Yellowjackets’ Track Has Small Squad with Big Heart
Kisha Francois is leading the East Haven girls’ outdoor track as its senior captain this spring. Last week, Francois (pictured in an indoor track meet from earlier this year) took first place in three events to help Yellowjackets defeat Wilbur Cross and improve to 4-0 on the campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Senior Radames Figueroa was rewarded for his dedication to the East Haven track program by being named the captain for the Yellowjackets’ boys’ outdoor squad in the 2021 spring campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Junior Morgan D’Auria cleared 4-8 in the high jump to finish in a tie for first place in the event with sophomore teammate Jessica Urban when the Easties earned an 88-56 win road versus Wilbur Cross on May 4. D’Auria also won the triple jump and the pole vault at the meet. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Senior Dhruv Patel ran on East Haven’s victorious 4x100 relay during the team’s meet against Wilbur Cross at Bowen Field last week. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Between its boys’ and girls’ teams, the East Haven outdoor track program has just 29 total athletes competing this season. However, despite the small numbers, girls’ coach Rusty Dunne and boys’ coach Jim Vicario both feel that this year’s Yellowjackets are doing everything they can to better both the present and the future of the program.
Last week, both of East Haven’s track teams had road meets versus Wilbur Cross at Bowen Field in New Haven on May 4. The girls’ team claimed an 88-56 victory versus the Governors to improve to 4-0 on the year, while the boys’ squad took an 85-54 loss to move to 1-3.
Senior Kisha Francois claimed first place in the 100-meter dash (12.5 seconds), the 200-meter dash (26.0), and the long jump (15 feet-8 inches) when the girls’ team defeated Wilbur Cross. Sophomore Alice Stettinger also had a big meet by winning the javelin (113-0), the shot put (28-0), and the discus (82-4) for the Easties.
Junior Morgan D’Auria won the triple jump (33-9) and the pole vault (7-0) and also tied for first place with sophomore Jessica Urban in the high jump as both athletes cleared 4-8. The 4x100 relay team of Urban, Francois, freshman Olivia Martin, and junior Emily Mazzucco took first place with a time of 53.0 for Coach Dunne’s club.
“We only have 15 girls, but we have some pretty good ones. We have some big point scorers. We have five or six girls that score a whole lot of points,” Dunne said. “Kisha, Morgan, Alice, [and] Jess all score a lot of points. That’s how we end up beating those teams. We have a lot of wins. To win a championship in track, you need first places. We have been able to do that.”
Francois has enjoyed an excellent career with Yellowjackets since the joining the program as a freshman, recording multiple postseason victories in sprinting events and the long jump. Now a senior, Francois is serving as the captain of the East Haven girls’ outdoor track team.
Francois recently signed her National Letter of Intent to continue her running career at Southern Connecticut State University. Coach Dunne said that Francois has been a special runner during her time with the Easties and that he expects her to keep succeeding at the college level.
“She is a full scholarship athlete. She is very special. She is the kind of kid that comes along once in a long time,” said Dunne of Francois. “We’ve had a lot of kids over the years go on to college and be prosperous. She is very fast and is an excellent athlete. She has been one of the best in the state since her freshman year.”
In addition to being the captain, Francois is the only senior on the girls’ track team. Coach Dunne said that he is expecting junior D’Auria and sophomores Stettinger and Urban to continue improving and score big points for the Yellowjackets next season.
Dunne is eager to see the progression of athletes such as Mazzucco, junior thrower Zayuri Castaneda, and junior distance runner Juliana Espinoza. Dunne said that all three have been solid point scorers this year and have the potential for more growth as they continue.
“More and more kids are getting back onto it again. We lost a year of recruiting. There was no contact with the kids. We have had a couple kids come out the last few weeks. There is a good group of kids coming back,” Dunne said. “They’re all good students. We’re going to get some more moving forward. The middle school has some good kids coming up. Things bode well for the future.”
This spring marks the 28th year that Dunne has coached track and field, and he said that it’s been one of the most enjoyable seasons of his entire career. As the Yellowjackets approach the postseason, Dunne is hoping his team can perform well in the SCC’s meets before moving on to states.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the SCC West Championships. That will be a harbinger of what is ahead,” Dunne said. “If you do well in the SCCs championships, you have a good chance to do well at states. The SCC is a rough league. If we’re able to make some noise, it will show a good sign of prospering in the MM meet.”
Although the East Haven boys’ team lost its meet against Wilbur Cross, the Yellowjackets still recorded a few first-place finishes in the matchup. Senior Radames Figueroa claimed first place in both the 110 high hurdles (16.9) and the 300 intermediate hurdles (44.8) for East Haven.
Senior David Amatruda won the 200 (22.9), while sophomore Dom Salato took first in the triple jump (38-9.5) and the javelin (139-5).
Salato’s performance in the javelin qualified him for the Class MM State Championship in the event. He is the first member of the boys’ track team to make states in the javelin in the past nine years.
East Haven’s 4x100 relay of Amatruda, Figueroa, senior Dhruv Patel, and junior Ethar Al-Hawari also finished first versus Wilbur Cross, clocking in with a time of 47.2 on behalf of Coach Vicario’s squad.
“We’ve been decimated by numbers. We only have 14 guys. We don’t really have a distance team, so we can’t cover those events. But they have worked hard,” Vicario said. “Amatruda was really close in the 100 against Wilbur Cross and came back and won the 200. Figueroa has done a great job in the high hurdles. Both have qualified for the state meet. Salato has been doing four events and has turned into a very good triple jumper. Every week, he has improved in the javelin.”
Figueroa, who has been a member of the Yellowjackets for the past four years, is serving as the captain for the boys’ team this season. Coach Vicario said that Figueroa earned that role due to his consistency and hard work throughout his tenure in the program.
“Radames has been a four-year guy for us. He has been very consistent. As a sophomore, he scored in the SCC and moved on to the State Championship,” said Vicario. “He sets a good example out there. He works hard. He is having a nice year.”
The Easties’ senior class also includes Amatruda, Patel, and Mekhi Franklin. Vicario said that Amatruda has been a solid contributor for the Yellowjackets this year and is one of the team’s top scorers. Vicario added that Patel has continued to improve in the hurdles during his time with the team and came back strong as a senior after missing his junior season. Franklin is a new addition to the squad and has been seeing more and more work on East Haven’s relay teams.
Looking to the future, Coach Vicario is expecting Salato, junior Justin Hernandez, and sophomore Jason Toth to become even bigger point scorers for East Haven as their careers unfold. Hernandez and Toth compete in the javelin, the discus, and the shot put.
As his team moves toward postseason competition, Coach Vicario said that his athletes are doing everything that’s asked of them and are getting better each time they step into the arena.
“You can only ask the kids to do their best. We try to put them in the best events to succeed,” Vicario said. “Every week, we do things collectively with the boys and the girls. The throwers come with me, and the sprinters and hurdlers go with Rusty. We try to coach them up and look for improvement. The kids do everything we ask them to do. They work hard. That’s all you can ask for.”