NEW LONDON >> Wednesday morning before the start of the CIAC Track and Field Heptathlon, Branford head coach Kevin Connell sent Anna Atkinson a quick message.
“Today is what you make of it, make it great” he said.
Atkinson’s response was simple and to the point: I will.
The senior did just that as she battled through a competitive and talented field at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy to score 4,091 points and capture first place.
Hillhouse’s Jaliyah White finished in a close second, scoring 4,062 points. Jillian Kilmer of St. Paul Catholic was third (3,916).
Coming into the second day of the event, and sitting in third, Atkinson got off to a rough start, jumping 15-feet and 11 inches in the long jump to drop to fifth place. Atkinson, however, responded with a personal best throw of 105-10 in the javelin to take the lead with just the 800 remaining.
“It’s one of the crazy things about her is she can bomb out in something and completely reverse it and turn it into a big positive,” Connell said.
With just 53 points separating first and second, Atkinson kept the momentum going as she ran a 2:33.87 800 to finish in third place, and secure her first-ever heptathlon title.
“Going into today, I knew what I needed to do,” Atkinson said. “After long jump I was a little disheartened, but I was really fired up for the javelin because I had been practicing. I thought I did a good job in that. When we got to the 800, I thought I just had to run a decent time, I don’t have to win the 800.”
The ending for Atkinson, who became the first girl from Branford to win the heptathlon, was long overdue. After failing to qualify for the finals in the hurdles at the New England Championships last weekend, Atkinson was determined to have the ending she wanted.
“I was a little bit disappointed in myself after the New Englands,” Atkinson said. “I wanted to end on a good note. After the long jump today, I was nervous, I didn’t know if I’d be able to pull it off, but I believed in myself.”
“It’s a Cinderella finish,” Connell said.
White, who won the 800 in a personal best of 2:24.48, said she was a little disappointed with second place, but was happy with the improvement from last season to now.
She said the goal for next year is to keep getting better.
“I just want to perfect every event, so I can know I’m going to be the top one in every single event,” White said.
On the boys’ side, Foran’s Nik Griswold moved up from third place on Tuesday to finish second in the decathlon with 5,749 points. Tyler Latham of Fitch won with an impressive 6,304 points.
“I’m kind of speechless right now,” Griswold said. “I’m pumped. I mean Tyler (Latham) is a great athlete and to place second to someone that scored as high as he did, it’s a pretty good feeling,” Griswold said.
Griswold turned in a strong performance in all five events Wednesday as he was able to pass Joseph Carter of Ledyard for second and hold on.
Griswold recorded a personal best in the javelin (132-08), tied for fifth in the pole vault (10-11.75) and threw 110-05 fifth in the disc.
“My goal for today was to beat out Carter,” he said. “He’s a great competitor, he was Top 2 all yesterday and he was kind of like my personal push.”
Hand’s Hunter Stokes placed fifth (5,397) as he finished in second place in the javelin with a huge throw of 173-04.
In the 2,000 steeplechase, Cheshire’s Mark Fusco won in a time of 6:32.72. Michael Yuan of Amity was third in the 3,000 steeplechase (10:16.97).