NEW HAVEN -- They are Connecticut high school girls running royalty.
Staples High School sophomore Hannah DeBalsi and Westhill High School senior Claire Howlett provide great theater no matter what stage they meet upon.
The venue on Saturday was the Class LL girls indoor track championship at Floyd Little Athletic Center at Hillhouse High School.
And the queens of distance racing didn't disappoint as DeBalsi won the 3200 and Howlett was first in the 1600.
In this friendly and respectful rivalry of two great runners pushing each other to singular accomplishments, Howlett had defeated DeBalsi in both the 1600 and 3200 at the FCIAC Girls Indoor Track Championship. On that evening as well as Saturday, DeBalsi had been fighting a lingering virus.
However in the LL 3200, DeBalsi put it all aside. From midway through the 16 laps to the end, DeBalsi -- running like a majestic gazelle -- kept widening her advantage as she lapped the other competitors save Howlett.
"My plan in the 3200 was to see if I could get Claire off my shoulder. I went out fast and actually felt better as the 3200 went on," said a clearly pale DeBalsi. "I heard (Staples boys indoor track head coach) Laddie Lawrence yell '40 meters' at me. In my head I yelled `Yes!' "
DeBalsi's time of 10:19.26 smashed the old Class LL indoor mark of 10:44.57 by more than 25 seconds. The old record holder was none other than Hannah DeBalsi.
"I thought about it and realized I hadn't beaten Claire in a race since the New England cross country championships. When she went by me in the 1600, I said `Oh no, not again.' " DeBalsi said. "It was time for me to win an event."
Howlett's 3200 runnerup time of 10:32.28 also smashed the old LL 3200 mark. But it sets up a wonderful battle in next Saturday's State Open Championship back at Floyd Little.
DeBalsi had one other incentive Saturday. She wasn't a one-woman show but her 18 points were instrumental in Staples earning its first-ever Class LL girls indoor track title.
Staples finished with 63 points to hold off Simsbury (55), Glastonbury (49), New Milford (30) and NFA (30).
Ridgefield (27) was seventh. Brien McMahon -- with Sarah Boyd scoring all 26 points -- was eighth. Danbury and Westhill (20) tied for ninth.
"I'm so happy for the girls. It's an incredible feeling and a great reward for all their hard work," said Staples 10th-year girls indoor track head coach Jesse McCray. "After we finished second at the FCIACs to the (Class L champ) Darien High girls, we felt we could win this state title. Read Full Article
"We're so glad to bring that Class LL state plaque home to Staples," McCray continued. "Hannah's performance today just shows how mentally and physically tough she is. Our first state indoor title will always be special."
In their first marquee matchup in the 1600, Howlett pulled away in the bell lap to win in a new Class LL record time of 4:55.36. DeBalsi also broke the old standard with her runnerup time of 4:56.08.
"I tried to get past Hannah at 800 meters but she spurted away," Howlett said. "So I made my move on the last lap. Since it's my senior year, all these championship meets are important. To win as a senior at the FCIACs and Class LLs sets me up well to peak at the State Open."
In the pole vault, Newtown senior Jenna Calandro won at a new Class LL record height of 11-feet-7. Ridgefield's Rachel Moroknek (10-6) was second.
"I'm very happy with the win. Taking the LL title was one of my preseason goals," Calandro said. "To get the LL record was a pleasant surprise. I feel like I'm all set for the State Open."
In 55 meter hurdles, Brien McMahon's senior Boyd won in 8.51 seconds with Alex Wykoff of Ludlowe third in 8.86. Norwalk's Tamia Taylor (9.01) was sixth.
In the 55 dash, Boyd won her second gold medal in 7:43 seconds. Danbury's Niema Riley was third in 7.49. Norwalk's Taylor 4th in 7.51.
In the 1,000, Ridgefield senior Laura Hergenrother was Class LL champion in 2:58.99. Staples' Erica Hefnawy was second in 3:04.37. Westhill's Ericka Randazzo was sixth in 3:11.90.
In the sprint medley relay, Staples won 4:20.31 with Danbury (4:22.40) 4th and Greenwich (4:26.35) 6th.
In the shot put, Shelton's Samantha Bailey won with a heave of 37-feet-7. Greenwich's Sarah Cicchetti was third at 34-2 ½. Westhill's Danielle Leffand was sixth at 31-2.
In the 600, Staples senior Tyler Scanlin won in 1:36.24 ahead of Trumbull's Katie Foley (1:36.28) and Norwalk's Claire Turner (1:38.43).
In the long jump, Amity's Zoie Reed won at 17-feet-6.25. McMahon's Boyd was third at 16-8.75.
In the high jump, Simsbury's Stefanie Mueller won at 5-feet-0 just ahead of Staples' Bridget van Dorsten (5-0), Staples' Reece Schachne (4-10) and Stamford's Jessica Steitzel (4-10).
In the 4 x 200 meter relay, Danbury High won in 1:47.83.
In the 300, Ludlowe's Emma Koether was 3rd followed by Trumbull's Katie Foley (4th) and Ludlowe's Rachel Hurst (5th).
