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H-K Boys’ Track Captures Class M State Title
The Haddam-Killingworth boys’ outdoor track team won its first state title in 33 years by taking first place at the Class M State Championship at Willow Brook Park on June 2. (Photo courtesy of Matt Diglio)
The Haddam-Killingworth boys’ outdoor track and field team was on a mission to complete a perfect season entering the Class M State Championship last week. After going undefeated in the regular season and then winning a Shoreline Conference title, the Cougars were looking to capture their first state title since 1988.
Led by strong efforts from several upperclassmen, H-K claimed the state crown by finishing in first place at the Class M State Championship at Willow Brook Park in New Britain on June 2. The Cougars won their seventh state title in program history by scoring 90 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Seymour, which scored 56.5 points.
“I’ve been with the team for about 20 years now, and this is a combination of athletes that was the perfect mix for winning a state title,” Head Coach Matt Diglio said. “We have a lot of depth and some of the top talent in the state. Prior to the meet, we were the favorites on paper, but obviously, we had to come out and perform, and these kids did a tremendous job.”
One of H-K’s top performers on the day was senior captain Matthew Jennings, who took first place in the 800-meter run, finished second in the 1,600-meter run, and also ran on the Cougars’ second-place 4x800 relay. Jennings ran a time of 1:55.37 in the 800, eking out senior teammate Max Cozean, who finished in 1:58.82. In the 1,600, Jennings posted a time of 4:14.79 on his way to placing second. Jennings and Cozean also teamed up with junior Caleb Freeman and sophomore Alex Lara in the 4x800 relay, and the quartet finished in second place with a time of 8:40.11.
“Matt ran a lot of smart races. He had a phenomenal day,” Coach Diglio said of Jennings. “He is one of our most experienced runners and he doesn’t let the pressure get to him. Matt qualified for State Opens in the 800, 1,600, and 4x800 relay.”
Just like Diglio, Jennings was pleased with how he and his team performed at the state meet. Jennings felt especially proud about the fact that H-K captured the crown on the strength of stellar performances in a wide variety of events.
“Winning the state title this year has been one of the highlights of my time running high school track and cross country. What made it so special this year was how widespread our success was. We had teammates scoring in such a large number of events, which just made the win all that more meaningful,” said Jennings. “Being able to cap off my high school career with such a strong team victory has really made the work we put in over the past years all the more worthwhile. I’m really looking forward to building on this success as we move further into championship season.”
Senior captain Eamon Sweeney also had a memorable day for the Cougars by taking first place in the javelin (169-9) and the 300 hurdles (39.67) to go with a second-place finish in the 110 hurdles (14.82). Senior captain John Bruder recorded H-K’s other first-place performance by winning the shot put with a toss of 52 feet.
Senior Sam Luther finished fourth in the javelin (147-3) for H-K at states. Sophomore Orion Inkel finished fourth in the triple jump (40-8.25), while junior Aidan Law placed sixth for the long jump (19-11). Senior Jonathan Chute cleared 10-6 to finish eighth in the pole vault.
The Cougars’ 4x400 relay of Cozean, senior captain John Kowal, sophomore Zenon Kolcio, and Lara finished in seventh place (3:35.92). The 4x100 relay of Inkel, Kowal, Law, and Chute took eighth place (45.42).
All of these performances yielded points for H-K that helped Coach Diglio’s club claim state gold.
“I think this win is a reflection on the kids we have in this program,” Diglio said. “What made this so enjoyable for me and the other coaches how great these athletes are. They’re so nice, respectful, and hardworking. It made it so much better for us. These are just fabulous kids.”
In his two decades as a head coach at H-K, Diglio said that this is one of the most talented teams that he’s ever had the privilege of working with.
“They’re a true team. They support each other in every event. That’s what we preach as coaches. We try to put them in a good position to perform well,” said Diglio. “This is the most talented group of seniors we’ve had and, by far, the most complete team we’ve had on paper. I’m very happy with how the season went for us.”
H-K will have several people competing in the State Open this week. Coach Diglio is hoping to see some athletes meet the qualifying standard to advance to Nationals, which are taking place at the University of Oregon from Sunday, June 27 through Saturday, July 3.
“Matt is going to have a great shot to win the 800 at State Opens. Eamon is also going to compete well in all three of his events,” said Diglio. “In order to qualify for nationals, it doesn’t matter if these kids win their event. They need to have a qualifying time that is up to standard with Nationals in order to get in. But I think they can get it done.”