NEW HAVEN >> In front of family, friends, teammates and coaches in attendance Thursday afternoon at the Floyd Little Athletic Center, three Hillhouse track and field athletes signed letters of intent to continue their education and athletic careers in college.
Jaliyah White announced she will attend Northeastern University (Boston), Alethia Moore is headed to UMass Lowell (Lowell, Mass.) and Akiel Smith will attend Coffeyville Community College in Coffeyville, Kan. this fall.
“It’s amazing to see them develop and mature and be the people that they are, they really are an awesome group,” Hillhouse assistant track coach Darrell Brown said.
All three seniors have left their mark on not only the Hillhouse track program, but as some of the best in Connecticut, as the trio all hold state records.
Smith, a senior, who was named the Register Indoor Track All-Area MVP, burst onto the track scene this school year. Smith, who used to play football until a concussion forced him to end his career, took to the indoor season training earlier than normal. He used that extra time to develop into one of the top sprinters in the state.
This past winter at the Class M state meet he won the 55, 300 and ran on the 4×4 that placed second. At the State Open, Smith took second in the 55, 300 and 4×4. He also is part of the 4×200 relay that won the Eastern States meet at the Armory in New York in a state-record time of 1:28.57.
Smith said he chose the junior college in Kansas because they showed a lot of interest in him and it’s a good fit to continue to grow for two years.
“It’s a dream come true,” Smith said with a grin. “I never thought I’d be here right now signing.”
This outdoor season, Smith led the Academics to an SCC and Class MM state crown. He finished at the State Open placing second in the 100 and 200. He will run on Saturday at the New England Championships in Saco, Maine.
“He will be able to incrementally grow and expose himself and get up to the next level,” Brown said of Smith. “For him to get incremental steps…that might be a better path for him, and he may just do some pretty amazing things.”
After four years together at the high school level, the other two seniors, White and Moore, will be just 30 minutes away from each other for the next four at the collegiate level.
“It’s nice to know I have someone that close to me,” Moore said.
White, who holds outdoor state records in the 300 (43.18) and 400 (1:01.42) hurdles, said she chose Northeastern because of the great combination it presented of academics and athletics.
“The co-op program that they have, I’ll have a definite job when I graduate, and they also have a great track program,” she said.
White, who also excels in the jumps, said in the indoor season the focus for her will be more on the heptathlon and outdoor more on the 400 hurdles.
“They have great coaching and they definitely have a great hurdle coach so I know that I’m guaranteed to improve,” she said.
White set the 300 hurdle record last Monday at the State Open. She said she plans to study communications at Northeastern.
“Jaliyah has to be one of the hardest working people I’ve met,” Brown said. “For her to go to that prestigious academic program and great track program, it’s just a fit.”
For Moore, she said she first started track as a way to get in shape for the basketball season at Hillhouse.
“But once I started running…coach (Gary) Moore wasn’t going to let me leave,” Moore said with a smile. “So I just stuck to it. And I never thought I would be here today and getting looked at by other schools. It’s just an amazing process.”
Moore, who had an outstanding indoor season where she set the Class M state record in the 55 dash (7.14 seconds), said she chose UMass Lowell because it presented the perfect package.
“It caught my attention as it’s closer to family, everything seemed to be organized and they showed interest in me,” Moore said.
Moore said she’s undecided on a major but leaning toward criminal justice.
And if White and Moore do get to compete against one another next year on the track, well, Brown said he isn’t sure who he’ll be rooting for.
“Those two have been friends since they were freshmen,” Brown said. “But they are extremely competitive, both of them. If they do get the chance, I’ll be right in the ring.”