NEW HAVEN, Feb. 20 — Canton’s indoor track team continues to break down barriers. Two individuals and one relay team qualified on Saturday at the CIAC State Open to compete in the New England championships on March 6 in Boston. A year ago, only Brian Magna qualified for the New England meet.
Magna qualified by finishing sixth in the 1,000 meters at the State Open with a time of 1:24.85, about 1.4 seconds off his school-record time a week earlier that gave him a Class S championship. The top six in each event earn a trip to the New England championships.
Canton’s 4×800 relay team finished sixth with a strong finish and a school record time of 8:18.79, nipping seventh place NFA by just 0.43 of a second. NFA’s anchor runner coasted at the end of the race, slowing down significantly because they had their heat won.
Canton captured a slow heat by a significant margin and was helped by Ryan Gallagher and Mike LeDuc, who each turned in their fastest 800 meter times of the season. Gallagher topped his fastest 800 by 5.7 seconds while LeDuc topped his best 800 time by 3.0 seconds. LeDuc ran in the place of Kevin Kurnat, who was ill. Nick Chekas and Magna comprised the rest of the 4×800 team.
“We still have room to do much better,” Canton coach Tim O’Donnell said of the relay team.
LeDuc finished seventh in the 3,200 meters with a time of 9:46.20. But he’ll compete in the New England meet because New Fairfield’s John Raneri, who won the event with a state record time of 9:10.75, declined the invitation to prepare for national-level event.
Raneri was at the center of a controversy at the finish. He won the race by over 10 seconds and actually lapped LeDuc. When he finished, Raneri drifted in front of LeDuc, who was still racing, caused him to stumble. LeDuc regained his balance but finished 1.2 seconds out of sixth place, an All-State bid and the invitation to the New England meet.
In most meets, Raneri would be disqualified for interference but no call was made. LeDuc didn’t lose All-State status because he won the 3,200 at the Class S meet.
LeDuc also ran the 1,600 meters at the State Open, taking 10th with a school-record time of 4:30.24, cutting about a second off his previous best a week earlier at the Class S meet.