The Amity boys outdoor track team, which has a long history of success, usually sets the tone of the season with a strong start in the dual meet regular season.
The 2019 season is no exception, with a 2-0 start through Tuesday.
”This is a typical start to the season for us,” Amity coach Gary Pope said. “In my opinion, the Southern Connecticut Conference is among one of the top divisions in Connecticut. This allows us to face really good teams, which in turn helps prepare our athletes for the competitive championship season in the upcoming months.
“I believe the reasons for our success this season has been greatly attributed to a number of things. Myself and other members of the coaching staff feel really blessed to coach athletes who are humble, hard working and dedicated to the sport. This makes it easier for us to coach and help motivate our athletes. We also have really well-rounded teams with athletes who are always in contention to score in their respective events.”
Among the top athletes for the Spartans is hurdle standout Richard Papa, who is coming off an indoor season in which he was a Register All-Area selection. In the early stages of the 2019 outdoor season, in a trimeet where Amity had a 105-45 win over Cheshire and 105-44 win over Hamden, Papa won the 300 hurdles (41.85) and the 110 hurdles (15.75).
“Richard Papa is having a great start to his season,” Pope said. “All his hard work is showing through the results. Quinton Belton-Tilghman had a win in the discus (122-0) and Paul Johnson had a victory in the men’s 400-meter dash (52.07) and was also a part of the men’s 4×100 relay (won in 44.58, other runners were Joseph Dibenedetto, Christopher Reed and Papa).
“Both athletes (Belton-Tilghman and Paul Johnson) posted state qualifying marks in their events.”
Like every other track team, one of the goals is for athletes to improve their times on the track and distances and heights in the field events. Contributing to that improvement this season will be trips to meets outside the state. On the Spartans’ schedule are the New York Relays at Icahn Stadium on Randalls Island in Manhattan on April 20, the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 27 and the Loucks Games in White Plains, N.Y., on May 11.
Celmer believes the Spartans’ early season success helps with momentum moving forward and the confidence that hard work pays off.
“A great start to a season is always a big motivational factor,” Pope said. “This allows our athletes to continue to trust the process and further buy into the goals the coaching staff has set for the season.”
FAST START FOR NORTH HAVEN
The North Haven boys track team is off to a 2-1 start in dual meets, and the solid start hasn’t surprised coach Steve Celmer.
“North Haven is typically a fast-starting team,” Celmer said. “I attribute that to a well-organized veteran coaching staff, so our 2-1 start is not surprising. The trick will be to keep it going as we move forward and the competition level increases.
“We are not the most talented group of guys, and on top of that, we have been hit with injury and illness. But we work hard and compete like it means something to us. We have a larger and younger group than we’ve had for a couple of years.”
Among the successful athletes for North Haven have been Kyle Maruca, who won the shot put (42-6) and discus (140-0) in an 83-67 loss to Wilbur Cross. He also had wins in the discus (145-3) and shot put (42-10.25) in tri-meet wins over Foran (103-47) and East Haven (95-51).
“Kyle is our junior captain with real talent in those two events,” Celmer said. “Unfortunately, we will be losing him in a couple of weeks because he is having shoulder surgery for an injury suffered in football. Senior Chris Moran has been holding down the vertical jumps for us, already qualifying for states (CIAC Class MM) in the triple jump.
“Kevin Spencer has taken up the slack for the missing Bobby Farley, who has been out with illness for a couple of weeks in the 110m and 300m hurdles. Sophomore Patrick Rourke has been leading the way in the distance events and even the triple jump. Our senior captain Jack Opramolla has returned to form in the 400 and relays.”
Celmer said the team recently got back leading javelin thrower Jeff Williston from an ankle injury suffered in a pickup basketball game last winter.
“The enthusiasm shown so far could be a positive indicator that this early success will give us some momentum,” Celmer said. “I certainly hope this will be the case as we improve and prepare for the postseason.”
Brendan Mellitt, Cheshire: Won the 1,600 (4:39.69) and the 3,200 (10:19.14) in losses to Amity (105-45) and Hamden (105-44).
Malik Thomas, Danbury: Won the 100 (11.20) and the 200 (22.90) in a 97-52 win over Fairfield Warde.
Bryce Thomas, Morgan: Won the 100 dash (11.3) and the long jump (19-8) in a tri-meet: a 99-44 win over Career and 90-60 loss to Branford.
Cornell Tongue, Hamden: Won the high jump (5-10) and won the long jump (19-5) in a tri-meet: 74-50 win over Cheshire and 105-44 loss to Amity.
Sydney Church, Morgan: Won the 110 hurdles (18.1) and 300 hurdles (54.0) in a tri-meet: 75-62 win over Branford 86-47 win over Career.
Sarah Johnson, Danbury: Won the 1,600 (5:37.40) and the 3,200 (12:25.40) in a 118-27 win over Fairfield Warde.
Meredith Bloss, Guilford: Won the 1,600 (5:32) and the 3,200 (12:16) in a 107-40 loss to Foran.
MEETS TO WATCH
Record Journal Invitation, Friday, 3:30 p.m. at Coginchaug (Durham): The Blue Devils host the annual boys and girls meet with athletes competing from Cheshire, Coginchaug, Lyman Hall, Maloney, Platt, Sheehan and Southington.