By Special Correspondent John Altavilla
The Middletown Varsity Invitational is the time of the year when the outdoor track and field season turns the corner towards the state class meets.
After a season competing almost exclusively in dual meets, most of the state’s best athletes show up to compare and test their skills with an eye on the State Class and Open competition that awaits down the road.
And some draw a lot of attention.
McMahon’s spectacular senior Justin Forde drew a large crowd to the high jump area as he tried to break the meet record he set last season at 7’-0”.
After already winning it with a leap of 6’-10”, and without top seed Chet Ellis of Staples there (he was a late scratch), Forde, who will attend the University of Miami, rocked back and forth to kick off his approach three separate times. And by the third attempt, the crowd was clapping.
Forde was not able to clear the height, but the crowd knew it was watching one of the state’s superior athletes.
“I’m happy when that happens,” said Forde about the excitement generated when competitors and fans are drawn to him. “I know people are saying that is the guy. I want to make people know who I am. I want everyone to know who I am.”
It’s hard not to know him now. He was the day’s only triple winner, coming away with titles in the long jump (23’-10) and triple jump (48’-5.75”). He was the top seed in both events.
Justin Forde leaped to win in Long Jump
On the Girls side, Windsor senior Cori Richardson won the 100m dash (12.42) and 200m dash (25.31) Richardson was also part of the meet record-setting 4x100m relay of Jade Robinson, Cyanna Lindsay and Leah Gray that sped to a time of 48.02 that eclipsed the former Bloomfield time of 48.17.
The field events featured Hartford Public senior Wenesha Stewart, who won the discus throw (121-10) and finished second to Hillhouse’s Leah Moore (41’-6.5’) in the shot put.
For the boys, Hamden junior Chris Pigatt won the 200m dash (22.10) and finished second to Windsor’s Nathan Burnett (10.81) in the 100m dash. Burnett anchored their 4x100m relay team of Gabriel Bryan, Cordell Holliday and Le-Andre Gayle that set their own meet record of 41.96.
Another event on the girls side that commanded its share of attention was the 4x800 relay, which featured the state’s top two teams, Greenwich and Immaculate.
Both teams assembled before the race with new combinations and the Cardinals were the top seed. But Immaculate’s performance (9:27.73) was stellar, almost eight seconds better than Greenwich.
“We were out to get a good time today and have a good race so early in the season,” said sophomore Ailene Doherty, who raced with senior Taylor Mascetta, senior Angela Saidman and junior Molly Coyle. “We knew it would be good for us to have a competitive race.”
Mascetta, who would later win the 1600m run in 5:04.41, explained how the team got to this point.
“This was a new team for us. So, we were interested in knowing how everyone would run, what the times would be like,” Mascetta said. “We wanted to see what we could accomplish in a different situation, it helped us a lot.
Immaculate’s Girls 4x800m team
The battle between these teams, should they qualify for the State Open championship, promises to be epic as both teams will have almost a month to hone their training.
“We came in excited and anxious to compete in a super hard state level race. We just wanted to run hard in what was our first race together,” Greenwich sophomore Mari Noble said. “We’re still progressing, things are still in the works, but I am proud of what we accomplished. We all know each other well. We have that to our advantage. We know how each other runs. We know how each other races. The order is done by our coaches based on the day and how we are feeling. So, we came today, we found out and it was Ok let’s run.”
Greenwich Girls’ 4x800m team
Mascetta’s win in the 1600m run was over a tremendous field featuring Hall’s Jenna Zydanowicz (5:05.22), Bethel freshman Ava Graham (5:06.22), Nobel (6:06.94) and Pomperaug sophomore Kate Wiser (5:07.18) as the first 8 finishers were under 5:10.
Finish of final heat of Girls 1600m run
In the boys 1600m run, Travis Martin of Wilbur Cross won in 4:16.33 using a final 400m kick pull away from the field to set a new meet record ahead of a fast-closing finish by Conard’s sensational freshman Gavin Sherry in 4:18.80 as the top 6 finishers were under 4:23.
