The SHArks cross-country team finished the 2020 season strong, winning the Southern Connecticut Conference Quinnipiac Division title (note that there were no state meets last year in light of Covid-19 protocol). However, they were still hungry for more.
Like any good fall sports team, their success began with immense summer training. As early as June, team members as well as incoming freshmen joined together for captain-lead runs at places such as the Farmington Canal and Madison Surf Club. In July, a considerable group of upperclassmen and freshmen participated in the Nutmeg State Track and Field Meet, which only furthered the apparentness of the talent-especially young- that was to be presented in the upcoming cross-country season.
The miles put in during the summer transferred excellently into the first few weeks of the season with the team’s talent and immense capability made evident by the first meet. This theme of hard work and persistence continued throughout the season which was seen most clearly with the team’s impressive record and third place finish at the Southern Connecticut Conference Championship Meet- the best conference championship finish in school history (note that the team had finished third in the 2020 season as well, but through a virtual meet due to Covid protocol).
This applauded finish only further propelled the SHArks in their endeavor towards something bigger: a state title. Although cross-country is the oldest sport at Sacred Heart Academy, a state title had simply never been in reach. However, our odds had been rapidly increasing these past few seasons as our team grew both physically and mentally stronger.
Sacred Heart Academy runners went into the race, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Class M State Championship, with the same confidence they obtained throughout the season. The mud and wind of Wickham Park in Manchester, CT was no challenge for the posse of girls who had trained endlessly in heat, rain, and hail. Confidence was a key component in the team’s success, especially when faced against the defending champions of Tolland, a team with an impressive legacy, holding the title for seven of the last ten years. Nonetheless, a new legacy began construction by the 2021 Class M state girl’s cross-country champions, the Sacred Heart Academy Sharks.
“It was a great combination of our veterans and younger runners,” Coach Pat Redding said. “The girls took ownership for this season in the summer. Kristina Ponzio is always steady for us and took fourth. Emma Kirck, another junior was 10th. We have two freshmen, Natalie Votto (13th) and Cassidy Colantonio (22nd), in our top five. We needed them to score high and they did. Sophomore Hailey Spooner placed 24th.”
Coach Patrick Redding has been an integral part of the team’s new success, taking over the cross-country program just three years ago. He pushes each team member to fulfill their potential and establishes a team environment on the basis of growth not only as a runner but also as an individual.
Students and faculty lined the driveway and cheered in excitement over the historical win as the bus returned back to SHA with the new state champions.