ROCKY HILL - It was a spectacular year in local high school athletics. The 2013-14 school year consisted of multiple championships, last-second heroics, and several great individual performances. Here’s a look at the standout players from each sport in the first annual Rare Reminder Area Athletes of the Year.
Boys Cross Country: Alex Tan (Rocky Hill). Tan was the area’s best distance runner. He finished sixth in the 5000-meter run at the Class SS finals and then ran well at the open championships against the elite runners in the state. The graduating senior is also an accomplished pianist.
Girls Cross Country: Nicole Faucette (Cromwell).Faucette finished seventh in the 5000-meter run at the Class SS finals. The junior also completed in a variety of relay and distant events for the Indians’ track & field team.
Field Hockey: Kayla Guest (Newington). Guest did an outstanding job in the net this season for the Indians. The graduating goaltender posted four straight shutouts during the middle of the season and allowed more than one goal only twice in 15 games. She also starred for the school’s basketball team, where she was known for her great all-around play.
Football: Chris Young (Rocky Hill). Young shattered his own records, rushing for 1,996 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior. He also starred as a defensive back, helping lead Rocky Hill to their first ever post-season victory. The talented tailback is taking his talents to Springfield University to play collegiately.
Boys Soccer: Ryan Murphy (Cromwell). Murphy had a solid regular season before transforming into the second-coming of Lev Yashin once the Class S tournament started. The junior goalkeeper allowed only two goals in four tournament games, culminating with a shutout in the championship game. He’ll be back protecting the net next season as Cromwell goes for the repeat.
Girls Soccer: Kaila Lozada (Newington). Lozada took local soccer by storm, earning all-state honors as a sophomore. She led Newington’s offensive charge all season, finishing with 13 goals, including scoring the equalizer for the Indians in their first round tournament upset overtime victory over Newtown. The underclasswoman is both a baller and a scholar, finishing on Newington’s honor roll.
Girls Swimming: Caroline Even (Wethersfield). Even won the 100-yard butterfly and was on the relay team that won the 200-yard freestyle at the Class M finals. The junior also posted a third-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle and was on the 200-yard medley team that finished second at the event. She finished as a consensus all-conference selection.
Girls Volleyball: Kirstyn Arcata (Rocky Hill). Arcata helped lead the Terriers on a crazy tournament ride, which included three wild upsets, before the team lost in the semifinal round. The senior captain registered 40 aces and an amazing 245 digs, 24 of which came in a tournament win over heavily favored Lewis Mills. She also starred on the hardwood for Rocky Hill.
Girls Basketball: Janelle Harrison (Cromwell). Harrison finished off her illustrious high school career with her best statistical season yet. She average 17.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest. She was named a consensus first-team All-State selection and will be playing for the University of Hartford next season.
Boys Basketball: Matt Turkington (Cromwell). Turkington was the do-it-all guy for the Panthers. He used his great size, outside shooting and soft touch around the rim to amass 10.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, and both a block and a steal per game. His senior efforts helped lead Cromwell to the Class S semifinals and earned him first-team Class S all-state honors. He also enjoys soccer and has said that he prepares for athletic competitions by eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Gymnastics: Taylor Garrey (Wethersfield). Garrey was a sophomore sensation that improved with each event this season. She capped off her year by posting excellence scores in the vault (8.3) and floor routine (8.25) at the Class M state championships. She also contributed on the diamond this season, playing outfield on the Eagles softball team.
Ice Hockey: Billy Connor (Wethersfield). Connor was one of the bright spots on a young Eagles hockey team. The senior captain finished with nearly double-digits in both goals and assists and was an honorable mention for the all-state team. He also played in the state’s all-star game.
Girls Indoor Track: Laura Buonocore (Newington). Buonocore finished fourth at the Class L championships in pole vaulting. She also used her athletic talents to compete in the Heptathlon at the United States Coast Guard Academy, where she finished 17th of 53 competitors.
