Sports Person of the Week
DiMatteo Achieves Her All-State Dreams
Senior captain Ava DiMatteo earned All-Conference and All-State honors while helping the H-K girls’ cross country squad claim a pair of postseason titles this fall. (Photo courtesy of Ava DiMatteo)
Ava DiMatteo remembers looking up at the All-State banners in the gym when she joined the Haddam-Killingworth girls’ cross country team in her freshman year. Ava’s ultimate goal was to see her name on that banner one day and, this year, she achieved that dream as a senior captain for the Cougars.
Ava finished in eighth place by running a time of 21 minutes and 46 seconds to earn All-State honors when H-K competed at the Class SS State Championship. Ava’s performance helped the Cougars defend the state crown that she was a part of the last time states had been held in 2019.
“This accomplishment was one that was four years in the making. As a freshman, it was something that felt so far away from me, but I knew I wanted my name on that banner,” says Ava. “Fast forward four years to senior year, it was finally my chance to fulfill my dream. And through all my hard work and training, I was able to do it and convince my legs to carry me through the finish line in eighth place.”
When Ava started running in 7th grade, she considered herself more of a back-of-the-pack runner. Ava didn’t focus too much on her times until she got to high school, where she was surrounded by a bevy of strong athletes competing for a storied program. Ava’s teammates gave her a newfound motivation to be become the best version of herself both and off the trails.
“I wasn’t always as fast as I am now. From the end of freshman year to the beginning of sophomore, I made a breakthrough and worked my way up to varsity,” Ava says. “I was pushing past the pain burning my legs in track workouts and falling to the ground after finishing races. Looking back, I’m so proud of myself for coming all the way I did. I put in so much work, and to see it all pay off is one my favorite accomplishments.”
Before she ran in the state meet, Ava took fifth place with a time of 22:22 to help H-K finish first as a team at the Shoreline Conference Championship. Ava also helped the Cougars claim the Shoreline title in her sophomore season and is a three-time All-Conference runner for Head Coach Matt Diglio’s squad.
“Ava has continually developed and improved as a cross country runner over the course of her high school career. She had her first breakout race during her sophomore year at the Shoreline Championship meet and, since that time, has been one of the top runners on the team,” says Diglio. “Ava is an extremely hard-working, dedicated, and goal-orientated runner who has had a profound impact on our team.”
Ava will always treasure the experience of helping H-K cross country add more chapters to its dynasty. Ava appreciates everything that Coach Diglio has done to help and her fellow runners maximize their potential on the pathways. Ava also works with Diglio as a member of the H-K track program.
“With no doubt in my mind, Coach Diglio is one of the best coaches an athlete could find themselves training under. He is someone I can always trust in and is a caring, dedicated, and inspiring mentor for the team,” Ava says. “Coach Diglio will always offer support and cares about his team and athletes. I’ve never been afraid to talk to him about something, because I know he will help me through it.”
Ava’s favorite aspect of running cross country for H-K is the tight-knit camaraderie among the Cougars. Ava enjoys working with her friends in an effort to win races and loves the team bonding that takes place outside of competition.
“The people that make up H-K cross country are some of the most supportive and fun people I’ve known. They always make hard and tiring runs fun,” says Ava. “Whether it’s a track workout or a state championship, my teammates encourage me to constantly do my best. I’ve made such close friends and am thankful I get to train beside them during the season.”
Ava feels thrilled about how her final cross country season at H-K concluded. Ava couldn’t have asked for a better finish than to go out as an All-State athlete for the Class SS champion Cougars.
“It feels unreal that my last high school cross country season has come to an end,” Ava says. “Cross country was always the highlight of each year, and it will always be a part of me. I know they will continue on to be an amazing team.”