Connect with us

Canton

Every point counts

14 athletes score as Canton wins first state title

Fourteen individual athletes helped score points as Canton won its first-ever state championship in track and field with a 7-point win over Northwest Catholic at Willow Brook Park in New Britain.

NEW BRITAIN, June 2 – In a field with no dominant team, the Canton High boys track and field team used a balanced approach to win its first-ever Class S state championship with a seven-point victory over defending champion Northwest Catholic, 67-60.

Seven individuals scored points for Canton in individual events and another seven runners helped three Canton relay teams earn points. Oxford (53 points) and Sacred Heart-Waterbury (52) finished third and fourth, respectively. It was the tightest race for a title since 1997 when the top five teams squeezed into a gap of just 16 points.

David Kucia battles Coginchaug’s Ian Kopcik in the 110 meter hurdle finals. Kucia won with a lean at the finish. (Photo by Stephen Kucia)

Senior David Kucia was a standout, winning the 110 hurdles in a thrilling finish by a hundredth of a second, taking second in the 300 hurdles and fifth in the triple jump. Dylan Smith won the shot, breaking his own school record in the event for the fifth time this season while sophomore Matt Graziano grabbed second in the discus.

Canton’s 4×800 relay team finished second and the 4×400 relay team took third.

But without strong efforts from Jon Melite, Kevin Kurnat, Kyle Hall and Nick Chekas and the 4×100 relay team there would have been no state championship trophy for the Warriors.

On this day, every point mattered. Melite earned two points with a seventh place finish in the 400 meters while Kurnat and Chekas finished fourth and sixth in the 800 meters to earn five and three points, respectively. Hall’s eighth place finish in the long jump was worth another point.

A week earlier at the NCCC championship meet, Kucia set a new school record winning the 110 hurdles but he was looking forward to being challenged at the Class S meet. He was from start to finish by Coginchaug senior Ian Kopcik.

Kucia and Kopcik alternated the lead throughout the race from hurdle to hurdle but at the end, Kucia leaned forward to snag the victory in 15.10 seconds. That lean was worth a state title and another two points. Athletes earn 10 points for a win with eight points going to the second place athlete.

In the 300 high hurdles, Kucia was a distant third with two hurdles remaining before surging at the end to take second in 41.80, less than a second behind Litchfield’s Nick Hula (40.85). More importantly, Kucia grabbed another two points by beating Valley Regional’s Luc Dang (41.94). Third place athletes get just six points.

In the triple jump, Kucia beat his own personal best by nearly two feet, taking fifth with a jump of 40 feet, 6.75 inches.

Dylan Smith won the shot, breaking his own school for the fifth time this spring. (Linda Smith photo)

Smith continued his season-long growth in the shot put with another school-record throw to win a state championship. He threw 49 feet, 9.5 inches, beating his nearest opponent by nearly two feet.

With his throw of 133 feet, Graziano earned eight points with his second place finish in the discus. In the long jump, Hall had a personal best leap of 19 feet, 10.75 inches to take eighth.

The contributions from Canton’s three relay teams were crucial. The 4×100 team (Evan Camporeale, David Frenette, Hall, Jeff Lochner) finished seventh in 45.98 seconds to pick up another two points. If they were a half second slower, they would have been shutout.

The 4×800 relay (Jon Cahill, Chekas, Tyler Fitzpatrick, Julian Franklin) finished second with a school-record time of 8:17.93. It’s the best finish by a Warrior relay team in school history.

The 4×400 relay team (Melite, Keith Wilson, Kurnat, Tyler Fitzpatrick) took third with a school-record time of 3:34.98 in the final running event of the evening to ice the championship for the Warriors.

In the 400 meters, Melite ran hard to the end to take seventh. In the 800 meters, Kurnat and Chekas, were first and third in a pack of five runners that finished a few seconds behind the leaders.

Canton’s seven-point win over Northwest Catholic was the closest finish since 2003 when Coginchaug beat Griswold by 4.5 points to win a title.

The 4×800 and 4×400 relays qualified to compete at the State Open along with Kucia in both hurdle events and triple jump, Smith in the shot and Graziano in the discus. The Open was held Monday in New Britain.

On the girls side, Canton didn’t score any points but Jamie Haberern finished 10th in the triple jump with a school-record leap of 31 feet, 6.25 inches, breaking the mark she set a week earlier at the NCCC championship meet by nearly five feet. She also took 14th in the long jump with a jump of 14-10.

Class S boys champions
Recent winners of the Class S championship.

Year:    Team     Points
2011:  Canton          67
2010:  NW Catholic  92
2009:  Bloomfield    91
2008:  Bloomfield  108
2007:  Bloomfield 112.5
2006:  NW Catholic 86.7
2005:  Hyde            118
2004:  Hyde              83
2003:  Coginchaug 95.5
2002:  Hyde             85
2001:  Hyde            107
2000:  Coginchaug 79.5
1999:  Shepaug       86
1998:  Suffield         68
1997:  Coginchaug  67
1996:  Ellington      113
1995:  Rocky Hill      83
1994:  Avon            126
1993:  Ellington       68
1992:  Prince Tech 105
1991:  Avon             65
1990:  NW Catholic  64

1989:  NW Catholic  63

The Warriors celebrate a state championship victory. (Stephen Kucia photo).

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 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

More in Canton