Strong relays were the highlight events for the Fairfield Ludlowe boys and girls teams Saturday afternoon at the FCIAC Central indoor track and field championship meet in the Zeoli Fieldhouse at Wilton High School.
The girls team, which finished second among five schools, won the 4 by 225-meter relay, placed second in the 4x750, third in the sprint medley relay and fourth, the final point-scoring place, in the 4x375 relay. The boys, who were fourth of five teams, won the 4x375- and 4x750-meter relays, finished third in the sprint medley and fourth in the 4x225.
No individual Falcons' athlete on either team won an event, although senior Kevin Warten tied in the pole vault at 10-feet-6 inches but was awarded second place based on the winner from Ridgefield needing fewer attempts to reach the winning height.
The Falcons' girls scored 62 points, placing behind Ridgefield (121) and ahead of Norwalk (49.5), McMahon (42.5) and Stamford (33). Ludlowe's boys totaled 44 points, finishing behind surprise winner Norwalk (98), Ridgefield (78) and McMahon (77) and in front of Stamford (9).
The FCIAC championship meet is Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at the New Haven Athletic Center. The FCIAC East meet was Friday, and the FCIAC West divisional meet took place at the same time Saturday at Staples.
"Our goal was to finish second," second-year girls coach Matt McCloskey said. "Ridgefield can bring down so many girls here. It's hard to compete at the level with all their depth, and to finish second in the division was all that we were able to do.
"Getting fourth in the 4x375 was big, so was having three girls make it to the finals of the 45, and we got points in the shot put from Gillian Kennedy. The culmination of all the kids doing the best they could do put us into second," said McCloskey, whose team finished second in 2013, at that time the highest team placing by the Falcons in the divisional meet.
Three Ludlowe girls were runners-up in their events. Junior Rachel Hurst earned second place in the 45-meter dash, junior Emma Koether was second in the 300 and freshman Brianna Auray, who got third in the 3,200, took the silver medal in the 1,000.
Third-place performances were turned in by Koether in the 45 dash, senior Alex Wykoff in the 45-meter hurdles and, as noted by McCloskey, senior Kate O'Shea in her second career competition in the pole vault. Fourth places came from Hurst in the 300, sophomore Francesca Barucci in the 1,000, freshman Annie Funk in the high jump and senior Kennedy in the shot put.
Members of the victorious 4x225 relay were Hurst, seniors Ali Gorab and Ali Johnson and Koether, and sophomore Anna Leatherwood, freshman Genevieve Flood, sophomore Megan Fitzgerald and junior Kelly Walsh ran in the second-place 4x750 relay.
"I tried to go for the best time," said Auray, a swimmer in the fall who plans to go out for outdoor track in the spring. She has qualified for the FCIACs in the 1,000, 1,600 and 3,200. Her second-place time of 3:24.75 in the 1,000 was barely a personal best; her third-place 3,200 time of 12:41.97 wasn't far off her previous best. "This was a scoring meet, so it was more on place today. I pushed myself pretty hard," she said.
O'Shea's first pole vault effort was 6-feet a week ago in a developmental meet at Wilton. She cleared 7-feet for the first time on Saturday and surprised herself to a degree, though she said she is still learning the event, perhaps the most complicated in the sport. "Practice makes batter," she said. "Each time I go up on the run-through, I feel more confident and more capable of going higher."
Before the meet, Ludlowe boys coach David Nulff said he believed the Falcons' best performances would come in the relays. The quartets proved him right. After Warten's 10-6 pole vault landed him second, the next highest finishing boy was freshman David Bates, who was runner-up in the 3,200 in 10 minutes and 37 seconds. Senior Taylor Szemplinski tied for the silver medal in the high jump at 5-feet-2 inches and senior Josh Archer, whose best discipline is distance running, tied for fourth with his 5-2.
Archer and Szemplinski teamed in the 4x375 relay, along with junior Zach Kenton and sophomore Jake Duncan, to bring home the top prize. Senior Stratton Tolmie, freshman Ben Ertel and sophomores Aren Heitmann and Dan Leto combined to win the 4x750 relay.
Warten's pole vault height was a personal best, including his meets outdoors. On Jan. 11 at Staples, he earned a personal record with a 10-foot vault. His goal Saturday was to reach 10-6 and get first place.
Accomplishing one but not the other left him pleased. "It's an achievement," Warten said. "It is a good way to be going into the postseason and the outdoor season." His better efforts this month are a result of improving his takeoff, he said, as well as placing his hands higher on the pole "to get better lift."
Bates said he was aiming for second place in the metric 2-mile. He wanted to break 10:30 for his time but was not upset he didn't reach that by finishing in 10:37. Bates plans to run outdoors in the spring and said he likely will compete in two but not all three events at the conference championship meet for which he qualified -- 1,000, 1,600 and 3,200.
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