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02/12/2024 02:47 AM

Old Saybrook Girls’ Indoor Track Claims Shoreline Conference Title

The Old Saybrook girls’ indoor track team stood proudly after claiming the Shoreline Conference Championship title on Feb. 2. Photo courtesy of Pete Capezzone
The All-SLC girls’ indoor track 2024 First Team included Old Saybrook’s Rose McNaughton (back row) and Lauren Dobratz (third from left). Photo courtesy of Pete Capezzone

Winning a championship is a feeling that can’t be matched. The teamwork, motivation, and hard work that goes into it is something only a victor can be proud of. These characteristics were put on full display by the Old Saybrook girls’ indoor track team, as the Rams claimed the Shoreline Conference Championship title this winter.

On Feb. 2, the Rams showed up on the big stage when they scored 109 points as a team to claim the conference crown, defeating runner-up Lyme-Old Lyme. Head Coach Pete Capezzone praised the girls for understanding their responsibilities and staying locked in during competition.

“We were very excited, the kids knew what they needed to do to win. They went out there and did it. There was not too much that changed in the script, we laid it out for them, what they needed to do to win,” said Capezzone. “I have to say that pretty much everybody did their job. Of course you have to plan for some things to go better or worse, but they did a great job.”

Last year, the Rams were runners up for the Shoreline Conference title, with Lyme-Old Lyme claiming the title for the girls.

Despite track being an individualized sport, it also takes a team of athletes coming together to reach the ultimate goal. Several of Old Saybrook’s competitors helped contribute to the win, including Lauren Dobratz (senior, hurdles, high jump, long jump), Carlina Castro (senior, long distance), Rose McNaughton (sophomore, shotput), and the 4x200 relay team, consisting of Ava Smolgia (senior), Talia Bauer (junior), Vy Ngo (freshman), and Jameli Jara-Velez (freshman).

“Lauren was first in the hurdles, second in the high jump, and third in the long jump. Carlina had an amazing day as well, finishing second in the 1000 meters, 1600 meters, and 3200 meters, so she had quite an evening,” said Capezzone. “Then we had some other really nice performances. Rose won the shotput, and the 4x200 relay team took second place. Two freshmen (Vy and Jameli) came up really big, with Jameli coming in second in the hurdles and having a personal best.”

Capezzone also added that Erin Nygard (sprint medley relay, 1600 meter, junior) also played a big role in adding points to claim the championship title.

Castro, who has served as a great leader on the track for her squad mates this season, expressed how proud she was in her team for not giving up, and working as a team to come out on top.

“It felt really good, especially since we have put in so much work this season, and it was such a great feeling knowing we did it all together,” said Castro. “We had many new members this year, so we had to show them the different warmups, workouts, etc. throughout the season in order to prepare them for the Shoreline Championship meet. We also had to motivate them, and get the team pumped up to give it their all.”

In addition to being able to call a conference championship their own, several Rams were named to the All-Conference team for their performances.

The First Team All-Shoreline Conference athletes included Dobratz (55 meter hurdles) and McNaughton (shotput). The Second Team All-Conference athletes were every member of the 4x200 relay team in Smolgia, Bauer, Ngo, and Jara-Velez (also being named to the team for the 55 hurdles), captain Carlina Castro (senior, 1000 meters, 1600 meters, and 3200 meters), and Dobratz (high jump).

Not only did the kids show up and impress, but Capezzone was also named Coach of the Year for the conference. He was quick to credit his fellow coaches for the hard work they’ve put in throughout the winter.

“I was just really happy for the kids; they had a goal and they set out to achieve it. We have a phenomenal coaching staff, I don’t think that there is only one Coach of the Year, we all help each other out,” said Capezzone. “Coach Erin Lopez does a wonderful job, we have Jan and Jeff Merill-Moran, and we also have Casey Strickland, who is a volunteer assistant who does a phenomenal job with our throwers.”

Castro set a personal record (PR) and a new school record for the Rams, running a 3:17.89 for the 55 meters. Dobratz (9.14) and Jara-Velez (9.14) set PRs and new school records for the 55 hurdles. Smoliga ran a 1:57.22 in the 4x200 relay, setting a PR and a new school record, and Bauer ran a 4:38.71 for the 4x400 relay, also setting a new PR and school record.

Senior captains Dobratz and Castro, along with the rest of the senior class, utilized their experience and work ethic to serve as strong role models for their underclassman counterparts, and Capezzone knows the team’s accomplishments wouldn’t have been possible without them.

“I can’t say enough about the senior leadership, we have some seniors that did a really great job,” said Capezzone. “Ava Smoliga, Scarlett Pauloski, Carlina Castro, and Lauren Dobratz, these four girls did a phenomenal job at leading the team. I think that speaks volumes about why we did so well.”

Despite being able to hold off Coginchaug and Lyme-Old Lyme in the last event of the meet, it wasn’t always an easy road to get to the celebration that took place right after.

“There were several challenges that we faced, some illnesses, injuries that we needed to overcome, midterm exams came just before the championship,” Cappezone said. “It’s tough, the kids have a lot on their plate, but the kids were able to overcome it. It was a very close meet, we beat Lyme-Old Lyme by 12 points. It came down to the last event, the girls’ long jump. We had three girls in the finals, and those girls came up big, finishing third, fourth, and sixth. They are very goal-oriented kids, very focused, and did a great job.”

In that final event, Dobratz finished third, Ngo finished fourth, setting a PR for herself, and Jara-Velez finished sixth.

On Feb. 9, the Rams competed in the Class S State Championships. Top performers from that race were Dobratz, finishing fifth in the 55 meter hurdles and second in the high jump, Castro, who finished second in the 3200 meters, and the 4x400 meter relay team, consisting of Bauer, Cassie Garcia (relays), Hannah Belknap (relays), and Erin Nygard (junior, relays). They finished eighth in their event.

“The team did an outstanding job, we had numerous personal bests, including a school record for Carlina in the 3200 meters, and a best run of 9.11 for Lauren in the hurdles,” said Capezzone. “We also had our best time on the 1600m relay for the season of 4:35. Our place of seventh was tied for the best of all Shoreline schools.”

The Rams girls’ indoor track and field team roster is comprised of Dobratz, Castro, Nygard, Bauer, McNaughton, Garcia, Mia Casertano (sophomore, relays), Chase Ostertag (sophomore, relays), Chloe Young (sophomore, high jump), Hannah Belknap (freshman, relays), Emily Clifford (freshman, relays), Madeline Elgart (freshman, sprinter), Madison Gli (freshman, high jump), Jayden Kujawski (freshman, shotput), Ngo, Sylvie Webber (freshman, shotput), and Jara-Velez.