Two of the best runners in Ridgefield High School track history are still contributing to the program: Bryan Kovalsky is the head coach for the boys indoor and outdoor teams and Steve Mucchetti is an assistant coach.
It’s not premature to say that one of the runners Kovalsky and Mucchetti have been coaching the last few years has already joined them in the pantheon.
Simon Jupp, a Yale-bound senior at RHS, cemented his place during this winter’s recently completed indoor track season. Jupp won both the 300-meter and 600-meter races at the FCIAC championship — helping the Tigers win their first conference title since 1978 — and then finished first in the 600 and second in the 300 at the Class LL state championships. He also broke a notable school record in the 300 and recorded the 13th fastest time nationally this season in the 600.
“Simon is unusual in that he’s a national-class athlete in both the 300 and 600,” said Mucchetti, who focuses on training Ridgefield’s sprinters. “Typically he has a speed advantage over his competition in the 600 and a strength advantage in the 300. It’s a big reason why Yale recruited him.”
Not bad for someone who’s still fairly new to the sport.
“I started running track and field my freshman year of high school,” Jupp said. “Neither of my parents ran track or cross country; however, during and after college my dad would train and run marathons.”
On Jan. 11, Jupp set a school record in the 300 with his fourth-place time of 34.73 at the Yale Invitational in New Haven. It was a top-10 time nationally at that point of the 2019-20 indoor season and is now 29th.
“That was the fastest time by any Connecticut athlete in that event in three years,” Mucchetti said. “It also broke Austin von Ohlsen’s school record of 34.82, which was a big goal of (Simon’s). When I started coaching at Ridgefield in 2014, I more or less considered that record unbreakable.”
“When I crossed the line at the Yale Invite, one of my future (Yale) teammates told me 34.7 (seconds) after I finished and I almost didn’t believe him for a second,” Jupp said. “That was my first time ever cracking into the U.S. top 10 marks for an event, and overall I was very happy with the outcome of that race.”
Competing at the Armory in New York one week later, Jupp ran a personal-best time of 1:21.20 in the 600 at the New Balance Games. The time was the 13th fastest nationally for the 2019-20 season.
Jupp followed with first-place finishes in the 300 (35.69) and 600 (1:25.66) at the FCIAC championships in New Haven.
“There were roughly one-to-two hours in between races, so although it may not have been enough time to feel completely fresh, there was definitely enough time to get back into the right mental state,” Jupp said. “The 600 was more enjoyable as we were able to (sweep the top-three places) in the race for Ridgefield and bring up some big points that later helped us win the meet. I would say the 300 was a bigger challenge, as it was my third race that day, and I always find it a little tough after having run a 600 that day.”
At the Class LL state championship meet, Jupp won the 600 with a time of 1:22.45, beating runner-up Caleb Owen of Wilbur Cross by more than a minute. Jupp finished second (by .38) to Owen in the 300.
“I was definitely upset about losing that race,” Jupp said. “After crossing the line I knew I could have done so many things differently, but that happens every now and then. Caleb is a great runner and I definitely enjoy the opportunity to race him, but I wouldn’t call us rivals.”
The Class LL championship may have been Jupp’s last time representing Ridgefield. Jupp and many of the Tigers’ other top runners skipped the State Open to train for another invitational, and the spring outdoor track season is currently postponed and may be canceled due to the coronavirus.
But with his decision to attend Yale, Jupp made sure that many of his meets during the next four years will be in-state.
“I always was blown away by the facilities (at Yale), especially their indoor track, but the best part of the track program I’d say would be the other athletes on the team,” Jupp said. “During my official visit, the team was super welcoming and down to earth. I was able to make some great friendships and I’m really looking forward to getting to compete with them.”