There is no shortage of exceptional athletes in Avon. In 2012, there were plenty of thrilling contests and games to see and observe. We have been reliving those outstanding achievements in the final week of 2012. Today, our final installment reviews the No. 1 athletic story in Avon — an Avon High graduate who nearly qualified to represent the U.S. at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
1. OLYMPIC DREAMS: Madison Kennedy, a 24-year-old swimmer who graduated from Avon High in 2005, came tantalizingly close to earning a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic swim team in July. At the Olympic trials, she competed in the 50 meter and 100 meter freestyle races. In both events, she swam three times. Twice, she swam new personal best times.
But it wasn’t good enough. In the 50 meters, Kennedy finished fifth, less than 0.60 of a second behind the winner Jessica Hardy and 0.35 of a second behind Kara Lynn Joyce who finished second and took the final spot on the team.
In the 100 meters, Kennedy led the race after 50 meters but couldn’t keep up the pace and finished eighth, only 0.87 of a second behind Hardy. The top six finishers earned a spot on the U.S. team and Natalie Coughlin surged to a sixth place finish, just 0.39 of a second ahead of Kennedy.
“I was close,” she said of her performance at the Olympic Trials.“It’s not that you accept or settle but I’m happy with what I did. But of course, you’re bummed out. If not, then why are you there? If you don’t have a goal you are reaching for then there is no point.” She came away from the trials with a new goal – a berth on the U.S. swim team in 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
2. GIRLS SOCCER WINS ANOTHER STATE TITLE: The Avon High girls soccer team graduated 11 seniors from a team that won the Class L championship in 2011. No one doubted that the Falcons wouldn’t have another talented team but there were questions in September if Avon could contend for a state title, especially after a 1-1-1 start.
“This is a great surprise. With losing so many seniors last year and rebuilding slightly at the beginning of the season,” Avon coach Jim Murray said. “But we didn’t miss a stride. Everyone stepped up so it was great.”
Avon went 17-0-1 in its last 18 games, won another NCCC championship and captured a second straight Class L title with a 1-0 win over Masuk-Monroe. The key this season was a balanced approach. “If we have an opportunity, we have to be there to take care of it,” Murray said. “And it’s not up to one or two players. We all have confidence in whoever has the ball on their feet. They all know anyone can finish when the opportunity is there.”
Three girls finished the season with 10 goals – midfielders Catherine Jordan and Michaela Marcus and forward Hunter McCarthy. Seventeen players scored goals for the Falcons. Twelve players had assists, including Jordan with 10 and defender Sarah Betancourt with nine. It wasn’t unusual to see an Avon defender move forward to create a scoring opportunity.
In the Class L championship game, sophomore Stephanie Saccoccio scored her third goal of the season with 14:21 remaining for the game-winner. A corner kick from Jordan was punched out of the goal area by Masuk goalie Megan Fitzgerald and it landed right and Saccoccio’s feet near the 20-yard line. Saccoccio stopped the ball and then drilled it 30 yards into the upper right corner of the net in one quick motion.
3. FOOTBALL WINS LEAGUE TITLE: With a pair of All-State athletes in running back Colin Moore and linebacker Jimmy Murphy, the Falcons finished the regular season undefeated (10-0) for the second time in four years, capturing its fourth Pequot Uncas Division championship in five years and qualifying for the CIAC Class L tournament.
Moore, who was named the state player of the year by Gatorade, ran for 2,144 yards and 30 TDs, just a few yards off his school-record performance of 2,206 yards he had in 10 games as a junior in 2011. Behind a new offensive line that gelled together, Moore was the focal point of the offense. But QB Noah Hahn threw the ball effectively when he had to such as a 14-7 win over Ellington/Somers to clinch the Pequot Uncas Division title. Hahn completed just five passes in the win over Ellington but one was a 43-yard touchdown pass to Chris Suttmeier and the second was a 35-yard reception by Suttmeier that sparked a second scoring drive.