In the 4 x 800 relay, New Milford won in 9:41.72.
Class LL Girls Indoor Track Championships
at Floyd Little Athletic Center, New Haven
1. Staples 63, 2. Simsbury 55, 3. Glastonbury 49, 4. (tie) New Milford and NFA 30, 6. Amity 28, 7. Ridgefield 27, 8. McMahon 26, 9. (tie) Danbury and Westhill 20, 11. Cheshire 18, 12. Fairfield Ludlowe 17, 13. Shelton 13, 14. (tie) Newtown and Trumbull 12, 16. (tie) Greenwich and Norwalk 11, 18. Conard 8, 19. East Hartford 6, 20. Stamford 5, 21. Hamden 3, 22. Hartford Public 1.
Winner in each event and regional finishers among top six
55 dash: 1. Sarah Boyd (McMahon) 7.43; 2. Zoie Reed (Amity) 7.48; 3. Niema Riley (Danbury) 7.49; 4. Tamia Taylor (Norwalk) 7.51; 300: 1. Stefanie McArdle (Glastonbury) 42.03; 3. Emma Koether (Fairfield Ludlowe) 42.95; 4. Katie Foley (Trumbull) 42.71; 5. Rachel Hurst (Fairfield Ludlowe) 43.41; 600: 1. Tyler Scanlin (Staples) 1:36.24; 2. Katie Foley (Trumbull) 1:36.28; 3. Claire Turner (Norwalk) 1:38.43; 4. Meghan Dietter (New Milford) 1:38.92; 1000: 1. Laura Hergenrother (Ridgefield) 2:58.99; 2. Erica Hefnawy (Staples) 3:04.37; 4. Sierra Grazia (New Milford) 3:09.35; 5. Hannah Tower (New Milford) 3:09.36; 6. Ericka Randazzo (Westhill) 3:11.90; 1600: 1. Claire Howlett (Westhill) 4:55.36 (Class LL record); 2. Hannah DeBalsi (Staples) 4:56.08; 4. Laura Hergenrother (Ridgefield) 5:17.31; 6. Emily Criscuolo (Amity) 5:21.17; 3200: 1. Hannah DeBalsi (Staples) 10:19.26 (Class LL record); 2. Claire Howlett (Westhill) 10:32.28; 55 hurdles: 1. Sarah Boyd (McMahon) 8.51; 3. Alex Wykoff (Fairfield Ludlowe) 8.86; 5. Marlee Peterson (Shelton) 9.01; 6. Tamia Taylor (Norwalk) J9.01; 4x200 relay: 1. Danbury (Jay'Yona Torres, Najmah, Bridget Chiaravalle, Niema Riley) 1:47.83; 6. Fairfield Ludlowe (Rachel Hurst, Alison Gorab, Ali Johnson, Emma Koether) 1:50.65; 4x400 relay: 1. New Milford (Hannah Tower, Helen Bayers, Sierra Grazia, Meghan Dietter) 4:06.26; 4. Staples (Olivia Wiener, Brynly Marsh, Erica Hefnawy, Tyler Scanlin) 4:11.22; 5. Greenwich (Erica Hvolbeck, Caroline Frey, Jenny Goggin, Anna Black) 4:12.31; 4x800 relay: 1. New Milford (Hannah Tower, Sierra Grazia, Saige Grazia, Helen Bayers) 9:41.72; 4. Ridgefield (Hannah Mercorella, Kelsey Bordash, Haley Greene, Hannah Fleming) 10:05.78; 5. Greenwich (Mia Bonanno, Daryl Kennedy, Jenny Goggin, Amy Wyle) 10:09.86; 6. Amity (Grace Leyden, Melissa Taggart, Isabella Ferraro, Lisa Gorham) 10:15.78; 1600 sprint medley: 1. Staples (Sarah Neckritz, Kathryn Lieder, Olivia Wiener, Tyler Scanlin) 4:20.31; 4. Danbury (Jay'Yona Torres, Niema Riley, Bridget Chiaravalle, Sarah Krate) 4:22.40; 6. Greenwich (Emma Slagle, Anna GIannuzzi, Anna Black, Jenny Goggin) 4:26.35; high jump: 1. Stefanie Mueller (Simsbury) 5-0; 2. Bridget van Dorsten (Staples) J5-0; 3. (tie) Jessica Stietzel (Stamford) and Reece Schachne (Staples) 4-10; 5. Emily O'Keefe (Fairfield Ludlowe) J4-10; 6. Sofie Sogaard (Ridgefield) 4-8; pole vault: 1. Jenna Calandro (Newtown) 11-7 (Class LL record); 2. Rachel Moroknek (Ridgefield) 10-6; 6. Laurel Bailey (Shelton) J9-6; long jump: 1. Zoie Reed (Amity) 17-6.25; 3. Sarah Boyd (McMahon) 16-8.75; shot put: 1. Samantha Bailey (Shelton) 37-7; 3. Allison Denny (Amity) 36-1.5; 3. Sarah Cicchetti (Greenwich) 34-2.5; 5. Amy Anyoha (Newtown) 33-5; 6. Danielle Leffand (Westhill) 31-2.