Spartan Swagger: Amity girls capture second straight SCC title

For the second year in a row the Amity girls indoor track team won the Southern Connecticut Conference championship. The Lady Spartans retained their title by scoring 87 points, while second place Hillhouse tallied 64 points. Hamden finished third at 56. The meet took place Thursday afternoon at the New Haven Field House.

The Lady Spartans claimed first place in both the 4x800 and the sprint medley relays. Sonia Haerizadeh, Joanna Cambria, Judy Buechel, and Hayley Percy won the 4x800 in 10 minutes, .48 seconds. It was the same story in the sprint medley relay as Erin Bellis opened up with a 1:04.6 in the 400. Tatiana Kline and Katie Yanagisawa followed with successive 200 times of 28.3 and 27.2. Breaking away from a Hamden runner in the final 55 meters, LeAnn Iassogna wrapped up the win with a 2:30.6 800 meter anchor leg.

"We had to rearrange the order of our relay at the last minute," said Amity coach Sean Mahon. "Kara Lightowler usually runs the 800, but she got sick after running the 1000 and couldn't run the relay. LeAnn usually runs the 400, but now with this emergency situation, she had to run the 800. Since that's the important leg of the relay, she took one for the team."

"She was running neck-and-neck until the last two laps. Then, the Hamden girl passed her with 150 meters to go. LeAnn battled back and got even with 80 meters left and then passed her with 55 meters to go. She sprinted home from there, winning the race by two seconds. Our entire team knew the situation and was watching the race. We all thought she could gut it out as she's our strongest runner. We're all very appreciative of what LeeAnn did. She reached way down deep and won it from her guts. She really came through for us big time."

Amity's winning time was 4:31.03. Iassogna also contributed a sixth place 15-1 ½ in the long-jump.

Haerizadeh added a blue ribbon for winning the 1600 in 5:16.3 and then turned in a third place 11:45.36 in the 3200.

"Sonia is just amazing," said Mahon. "We can count on her for everything."

Celia Keniry's personal best high jump of 5-feet 2-inches gave the Lady Spartans another first place medal. Kim Barwise's 5-0 was good for third place.

"Celia gets better each meet," said Mahon. "She and Kim combine to give us a great one-two punch. Not many teams have two jumpers who can clear five feet or better. "It's a really cool thing."

Later in the meet, Keniry came back to post a fourth place 7.78 in the 55-meter dash.

All first place winners earn All-Southern Connecticut Conference first team honors.

Following Lightowler's third place 3:12.44 in the 1000, Percy logged a third place 1:42.28 in the 600. Leslie Boppert added a fourth place 1:43.02.

Amity's strength in the relays was again evident when the 4x200 team of Percy, Kline, Boppert, and Iassogna turned in a third place 4:15.20 and the 4x200 team of Bellis, Yanagisawa, Allison Thomas, and Keniry added a second place 1:51.44. That was a new school record, breaking the old mark of 1:51.6 which was set last year.

"The 4x200 relay was the stand out event of the meet," said Mahon. "Those four girls have been trying to break the school record for the past two weeks. I'm so happy that they finally put it together. It was Allison Thomas' birthday and setting the new school record was a great present for her."

"Hayley and Leslie were both outstanding in the 600. We told Leslie just to follow Hayley and they combined to give us a solid three-four entry."

Caitlin Koether's finished in seventh place but with a personal best 9.96 in the 55-meter hurdles.

"It's great to see a young sophomore like Caitlin break 10 seconds," said Mahon.

"I thought my kids were spectacular," said Mahon. "We went into the meet expecting to win. It's tough to have all that pressure put on you and then follow through with the win. We always get pumped up going into the New Haven Field House. Even though we knew we could win it, it was still a very competitive meet. Now, the bar is raised as we look ahead to the Class LL State Championship Meet on Thursday. We're going to do the best we can. We are in the top five for sure, but we'd definitely like to put it all together for the win."

The Lady Spartans return to the New Haven Field House, expecting to battle Norwich Free Academy, Danbury, Hall High of West Hartford and Hamden for the LL title.