The Branford boys outdoor track team has had its share of success as a team and with its individual athletes over the years.
Branford coach Rich Biondi is quick to point out this season is shaping up as a special one with the Hornets off to an 8-2 record in dual meets.
“The team is off to a great start,” Biondi said. “In fact, this is the squad’s best season since 2015, the last time we won the (Southern Connecticut Conference) Oronoque Division. This season, the success of the team begins with our captains, Marzio Mastroianni, Aidan Kropiwnicki, Matt Daley and Carlos MaCaay. The captains and the other seniors have been vocal leaders as well as leaders by example.
“This group established from the start of the season the goals of winning the division and placing high in the championship meets (CIAC Class MM, State Open). Upsetting a very talented Wilbur Cross team (103-47, April 9) really gave the kids the belief and confidence that had been lacking the past few seasons. From that meet on, the athletes have prepared diligently and have remained focused.”
Biondi said the team consists of a perfect blend of gifted and experienced seniors, as well as talented underclassmen.
“Marzio and Aidan are special,” Biondi said. “They are two of the most talented athletes in the 60-year history of the program and they enjoy competing. Kropiwnicki is a multi-event athlete who has earned All-State honors during his junior and senior years of indoor track. Last spring, Aidan was All-State in the decathlon (fifth place) and he has really dedicated himself to preparing for the two-day event in June. Aidan is a high honors student, an Eagle Scout and he is musically and artistically accomplished.”
Mastroianni’s first passion wasn’t always with the sport of track and field.
“Marzio was born in Italy, so his first passion was soccer,” Biondi said. “He earned New Haven Register All-Area honors this past fall in that sport. Last spring, Marzio was the Class MM champion in the 1,600 meters and he established a new school record in that event.
“Already this season he has broken the school record in the 3,200 and he set a new record for that race last Saturday at the Middletown Invitational. He can literally run any event on the track, that is how talented Marzio is. Marzio is really beginning to hit his stride and he is preparing for a great second half of the season. Next year, Mastroianni is going to compete at UConn.”
Recently, Kropiwnick had fours wins and Mastroianni three wins in a dual meet win over North Haven. Mastrioianni won the 1,600 (4:57), 800 (2:03) and 3,200 (10:31). Kropiwnicki won the 110 high hurdles (16.4), the 300 intermediate hurdles (43.0), the javelin (134-4) and the pole vault (11-6). At the Middletown Invitational on Saturday, Mastroianni won the 3,200 in a school-record 9:25.39.
BIG NUMBERS, BIG RESULTS FOR UNDEFEATED NEWTOWN GIRLS
Newtown typically gets off to strong starts, but depth and talent have combined for an exceptional 8-0 start this season.
“We had 30 freshmen come out for the team this year and they have been a true asset to the team,” Newtown first-year coach Becky Knapp said. “The enthusiasm and eagerness to learn has helped shape the season this year. With the combination of their new talent and the experience of the older girls, the team has developed depth. Sarah Tressler (captain), Amy Sapenter, and Juliette Cryder are high jumpers consistently jumping 4-8 or 4-10. Katie Ryan has consistently been a leader at the pole vault and taken on many new athletes to teach and support that event.
“Audrey Benson has been an inspiration and a point winner for us at the hurdles. Sarah Nowacki has thrown consistently at meets, but had an amazing 107-foot javelin throw at our second meet. With more competition in the throwing events within the SWC (South-West Conference), she is even more driven to work hard and win us points. (Captain) Carly Swierbut has won each event we have put her in (100, 200, 400).”
Sweirbut recently started doing the long jump. In her second meet with the event she jumped 16-2.
Among the top newcomers is freshman Ally McCarthy. She has contributed points in distance events, including the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. Freshman sprinter Elise Barricelli has been placing second to Sweirbut in the 100, 200 and 400 and also competes in the high jump.
“Going forward, we are looking to add more qualifiers for both the SWC tournament and state tournament (CIAC Class LL),” Knapp said. “I am hoping that the success and fun of the team inspires my freshmen to continue in the sport, as well as spread the word. We recently got a bunch of gymnasts on the team who have been huge in our jumping and sprinting events. The more fun and exciting track is, the more talent and athletes we can recruit.”
Robert Dillon, Shelton: Won the 1,600 (4:31.4) and the 3,200 (9:55.2) in a dual meet win over Cheshire.
Justin Forde, McMahon: Won the long jump (23-10), high jump (6-10) and the triple jump (48-5.75) at the Middletown Invitational.
Enrique Lopez Garcia, Windham: Won the 110 hurdles (14.75) and was second in the 300 hurdles (39.47) at the Middletown Invitational.149-4)
Nick Campbell, Bloomfield: Won the shot put (55-1) and was second in the discus (149-4) at the Middletown Invitational.
Sadeja Angus, Wilbur Cross: Won the 100 hurdles (16.4) and the 300 hurdles (51.7) in a dual meet win over East Haven.
Cori Richardson, Windsor: Won the 100 dash (12.32) and the 200 (25.31) at the Middletown Invitational.
Wenesha Stewart, Hartford Public: Won the discus (121-10) and was second in the shot put (40-10) at the Middletown Invitational.
Tess Stapleton, Fairfield Ludlowe: Won the 100 hurdles (14.93) and was second in the long jump (18-4.5) at the Middletown Invitational.
MEET TO WATCH
88th Greater Hartford Invitational, East Hartford High, boys and girls, Friday and Saturday: The event starts Friday at 4 p.m. with a 1,000-meter Swedish relay, distance medley relay, 800 sprint medley relay and 4×200 relay. New this year is a boys and girls hammer throw exhibition event held at Manchester High starting at 4 p.m. All other track and field events will be held Saturday starting at 9 a.m. More information and results