the girl’s long jump could be the deepest of any meet until the State Open. Sophomore Tess Stapleton of Ludlow popped off a 19’1” jump to win the New England indoor championship. But junior Chelsea Mitchell of Canton took the Open title with a leap of 18’5” and Danbury’s Meilee Kry took third at 17’11”. While the Hatters have the most depth in the event with two other girls over 17-feet, the individual competition should be exciting to watch as these friendly rivals go at it jump after jump.
Meet director Rob Murray announced this morning that “all events scheduled for TODAY (Friday) at the 39th O’Grady Relays have been cancelled due to the heavy rain and potential for thunderstorms this evening. The safety of our athletes, coaches, officials and spectators are our number one priority.”
Murray also stated that “The weather for Saturday weather is much better and we are excited to bring you all of Saturday team scoring events. The meet will start promptly Saturday at 9:00am for field events and the track events starting off at 9:30.”
The updated order of events can be found by clicking here: http://www.ezmeetresults.com/outdoor/OGrady-Relays/Pages/eventorder.aspx
The Saturday performance list is at:
Live Results from Paynes Corner Timing can be found at the following link: http://paynescornertimingco.fatcow.com/Live_Results_7/evtindex.htm
Rankings and personal records noted above are based on performance lists compiled at Athletic.net.