Jack Conley was a clear favorite heading into the FCIAC shot put competition.
As he prepared to go for the gold, the New Canaan senior added something new for the event: A t-shirt owned by New Canaan assistant football coach Jason Cooper, who passed away at age 52 last July.
“Quintin O’Connell got a bucket of coach Coop’s stuff he wore all the time to games and practices,” Conley said. “So I asked him for a shirt and he actually gave me one of Coach Coop’s favorite shirts to wear, so I decided I would wear that today.”
While honoring Coach Coop, Conley followed through on his No. 1 seed and claimed the FCIAC shot put crown with a throw of 49 feet, 8.25 inches during the conference indoor track and field championships last Thursday at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven.
Conley won the event by nearly four feet, with Staples’ senior Zach Gladstone finishing second at 45 feet, 9.25 inches.
Conley said he was happy with the victory, but felt he could’ve done even better.
“I felt good,” Conley said. “I was confident coming into this. I’ve been having a pretty good season. I just felt like I needed to hit my spots and my throws and it would work out well for me and it did. Earlier this season I threw 51-9. Forty-nine is good but it’s not exactly where I want to be. It’s good enough to win here but later on it won’t be, so I’ve got to work hard.”
“It’s an automatic with Jack as long as life is good and there’s no issues,” New Canaan head coach Bill Martin said. “In practice, he’s thrown almost 60, so it’s just a question of when is he going to do that in a competition. He did enough to win, and now we’ll move on to the next meet.”
It was the second FCIAC shot put championship for Conley, who hit 48 feet, 3 inches as a sophomore and edged his older brother Will, then a senior, who finished second at 48 feet, 2.5 inches.
Jack Conley heads into Friday’s CIAC Class L championships as the No. 3 seed. He’ll be competing against some tough opponents, including top-seeded Michael Browning of RHAM, who hit 58 feet, 10.5 inches during the Marine Corps Holiday Classic in December. Simsbury’s Jonathan Prell is the No. 2 seed with a mark of 53 feet, 8.25 inches.
Conley wasn’t the only Ram to star at the FCIAC meet this season, as fellow seniors Harrison Skyrm and Max Forte both did well. Skyrm was sixth at 40 feet, 3 inches, and Forte was 16th at 36 feet, 5.25 inches.
Having teammates in action alongside him was a big help, according to Conley.
“Everyone says track isn’t a team sport, but it is,” he said. “There’s definitely an advantage when you’re sitting there in between throws to be able to talk to people and be able to get some friendly advice. It’s nice having those guys there with me.”
Conley gave much of the credit to New Canaan throwing coach Marianne Cohen and certainly, her impact on the program runs deep.
While the Rams had three boys in the shot put, there were also four girls in the event, including two who medaled.
Junior Naomi Cimino led that group with a third-place finish at 31 feet, 1.75 inches, with senior Margaux Brennan fourth at 29 feet, 10.25 inches. Sophomore Chloe Adams was eighth at 28 feet, 10.25 inches, and junior Megan Rigione was 18th at 26 feet, 9 inches.
“Miss Cohen is everything,” Conley said. “On one side she’s a coach and on another side she’s a mom. She’s amazing. She’s a great coach, she’s a great woman, and we couldn’t ask for a better coach than Miss Cohen.”
It won’t be long before Conley leaves New Canaan and heads north to play football for the Boston College Eagles. The senior signed his National Letter of Intent in December.
For the time being, he’s still a Ram — a Ram who is looking to make the most of his last few months with the track and field program.
“Sophomore year was the first year I won this meet, so it’s nice to finish off on a high note with this meet,” Conley said. “I’m just taking all the time I can get here before I leave and start working.”