Honoring Scholar Athletes: They are from down the street and across the state. They are the best and brightest of us. And with high school sports at a standstill because of the coronavirus pandemic, there is no better time than to make a big deal, a very big deal, of the 360 Connecticut seniors recognized Sunday as CAS-CIAC Scholar Athletes.
A male and female from each CIAC school, whose academic and athletic careers have been exemplary, whose personal standards and achievements are a model to others, have been selected each year since 1984. With COVID-19, the actual banquet could not be held this year. Still, there is a virtual banquet at 6:30 p.m. Sunday on Fox61 and GameTimeCT.com.
We’ll spotlight seven winners here. One’s older sister and mom won the award. One lives in my town. Another brought music when we needed it most. All 360 deserve our applause.
When Plainfield lost to Granby last November in the Class M soccer championship — the Panthers’ second loss in the state finals in a row — Kate Carleson insisted it wasn’t the score that was making her so upset.
“It’s that I have to leave everyone,” Carleson told the Norwich Bulletin. “We have all been playing together since we were like four years old and I don’t want to leave. I’m just going to fail Shakespeare to stay back, fail English class to stay.”
She was joking. With a 3.83 GPA out of four — and one of Plainfield’s very smart and very fast identical twins — Carleson wasn’t failing anything. Forget Hamlet and, “To be, or not to be,” B’s weren’t the question. Carleson had A’s. Yet when she spoke those words, one of the top 400-meter runners in Connecticut, also wasn’t expecting to leave Plainfield without one more shot at the Class M and State Open outdoor track meets.
“We had made indoor nationals, but we went back and forth and decided not to go,” Carleson said. “Then everything hit and indoor nationals was canceled.”
The New Balance outdoor nationals have been moved tentatively to mid-July, but with COVID-19, well …
It would have been tough to catch wunderkind Alanna Smith of Danbury, but Carleson, with a PR of 57.89 in the 400, had the third top returning time in the state. She took fifth in New England last spring after winning Class M and finishing sixth at the State Open. The Plainfield 4 x 400 relay team, which included her twin Cassie, also won Class M.
“All season I had been running with really inflamed shins, almost to the point of shin splits,” Carleson said. “I came back for the Class M and cut like two seconds off my season best. And placing fifth at the New Englands was a highlight. I was happy with my results from my junior year, so I can’t be too upset.”
Plainfield has gained some state notoriety in recent years with four sets of sisters and as many as nine siblings on the 2018 soccer team, including two sets of twins. The program blossomed in recent years, making it to the ECC championships four times and twice getting to the state finals. Kate, who finished with 61 goals and 46 assists for her career, made the coaches’ Class M All-State team and was first-team GameTimeCT All-State. Cassie also made the coaches’ Class M team.
“We all grew up together, my dad coached us,” Carleson said. “And then going to high school and making so much history for Plainfield, it was so cool.”
Kate is going to Assumption to study to become a nurse. She will play soccer and run track.
Cassie is going to Hartford to run track. She finished second in the Class M 800 outdoor meet last year with a PR of 2:16.73 and seventh in the State Open after winning Class M and finishing fourth in the state as a sophomore.
It’ll be different next school year for the twins.
“We’ve been together for 17 years, have seen each other every day,” Kate said. “My guess is it will be difficult being separated at first. I think it’s good to grow separately.
“Cassie is only doing track at Hartford, but it’s D-I. At D-2, it’s a little more flexible. I just can’t picture giving up soccer.”
Kate had stiff competition in winning Plainfield’s female Scholar Athlete. Of course, she did. The twins are how shall we say — motivated.
“If I got two points higher on a test, Cassie would be like, ‘Are you joking?’” Kate said. “At one point, I was ranked fourth in our class and she was sixth. She’s like, ‘Whaaat?’
“My mom is a teacher, academics has always been a part of our life. Academics first, sports second. So celebrating both in one award is really special.”