Final heat of Boys 1600m run
The boys 800m run was just as exciting as the final heat featured a fast finish by winner Jose Ramirez of Bristol Central in 1:54.95 to edge early leaders Pierre Sylvain (1:55.26) and William Curran of Xavier (1:56.28). Both Ramirez and Sylvain finished under the former meet record of 1:55.44 set by Cas Loxsom in 2008.
Finish of final heat of Boys 800m run
The boys 4x800 was dominated again by Suffield, the state’s Indoor champion and All-American squad. The unit might be the most accomplished of any of the boys and girls teams competing in the state this year.
Once again, Suffield’s team of Kyle Englander, Cam Miller, Jared Sharp and Nick Sinofsky roared across the finish in under eight minutes (7:58.05) to beat second-place Wilbur Cross who ran with Suffield for almost the entire race (8:04.16).
“We’ve been running together for four or five years, ever since we were in middle school. We’ve grown together and we’ve always had these goals. This year, it’s finally started to come together, and it’s built us into the team we’ve always wanted to be,” said Sharp. Cam is our leadoff leg and we know he likes to be aggressive, get out in front. We know came is going to get us into a good spot and then it might be up to me to grab the lead, Kyle is great in the distances and we know he can push himself even if there is no one around him. And then Nick is the guy who kicks it in.
“The season we’ve had still kind of feels like a dream to me. It hasn’t settled in. It’s cool to walk around and see other competitors with national back packs and saying ‘Hey, we were there, too.’ We going to come out, give it our best and see if we can come away with the same thing.”
Not all the state’s top athletes won the events they are noted for.
Ludlowe sophomore Tess Stapleton won the 100m hurdles (14.93) but finished second (18’-4.50”) to North Haven’s Erica Marriott winning leap of 18’-6.5” in the long jump. Earlier in the day, Marriott had also performed the National Anthem.
“I’m very confident in my training. I do my best not to expect anything. I try to keep my expectations low, while keeping my goals relatively high. Being able to jump 19 (earlier this year) is definitely what I wished for, but I didn’t think it was actually going to happen, so that was a surprise.”
Stapleton said competing in gymnastics when she was younger help strengthen her legs and improve her flexibility for track and field. And like Forde, she has already gotten to the point where she can tell when people are watching her compete.
“I don’t even know what to think about that,” Stapleton said. “I don’t think of myself like that at all. If someone looks at me at an event, I’m usually thinking it’s because there must be something on my face. I’m the one who looks at my competition and is scared of them. I don’t believe I am better than anyone. I’m in awe of all of them.”
Two of the state’s best female high jumpers competed on Saturday. Norwich Free Academy senior Allyson Lewis held off Berlin’s Patricia Mroczkowski with her leap of 5-8” that tied the meet record while Mroczkowski cleared 5’-4” for second place.
“As soon as the season starts, I am physically focused on all the big meets and the states, but mentally this Middletown meet is definitely preparing me for what’s to come because its much the same dynamic as the state championships Mroczkowski said. “It’s very competitive and meets like this excitement me very much. I flip the switch and I am definitely ready to compete.”
Running under the lights late in the meet, senior Marzio Mastroianni of Branford, who led the boys 3200m run for most of the race, used a last lap kick to finish in 9:25.39 to set a new meet record as Sam Whittaker of East Lyme finished second in 9:28.02.
Also finishing under the lights in the final event of the evening, senior Olivia Bowes of Hall leaped to victory in the girls Triple Jump with a mark of 35’-6” to outlast a talented field.
The complete meet results are available for the Middletown Varsity Invite on the Results page sponsored by soundRUNNER Scholastic with stores in Branford, Fairfield, Glastonbury and Old Saybrook. The meet was held at the Middletown High School in Middletown CT on Saturday May 4, 2019.
NOTE: MySportsResults.com 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.