“I’m really proud of them,” Avon coach Brett Quinion said. “They’ve gone from being a good team to being a very good team. To replace the entire offensive line (from 2011) and gell together like that is really a credit. It helps to have a great running back (Moore) but you still have to block for him and we did that.”
Defensively, Avon gave up just 113 points this season, intercepting 12 passes and recovering 12 fumbles. Once again, Avon played tough in the Class L tournament, leading New Canaan 7-0 at halftime thanks to a 49-yard TD run from Moore. “All the players were a little freaked out,” said New Canaan QB Teddy Bossidy. But the visiting Rams limited Avon to minus four yards rushing and gave up just two first downs in the second half as they rallied for a 16-7 victory. The Rams scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns and converted twice on two-point conversions to earn the victory.
4. TWO WINS SHY OF A TITLE: When Avon American Legion baseball coach Brian Doyle was putting his Post 201 team last May, he was hoping to get enough players to field a team. He found enough and Post 201 had a wonderful season. Avon exceeded all of its expectations, earning a state tournament berth for the third straight year and playing the final 16, double-elimination round of the state tournament for the second consecutive season.
There, Avon displayed a flair for comebacks. Avon (24-10, 19-8 Zone 1) won five state tournament games and in four games, Avon had to rally from a deficit. Post 201 erased a three-run deficit in the top of the ninth inning to tie Middletown and eventually won in the 12th inning. Avon erased a four-run deficit to beat Oakville and trailed Montville and Orange by one run before winning.
Avon was two victories away from playing for the state championship but the dream ended in a 4-0 loss to eventual state and Northeast Region champion Milford and a 3-0 loss to RCP, a team of players from Rocky Hill, Cromwell and Portland. “Every player, every team has a ceiling of how good they can be,” Doyle said. “We’re at the ceiling. This team played as good as it could. We achieved our potential.”
5. RACING TO THE TOP: The Avon High girls cross country team certainly proved themselves over the course of the 2012 campaign. The Falcons went undefeated in the NCCC for the second straight year (13-0) and captured the league championship for the third time in four years.
With a deep squad, they won four events (Haddad Invitational in Windham, the Going to the Sun Invitational at Coginchaug, Bellringer Invitational at East Hampton, Nonnewaug Invitational in Woodbury) and finished second to a team from Rhode Island at the Wickham Invitational in Manchester. At the Class MM championships, Avon had three runners in the top 11 and six among the top 25 to win its first state championship since 1994. Juniors Rachael Rosow and Sarah Stokesbury earned All-State honors.
The following week, Avon finished second at the State Open behind Ridgefield. It earned Avon its first berth to the New England championships in Maine where they finished 14th.
ANOTHER TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP: The Avon High boys tennis team didn’t accumulate a lot of headlines. They just continued to collect victories and championships. The Falcons (15-2, 14-0 NCCC) won their second straight Class M championship, grabbed a third consecutive NCCC championship and extended their winning streak in league matches to 39 in a row.
The top-seeded doubles team of John Burdick and Jason Sittambalam won a Class M title while Sam Aronson finished second in singles. Avon had three of eight quarterfinalists with Aronson, Sam Flaxman and Michael Van Dusen. Aronson beat Van Dusen in the semifinals. In doubles, Eric and Evan Selzer were eliminated in the semifinals. Avon won the team crown, 27-19 over Joel Barlow.
STEPPING DOWN: A few days after the season was complete, football coach Brett Quinion resigned after 10 years with the Falcons, the second-longest tenure in the program’s history. He left with a career record of 67-37. Named as the team’s seventh head coach in 2003, Avon had six winning seasons. In the last six seasons, Avon went 53-11, winning five Pequot Conference Uncas Division titles and earning Class L playoff berths in 2008, 2009 and 2012. The 2008 playoff berth was the first in team history. Avon won four straight Uncas Division titles from 2007-10 and added a fifth this year. It had been 14 years since the Falcons won a league title when they earned a banner in 2007.
