Greenwich High tracksters ready for encore

Greenwich High School head coach Evan Dubin has built the boys and girls indoor track and field teams into a force throughout the state and athletes throughout the school are jumping on board.

Back when Dubin was starting out with the Cardinals, the indoor track teams would meet up before practice in front of the science wing and quietly discuss practice plans for that day with a small amount of athletes ready to run.

With the recent success Big Red has had in the past year, that’s all changed, as Dubin has to yell down a hall just to make sure all the athletes can hear him.

“With a school of close to 3,000 students, we were wondering why there weren’t 300 on the track team,” Dubin said. “There’s got to be people out there. To see 160 kids this year is amazing. It’s the biggest team in school history. It’s nice to see. With so many new people, I am assuming that we will have more depth than we have in the past. Last year we had to rely on those first place finishers, where this year we can maybe not worry about a first place and get like second, third and eighth.”

Last year was definitely a breakout season for both the boys and girls track teams. The girls team won the FCIAC championship, netting 92 points. Darien was the next closest, picking up 74 points. The boys finished third at the FCIAC finals. During the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL finals, Big Red finished with the silver in the boys and girls meets.

A week later, the Cardinals were back at the New Haven Athletic Center competing in the Open championship and they didn’t back down. The boys team finished third overall, while the girls squad finished fifth.

As a result of their hard work and strong performances, a handful of Greenwich High athletes traveled up to the Reggie Lewis Track Center in Boston, Mass. for competition in the New England Indoor Track Championship meet to face some of the best competition in the Northeast.

“Last year’s postseason run really put us on the map,” Dubin said. “People maybe were laughed at for being on the track team or viewed it as a sport that nobody really does, now we had some real success and those people that haven’t thought about doing the sport are thinking about giving it a shot. Doing so well last year I think is a huge reason why we have so many people.”

However, when the New England track meet ended, that meant the high school careers of Marcus Motill, Ryan Kelly, Robert Gelcius, Amanda Michaud, Elizabeth Markowitz, Abby Markowitz and Claire D’Etiveaud were finished, as each were lost to graduation.

Leading the way on the boys team this year will be captains L.J. Ambrogio, Dan Claroni, Nick Pulitano and Dan Wilbanks. The girls team will be paced by Kathryn Bernstein, Naomi Leeds and Lindsay Noskin. With a varsity squad as large as Big Red’s, leadership from the captains is more important than ever.

“They have been absolutely fantastic,” Dubin said. “With numbers so big and only three coaches, we really rely on the captains to do things. They have no only done what is asked, but have stepped up above and beyond.”

Individually, Dubin believes that Leeds has the best chance individually to grab gold. Last year Leeds finished second in the FCIAC finals during the 300-meter run and was a member of the class LL champion 4×200- and 4×400-meter relay teams.

Pulitano is the lone returners from last year’s 4×200-meter relay state open champion. This year he will be competing in the 300-meter dash and will be returning to the 4×200-meter relay race for his senior season. Wilbanks was stellar for the Cards in the 1,000-meter run, finishing 10th in the Open finals (2:39.36) and fifth in the class LL meet (2:41.84). Newcomer Austin Longi, who was the breakout star from the Big Red football team this past fall as a sophomore, will be looking to make noise on the boys team.

On the girls side, Leeds will be competing in the relay events and also will return to the 300-meter dash. Sophomore Jenny Goggin will make her presence felt in the middle distance events. Last year at the class LL finals, Goggin finished third in the 1,000-meter run (3:03.56).

Freshman Sabrina Thurber is coming off a highly-successful cross-country season, where she finished the FCIAC championships 18th overall (15:36), two spots behind Goggin. In addition, senior Cate Wright and juniors Anna Black and Carolyn Paletta will be back from last year’s team.

Because the Cardinals have strong depth in the distance events this year, Dubin will be have a lot of options when it comes to placing distance runners in events.

With so many new people to indoor track on both the boys and girls roster, Dubin believes that getting the newcomers excited about the sport is crucial.

“Last year we had our senior class that was so great and they were bitten by the track bug as sophomores,” Dubin said. “Years went by and they didn’t need much coaching their senior year because they knew what to do and went out and did it. This year it’s a new roster. It’s a different challenge for us, but one that I’m happy to take because it’s great to have these numbers out there.”

This year, the Cardinals will be playing with some extra determination. Junior Nicole Graham, who plays field hockey in the fall, lacrosse in the spring and is a member of the indoor track team during the winter, was diagnosed with Leukemia in the fall.

The girls soccer team and field hockey teams came up with the idea of having shirt made up to honor their teammate, classmate and friend. Each athlete on the indoor track team was asked to donate some money to pay for the cost of the shirt, but to also make a contribution to the Leukemia Society.

“I think it be neat if we could continue this and keep it going during the winter season,” Dubin said. “The idea would to go to a meet and have the shirt being the team’s warm-up shirt. If we all are going and all come in with a bright orange shirt, I think it will make a statement. It may turn heads and other people from other schools will make donations.”

Actually, the schools throughout the FCIAC are already behind this. Dubin asked all FCIAC coaches to ask their athletes to make a $1 contribution and at the end of the year at the FCIAC meet, Dubin will collect the money and make a donation in Graham’s honor on behalf of entire group of FCIAC athletes.

“We want Nicole to know that not only is everybody on her team fighting with her against this horrible disease, but her competitors are still her teammates at heart,” Dubin said. “Hopefully coaches are pulling through.”

With the balance of depth and talent on both rosters, Dubin is dreaming big this season, seeing a championship or two possible for both his boys and girls teams.

“I think we have a chance for both teams,” Dubin said. “Last year on the girls side, it was our meet to lose. We have everything aligned perfectly. It’s going to be tough for the boys team to beat Danbury, Darien and Staples, but it’s not impossible. Although we lost a lot of talent from last year’s teams, we have a lot of depth and still have a shot. If we didn’t win, I wouldn’t devastated, but if we did win, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

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