Old Saybrook Girls’ Track Captures Shoreline Crown
Old Saybrook girls’ track and field is back atop the Shoreline Conference (SLC), capturing its first title since a dominant run of four consecutive from 2016-2019 when the squad took home the conference crown on May 24 at East Hampton. Stacked with a group of talented and motivated athletes, Head Coach Peter Capezzone said dating back to the start of the season, the team possessed the maturity and selflessness to bring home an SLC trophy.
“They started the season off like that, too,” said Capezzone.
Every bit of selflessness and growth was needed for the Rams to capture the title with a final tally of 141.2 points, as multiple athletes had to participate in up to four different events. Capezzone explained that the Shoreline allows for athletes to participate across four events in an effort to provide small schools with a real opportunity to compete with larger Shoreline schools. The only potential downside is athletes have shorter rest times before the next competition begins. He said his athletes knew well in advance that the SLC final would be a grind.
“We said, ‘listen, we’re going to need to stretch you out at the Shorelines and if we’re going to win this thing, we’re going to need you to win four events,’ mentally preparing them, not the day of, but just letting them know,” Capezzone said.
The meeting to discuss the game plan for the conference championship meet took place a full two weeks prior, and Capezzone said his athletes responded in impressive fashion.
“It was a cold day, it was rainy and we needed everybody to do four events and we hadn’t had to do that all season long so this was a stretching out of them,” Capezzone said. “Avery (Rueckert), as soon as she was done running one event she had to jump up and run the 400 in like five minutes and she set a Shoreline record in both events.”
Rueckert said after her performance, she had to give herself a pat on the back.
“I’ve never (accomplished) something that big: the 400, and how nervous I was, I felt really proud of myself that it showed all my hard work the past three years and my work outside of practice was really coming into play,” Rueckert said. “I was overjoyed with the news (that I set the 400 meter event record).”
Rueckert was not done setting records, too, according to Capezzone.
“Avery Rueckert had an outstanding day, (at the Shoreline title meet),” said Capezzone. “She captured four Shoreline records in one day, that was pretty big. She now has four Shoreline records: the 100, the 200, the 400 and the 4x100. That’s 40 points right there.”
And for Rueckert, the quick turnaround between events was a challenge, but despite the nerves that come with competing for a conference crown, she persevered.
“I was incredibly nervous,” Rueckert said. “When I got to the starting blocks for the 400 (meter event) I could see my uniform moving from the pounding of my chest. I thought, ‘okay, I just have to take a deep breath, I have a routine when I get into the blocks that always calms me down and I know that I’ve done this so many times the past four years. So once the gun goes off I feel like I forget about everything, this peace takes over me and I’m able to run what I can.”
Rueckert’s finishes in the 100 meters (12.40), 200 meters (25.44), 400 meters (58.25) and the 4x100 relay (48.81) with Talia Bauer, Sanai Baker and Abby Colella accompanied other impressive, clutch performances, as the Rams utilized a team effort to win the Shoreline.
“Colella, a senior, won the 300 hurdles (46.64) and also the 4x100 (relay), and also she was second in the 4x400 (4:20.29) and in the 100 (12.53, a personal record),” said Capezzone. “Those were huge points for us as well. Everybody did their job for the most part and we took some more points we didn’t think we were going to take. It was a real team accomplishment.”
Rueckert and Colella have led the Rams’ team approach this spring, alongside consistent strong performances from Catherine Minegar. All three athletes are going to run track in college, with Rueckert heading to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Colella going to the University of Rhode Island and Minegar off to Salve Regina in Rhode Island.
“I think track has taken them to a different level, they’re able to see where they can benefit from that,” said Capezzone.
The stellar showings from Minegar, Colella and Rueckert led the rest of a complete and strong team. Capezzone said the younger athletes have begun to follow in the footsteps of Old Saybrook’s strong senior class.
“When you achieve something, or when we’re able to do what we need to do, it helps the younger kids understand what it takes to win a championship,” said Capezzone. “We had freshmen on the team this year and sophomores see what it takes to come together and have to do four events or three events to win a championship. I think the younger kids seeing that really helps them along, that’s always really helped us in our program.”
Capezzone also credited his coaching staff for adequately preparing the Rams for each meet en route to another conference crown.
“Well, we won from 2016-19 and we had won four in a row prior to that,” Capezzone said. “A lot of it more recently has to do with maturity and kids leading other kids in a positive way on how to warm up and how to approach each event, and a lot of that has to do with us having a great coaching staff, Jeff Morin, Erin Lopez. We’ve had a strong volunteer assistant, Casey Strickland, who’s been very helpful for us with throws.”
The maturity and endurance of the Rams shined through during the rainy Shoreline Championship, especially in Baker.
“Sanai Baker, she’s another one, she had to run two sets of hurdles because we have qualifying and finals, and she had to run the 4x1 and then she said, ‘Am I going to have to run the 4x4?’” Capzzone said. “‘And I said ‘yes, absolutely you are.’ And she did and she did a great job, she took second in the 4x4. It’s mentally preparing them and also getting them out there and eventually getting them to the point where we need to have them in order to win a championship.”
Following strong showings throughout the season, a Shoreline title and an impressive third-place finish in the CIAC Class S State Meet, thus far the 2023 campaign for the Rams has been a success. The 4x100 relay team of Bauer, Rueckert, Baker and Colella heads off to the City of Brotherly Love for Nationals on June 17 in Philadelphia at historic Franklin Field. The qualifying round will take place that day, with the final occurring on Father’s Day if they advance. Rueckert will also run the 200 at Nationals.
With all the accomplishments the team had this season, Capezzone enjoyed coaching them along the way and is proud of the determination and focus everyone maintained throughout it.
“It makes a huge difference when kids see what they can accomplish and they go out and do it,” Capezzone said.
For Rueckert, competing at Nationals with her 4X100 relay team, one she’s been paired with since her freshman year, will be a perfect end to her high school track and field career.
“I’m very grateful to have that,” Rueckert said. “That relay team I’ve been working with since my freshman year, it’s the first event I run at every meet and I think we really inspire each other and show each other that we can do it. Even though we do it all the time, it’s still stressful mentally and physically, so it’s cool that I get to work for the rest of the season with my team.”