INSPIRATIONAL BOOT: Soccer co-captain Robby Brisco, who has been undergoing chemotherapy for cancer for months and was on crutches in August after having his knee replaced. His doctors forbabe Robby from playing but it didn’t stop him from working out in practice, building up strength in his legs to walk and then run while helping in whatever way he could. He worked hard to get ready for the regular season finale against Ellington, where he kicked off to begin the game. The boys team had a good season, too. The Falcons went 12-3-1 to finish third in the NCCC but won four straight games to earn a spot in the Class L championship game for the second year in a row. However, Farmington spoiled the party with a 5-0 decision in the final.
WRESTLING TITLES: The Avon High wrestling program picked up a few championships in February. Junior Jessica McCamish became just the second girl in state history to win a league championship when she prevailed at 106 pounds in the NCCC Tournament, pinning Somers’ Christian Andrade in 3:44. The only other girl to win a conference title was Housatonic’s Juliet Lyon, winning a Berkshire League title in 1997.
As a team, Avon won the NCCC Tournament and clinched its seventh NCCC championship in the last eight years. In the tournament, Avon had seven finalists and six champions with Joey Murphy (170) earning outstanding wrestler honors. Murphy added another championship a week later by winning the Class M title with a 10-4 decision over Waterford’s Matt Tulba. It was Murphy’s 40th consecutive win of the season and Avon’s first wrestling state champion since 2009. Murphy finished second in the State Open at 170, dropping a 12-7 decision to Newington’s Chris Chorzepa.
SUMMER MEMORIES: It was a wonderful summer for the Avon Little League Major Division (ages 11-12) All-Star baseball team. Avon won 13 games in a row including its third straight District 6 championship. They advanced to the best-of-3 state final with a thrilling 7-5 decision over Guilford to capture the Section II title. Trailing by one run with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Avon found a way. After Dylan Nastri was intentionally walked with two outs, Avon’s Sam Leopold belted a three-run home run 200 feet over the center field fence for the victory. The win put Avon in the state finals for the first time but Fairfield American ended Avon’s summer campaign with two wins in the best-of-3 series to earn a spot in the Eastern Regionals. Fairfield American eventually won the Eastern Regional and played in the Little League World Series where they went 2-2.
Collinsville Press, July 26: Down to its last out, Avon rallies to earn spot in state finals
Other notable achievements in Avon in 2012:
GIRLS GOLF: Avon was unchallenged in the Southern Connecticut Girls Golf League, going 12-0 to win its first outright league championship. The Falcons, led by All-State golfer Marissa Grillo who won the league title, captured the SCGGL tournament for the second straight year. Avon finished seventh at the CIAC tournament.
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY: Rachael Rosow won her first NCCC championship.
GIRLS TENNIS: Avon (18-2, 17-1 NCCC) won the league championship by two games over Ellington/Somers.
GIRLS LACROSSE: Avon (12-4, 10-0 NCCC) won its first NCCC championship since 2010. The Falcons also won the NCCC Tournament with a 13-8 win over Granby.
BOYS LACROSSE: Avon (14-2, 8-2 NCCC) finished a game behind Granby in the regular season but rolled with a 12-3 decision over the Bears to win the NCCC Tournament.
ICE HOCKEY: Avon was part of a successful co-op team with Windsor and Farmington that won a CCC East championship. But the team, more commonly known as the WAVE, had two tough post-season defeats. In the CCC East Tournament final, Northwest Catholic beat Windsor/Avon/Farmington (13-7-2, 4-1-1 CCC East) by a 5-4 score in 2 OT. In the CIAC Division I tournament, Stamford’s Trinity Catholic eliminated the WAVE, 2-1, scoring with six seconds left in the third period.
FIELD HOCKEY: Avon (14-2, 11-1 NCCC) won its second straight league championship. The Falcons season ended with a double OT loss in the quarterfinals of the Class M tournament.