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Avon relay team brings home a MM state title – The Collinsville Press
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Avon relay team brings home a MM state title

AVON, June 3 – Winning a state championship in the 3,200 meter relay isn’t something new for the Avon High girls track and field team. The Falcons won the Class M title in the 4×800 relay three straight years from 1996-98.

Avon added another state championship in the 4×800 but this was a bit dramatic. Anchor runner Titi Vanriel grabbed the baton in third place and outran runners from E.O. Smith and Guilford to help Falcons win the relay race at the Class MM championships at Manchester High.

That win was the highlight of a seventh place finish by the Avon High girls in the meet – its best finish in a state meet since they finished eighth in 1996. Vanriel also took second in the 800 meters while teammate Alyssa Burton finished second in the high jump.

Vanriel, Burton and the relay team qualified to participate in the State Open by finishing among the top five in their respective events.

Vanriel caught E.O. Smith’s Rachel Smith also immediately after taking the handoff from teammate Emily Kelly. She made up ground and caught Guilford’s Kathleen Rooney with about 300 meters left in the race. Her coaches had her running her 800 meters in about 2:14. Her three teammates ran their 800 meters legs in the 2:28 to 2:30 range.

The relay finished with a third fastest time in school history of 9:42.11, about a second and a half ahead of Guilford. Claire Smith was the first Falcon runner in the race and she handed off to Jenna Donahue. “It was a pleasant surprise,” Avon coach Al Daddario said. “They did a great job.”

It wasn’t the first time that the 4×800 relay team came from behind to grab a win this year. The team came from behind at the Blue Devil Invitational at Platt High in May to win. The last Avon relay team to win a state title was a 4×800 squad in 1998 in Class M.

Vanriel came close to winning an individual title in the 800 meters with a school-record time of 2:19.15. Vanriel, who will attend Southern Connecticut State University next fall and participate in track, took the lead with about 400 meters to go but New Canaan’s Caroline Murray stuck right with Vanriel.

Vanriel held off several Murray attempts to take the lead but Murray slipped past her with about 100 meters left in the race. Vanriel surged in the last 50 meters but Murray was able to hang on for a 0.54 second victory.

In the high jump, Burton tied her career-high with a leap of five feet to finish second. Fermi’s Angelique Ross easily won the event with a leap of 5-feet, 4 inches. The rest of the field was close and it came down to who missed jumps at lower heights.

Burton, who has been bothered by shin splints much of the season, made her first four jumps and didn’t miss a jump until she attempted 5-foot-2. She had a 10-day break from the NCCC championship and the Class MM meet due to rain earlier in the week that delayed the meet another three days.

Because she didn’t have a miss at lower heights, Burton was able to finish ahead of two other jumpers that cleared 5-feet. Six other jumpers cleared 4-foot-10, including Avon’s Brianna Noonan, who finished seventh.

Avon’s 4×400 relay team finished sixth with a time of 4:12.30, less than a second out of fifth place, which would have been good enough for a berth at the State Open. Kelly, Donahue, Catherine Martin and Vanriel ran in the race.

The only other top 10 finish in the meet came from Claire Smith, who was ninth in the 3,200 meters and the 4×100 relay team (Stephanie Koo, Chloe Kryszpin, Martin, Kristina Shayler), which took ninth in 52.51, a time 0.34 seconds faster than its winning time at the NCCC championship meet.

On the boys side, Avon didn’t score a point for the first time since 2003. The top eight finishers in each event score points. Greg Rendeiro had a season-best leap of 41 feet to take ninth in the triple jump.

The Falcon 4×100 relay team had its best time of the season (45.74) and finished 12th. Ethan Buyse, Dave Doebler, Ross McDonald and Rob Carver made up the squad.

STATE OPEN: In New Britain, Titi Vanriel finished eighth in the 800 meters breaking her own school-record with a time of 2:19.09. … The 4×800 meter relay was 12th with a time of 9:44.44.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 35 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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