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Senior Seth Regan made his mark as a super sprinter for the Haddam-Killingworth boys’ track program during his high school career. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Junior Matt Jennings has collected his fair share of medals in the distance events for the Cougars throughout the past few years. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Junior Kedarjah Lewis made an amazing debut with the H-K girls’ indoor track squad this winter and was expected to be one of the top athletes for the outdoor team this spring. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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Haddam-Killingworth’s boys’ and girls’ outdoor track teams were clear contenders heading in the 2020 spring season. Coming off of its second-straight Shoreline Conference title during the indoor season, the boys’ team featured a strong senior class that was poised to lead the way. On the girls’ side, the Cougars finished second at the indoor Shoreline meet and had their sights on continuing their success in the outdoor campaign.
Unfortunately, neither team was able to follow up its indoor achievements under sunny skies this spring, because the entire season was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Richard Dupuis, who is H-K’s co-head coach with Matt Diglio, expressed his disappointment with the fact that the Cougars couldn’t go on one last run.
“I was looking forward to coaching one of the better teams we’ve had in recent years,” said Dupuis. “I work with the jumpers and sprinters. Matt Diglio works with the cross country kids, so he’s really good with the distance runners on the team. And [assistant coach] Sean [Gallagher] was an alumnus who works with the throwers. We had a great team set up for this year, along with a great group of coaches, and I’m disappointed we didn’t get to see it play out.”
The H-K boys’ team was slated to be led by junior Matt Jennings, who posted three first-place finishes at Shoreline Conference Championship during indoor season. Jennings claimed first place in the 1,000 (2:32.94), the 1,600 (4:38.14) and the 3,200 (10:23.40) at Shorelines, marking the second year in a row that he won all three events.
Jennings also saw success at the Class S State Championship by winning the 1,000 (2:32.04) and running on the H-K’s victorious 1,600 sprint medley relay (SMR) with seniors Seth Regan and Dmytri Mallon and fellow junior Aidan Coleman (3:45.03). He went on to finish second in the 1,000 at the State Open (2:29.56) and third at the New England Championship (2:28.80).
“Matt had a terrific indoor season, and I have a feeling that success would have carried over into the spring,” Coach Dupuis said. “Other key contributors would have been senior Seth Regan, senior Luke Sodergren, and junior John Bruder.”
Regan, Sodergren, Kevin Giulini, and Griffin Robinson were selected as the senior captains for the boys’ outdoor team. Regan was a sprinting specialist for H-K throughout the indoor season. At the Shoreline meet, Regan ran a time of 6.68 seconds to take first place in the 55-meter dash. He then finished fourth by clocking in with that same time at states.
Sodergren finished first in the 55 hurdles by timing in with a mark of 8.14 at the Shoreline Conference Championship. Bruder finished first for the shot put with a toss of 43 feet-8 inches.
One of the biggest success stories from H-K’s indoor season was the success of its SMR. On the heels of its victory at the Class S meet, the Cougars’ quartet of Coleman, Regan, Mallon, and Jennings claimed first place with a school-record time of 3:37.15 when they raced at the State Open.
The SMR also qualified to compete at the New Balance Nationals during the indoor season, but event was canceled because of the pandemic. Coach Dupuis wishes that those athletes had a chance to run at nationals and also wishes that all the athletes on his squad had the opportunity to compete this spring. Dupuis felt that H-K was primed for a memorable campaign in the spring of 2020.
“Our sprint medley relay team had qualified for nationals. When they canceled the event in the winter, we were still looking forward to the spring season,” said Dupuis. “We felt we were going to have a good season, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this in my 44 years as head coach here. In the 80s, I was blessed with an exceptional group of athletes, and we won six state championships during that stretch of time. We’ve been in a bit of a rut, but I felt like we were coming around, though. We had a chance at states this year.”
For the girls’ team, junior Kedarjah Lewis was ready to have a big outdoor season after enjoying a plethora of success with the indoor squad. Competing at her first Shoreline Conference Championship, Lewis finished first in the 300 (42.67) and came in second for the 55 (7.45) at the meet this winter. Fellow junior Gabrielle Lester won the shot put (30-7) to help H-K earn runner-up honors at Shorelines.
Lewis went on to score 22 of the Cougars’ 24 points when they placed seventh at the Class S State Championship. She finished second in the long jump (17-2.25), took second in the 300 (42.67), and also finished third for the 55 (7.24).
After that, Lewis finished second in the 55 (7.31) and took sixth place in both the 300 (42.00) and the long jump (17-3.25) at the State Open, followed by a 15th-place finish in the long jump (16-6.5) at the New England Championship.
“Kedarjah was hugely important to our team, and we were a really young team,” Coach Dupuis said. “They really overachieved, and I saw them taking that momentum from the winter and running with it in the spring.”
Ashley Duncanson, Rebecca Fisher, and Reilly Jenkins were named the senior captains for the girls’ outdoor team. Senior Julia Callis and sophomore Brianna Minervino were also going to be key contributors on the squad. Last spring, Callis and Minervino were part of a 4x800 relay team that came in second place at the Class M State Championship.
Even though these athletes won’t get to compete this spring, Coach Dupuis wanted them to know that he appreciates their contributions to the program. Last week, Dupuis put pen to paper and wrote the team a handwritten letter to express his gratitude for how his athletes have stuck it out during the pandemic. The Cougars kept training as though there would be a season until the final announcement came that it wasn’t going to happen.
“I just wanted them to know, especially the seniors, how much they meant to the program and how much we valued them over their time here,” said Dupuis. “It’s tough to say goodbye like this, but this is the times we are living in.”
Dupuis feels confident that both of his teams are going to continue along their path of success next year. Dupuis is already eager to see what H-K can achieve when the Cougars compete again.
“They are going to train hard, and we are going to be ready when the time comes,” Dupuis said. “We started developing a training program to get everyone ready. Every two weeks, we’d put together a practice and send it out to the kids. And they’ve seemed to enjoy that.”
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