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Canton’s calm Chelsea Mitchell races to State Open championship in 100

Canton’s Chelsea Mitchell won the 100 meters at the State Open championships Monday — the first girl in school history to win an Open title.

NEW BRITAIN, June 3 – Things happen fast in the 100 meters. It takes just 12 seconds or so to run and the race can change in a blink of an eye.

For Canton junior Chelsea Mitchell, the State Open finals changed in a second when Bloomfield’s Terry Miller—the defending New England and State Open — jumped before the starter’s gun went off. And Miller was gone.

Chelsea Mitchell, shown at the NCCC championships two weeks ago, broke her own school record in the 100 meters.

Track and field can be a harsh sport. A split second jump and a false start can eliminate an athlete in a second. And there is no second chance. Make a false start and you’re watching this one from behind the starting blocks.

Mitchell saw it. Miller was right next to her. She only had a few seconds to refocus but she felt a calmness wash over her. “This was my race. My time,” she said.

She started off strong and finished strong with a school record time of 11.67 seconds to win her first State Open championship in the 100 meters. Windsor’s Cory Richardson was second in 11.92 seconds with Danbury’s Alanna Smith third in 12.04 seconds and Cromwell’s Andraya Yearwood fourth in 12.20 seconds.

Mitchell became the first girl in school history to win a State Open championship and just the eighth athlete in school history to capture a State Open title – an impressive achievement for a school that has been competing in interscholastic athletics for nearly a century.

She also finished second in the long jump and fourth in the 200 meters to help Canton finish tenth as a team. She is the first Canton athlete to bring multiple medals on the same day at the State Open.

Mitchell wasn’t the only area athlete bringing home State Open medals. Avon’s Rhiannon Richmond was seeded ninth in the 3,200 meters but she broke her own school record by 16 seconds to take third.

Pomperaug’s Kate Wiser (10:28.91) and Greenwich’s Mari Noble (10:34.08) were far ahead of the field but Richmond was the leader of the second pack of runners, nipping fourth place finisher Daniella Grullon-Pena of Danbury by 0.28 of a second.

Canton’s Julia Caputo was 12th in the 3,200 meters with a season-best time of 11:16.91.

Canton’s Peter Fuller finished fourth in the high jump with a leap of 6-foot-4 – quite an accomplishment on a windy day. Fuller finished ahead of Bloomfield’s Sean Dixon Bodie, who beat Fuller for the Class S championship last week by clearing 6-6 on his final attempt at the height. Dixon Bodie was seventh and he only cleared 6-2.

“High jumpers and pole vaulters can give their coaches heart attacks by jumping really well one meet and significantly worse next week,” Canton coach Tim O’Donnell said. “Peter has been exceptionally consistent which puts him back at the New England meet. He has a really good string of consistent performances in the 6-3 to 6-5 range.”

Granby’s Andel Smith was eighth in the long jump with a leap of 21-5½ while he was 12th in the triple jump. He won Class M titles a week ago in both events.

Avon’s Tyler Hinrichs was 17th in the 800 meters with a time of 2:02.68 while Avon’s 4×400 relay (Jack Martin, Tyler Hinrichs, Hari Patchgolla, Anish Rajamanickam) was 22nd (3:35.27) and the 4×800 relay (Patchgolla, Alvin Guo, Alec Purcell, Martin) was 17th in 8:30.58.

Canton’s Madeline Archangelo had a pair of top 20 finishes. She was 17th in the triple jump (33-3½) and 18th in the javelin (94-8).

Avon’s 4×800 relay (Gabrielle Richmond, Marenn Ek, Jamie Rubenstein, Caroline Luby) was 23rd with a time of 10:18.88 while Canton’s 4×400 relay (Kaylia Bailey, Allison Celmer, Brooke Shepard, Maya Sutton-Hall) was 22nd with a season-best time of 4:19.27.

It was a sweet victory for Mitchell, who has seen her times in the 100 and 200 drop all season long. But she hasn’t been able to get past Miller.

Mitchell broke her own school record in the 100 meters at the NCCC championships two weeks ago with a time of 12.02 seconds. She matched that time at the Class S championships but Miller pulled away from her at the end.

Miller had the fastest time in qualifying at the State Open (11.64 seconds) but the false start took her out of the running in the final. “Sometimes people are trying to get an extra step,” O’Donnell said.

“I try to run my best and get my best time,” Mitchell said earlier this month. “I try to run as hard as I can and usually that is good enough.”

Mitchell said she was nervous before the 100 final. But once Miller was eliminated, her nerves calmed. She was grinning ear to ear after crossing the finish line.

“Chelsea has been running especially strong down the home stretch of the season,” O’Donnell said. “Her 100 performance was not a surprise although (a time of) 11.67 was a little beyond my more optimistic projections

The last Canton athlete to win a State Open championship was Dustin Kirk in the decathlon in 2017.

In the long jump, Tess Stapleton of Fairfield Ludlowe jumped 18-9 feet on her final jump of the meet to win the State Open title. Mitchell jumped 18-7 on her final jump to finish second. NFA’s Allyson Lewis was third at 18-5.75 inches.

“Chelsea has been (jumping) consistently between 18-4 and 18-7 1/2  for a month and has had some eye-opening workouts on the track recently,” O’Donnell said.

In the 200 meters, Miller won the event with a time of 24.33 seconds while Mitchell was fourth with a time of 25.24. The wind made it tough to come off the curve and into the straightaway. That time is likely fast enough to get Mitchell into a fast heat at the Saturday’s New England championships.

Mitchell, Fuller and Rhiannon Richmond will be competing in the New England championships in Sacco, Maine. The top five finishers in each event earn a bid to the meet.

NOTES: Previous State Open champions from Canton include Kirk, Mike LeDuc, who won the 3,000 meter steeplechase in 2010 and Matt Graziano, who won the Open titles in the discus in 2012 and 2013. Peter and Matt Spring won a State Open title in doubles tennis in 1999 while wrestlers Kacy O’Connor (1998) and Stephen Roberto (1989) won Open championships. ….  Canton has consistently been fielding athletic teams since the early 1920s.

2019 State Open championships results

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.

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