Boys Indoor Track: Alex Brown (Rocky Hill). Brown was fast as the wind this year. He finished second in the 55-meter dash at the Class S finals and then finished sixth in the same event against the nutmeg’s best sprinters at the state open. The junior was also part of the 1600 sprint medley team, which finished second at the Class S finals.
Boys Swimming: Jack Malespini (Rocky Hill). Malespini capped off his high school career by winning the 50-yard freestyle and a second-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle at the Class S finals. He topped those feats by finishing third and fifth in same events at the state open. The exiting senior was also a regular on Rocky Hill’s honor roll.
Wrestling: Christian Zotti (Newington). Zotti downed nearly every opponent he grappled with this year. He was the runner-up in the 152-pound division at the Class L finals and then finished fourth in the state open. The senior was just a fierce on the field as he was on the mat this season. He was a standout safety for the Indians football team, leading the team in tackles, including an amazing 22-tackle performance against Simsbury.
Cheerleading: Cromwell Cheer. Alexa Beachemin, Kwaby Asante, Sierra Vasquez and Megan Zazzaro were the quartet of seniors on the Panthers squad who finished sixth at the Class S finals.
Baseball: Tommy Seaver (Rocky Hill). Seaver capped an amazing senior year by pitching the final inning of the Class S championship victory over Haddam-Killingworth. He was nearly unhittable from the mound during the Terriers’ historical championship season, which culminated with the state’s number one ranking. The graduating senior was also the Terriers’ inspirational leader on the gridiron and hardwood this year.
Girls Golf: Marie Allo (Newington). Allo finished atop the Indians’ leaderboard in nearly every match this season. The senior captain was also the medalist (lowest score on the course) in nine of Newington’s 15 matches this season.
Boys Golf: Ben Goldman (Wethersfield). Goldman was part of a terrific group of senior golfers at Wethersfield. He finished 15th overall at the Division-II championship. He will be attending UConn in the fall.
Girls Lacrosse: Alex Zapatka (Newington). Zapatka carried the Indians into the postseason and scored four goals in a first-round tournament upset of Southington. She is a perennial all-conference player that will be wielding a lacrosse stick at the University of New Haven next spring.
Boys Lacrosse: Bryan Esposito (Newington). Esposito led the team in scoring, despite missing four games. He started the season with a season-high six-goal performance against Rocky Hill and followed that up with a season-high eight points in the next game against Fitch.
Girls Outdoor Track: Carley Orlacchio (Cromwell). Orlacchio showed her versatility all season, competing on both the track and in the field. She showed her adaptable athleticism with fourth-place finishes in both the long jump and javelin throw during the Class S finals. The senior is also an accomplished sprinter and hurdler.
Boys Outdoor Track: Whit DeVaux (Wethersfield).DeVaux was one of the best javelin throwers in the state. He finished with a second-place finish at the Class L finals and then placed sixth amongst all javelinist at the state open. The graduating senior is also known for his fine work on the gridiron where he became a YouTube sensation for his effortless and miraculous one-handed touchdown catch.
Softball: Erika Leonard (Rocky Hill). Leonard wrapped up a phenomenal high school career with a great senior season. The sensational shortstop helped lead the Terriers to the Class M semifinals with her outstanding play at the plate and in the field. She’s Maine-bound to play softball collegiately.
Girls Tennis: Riya Abraham (Newington). Abraham finished her career at Newington by winning a state open match, before falling (8-6) to the number 12-ranked player in the state. The graduating senior was also inducted into the National Science Honor Society during the fall semester.
Boys Tennis: Ron Abraham (Newington). Abraham is the younger brother of Riya and was the Indians number one-rated singles player as a sophomore. The underclassman proved his stature during the Class L finals when he was victorious in the first two rounds, before eventually losing to the guy, who lost to the guy, who lost to the guy, who lost the championship match.
Boys Volleyball: Riley McManus (Newington). McManus is graduating from high school on the highest of notes. He earned high honors in academics and was the most valuable player of the Class M state tournament, which ended with the Indians’ second title in three seasons. The setter finished his championship senior season with 725 assists, 135 digs, 29 kills and 13 aces.